I went to a meeting, today (very late, unfortunately), and it was much larger than the previous one. The people were positive, and if what I saw was typical, not only were they not the OFA shills that some armchair blog posters made them out to be, but most of their concerns seemed to be the same as those of the armchair critics.
E.g., one lady said that “most of us” are concerned about transparency, and really want a grassroots organization. Another said that she had been with MoveOn, from the beginning, and in no way wanted to be involved with another Moveon, as they had exerted top down control and done some other shifty things. Another lady, who was the de facto leader, not only did not want to dictate the structure of the meeting of the now much larger group (and not only had no idea of how the the coffee party ‘leadership’ would want meetings run), she also suggested increasing the number of local meetings, as some of us had come from quite a distance. She believed that Annabel Park and ‘the central leaders’ (whoever they may be) don’t have a much better idea of how to proceed than she did. She suggested attending other Coffee Party meetings, to try and determine whatever best practices were evolving.
Other concerns were with the venue – there was significant background noise, which made hearing difficult. Fortunately, they had not chosen a coffee shop, as most of them are way too small. The bar we met in was big enough, but a ‘normal’ restaurant is probably smarter, because of the noise factor.
Another main concern, though, which IMO is the million dollar question, is how to translate whatever local consensus can be reached into some sort of national effect. Here, I’m afraid, the Coffee Party is at the same disadvantage as every other well-intentioned grassroots movement. The best idea I’ve seen to allow grassroots groups to self-organize into voting blocs of sufficient size to make a difference, is the Interactive Voter Choice System. However, that’s not implemented, yet. This application would semi-automate the formation, merger, and temporary alliance of vote blocs.
The Coffee Party, itself, has some sort of political profile aggregating tool, called the Coffee Sphere. I haven’t had time to take a close look at it, and don’t know if it facilitates voting bloc formation.