Page last updated at 01:32 GMT, Sunday, 14 March 2010

Coffee Party brews up rival for Tea Party

A grassroots US political grouping that has emerged in opposition to the conservative Tea Party movement has been holding its first national day of meetings. The BBC's Madeleine Morris met some of the members of the Coffee Party in - where else? - a coffee house in Washington.

Tea Party demonstration in Glenside, Pennsylvania - 8 March 2010
Tea Party supporters want to cut government spending and influence

Looking for a little bit of civil political discussion with your decaf latte? Well the newly formed Coffee Party movement may be for you.

Evolving in the United States over the last couple of months through social media in response to the conservative Tea Party movement, coffee partiers share the Tea Party's disillusionment with mainstream politicians.

Internet traction

Saturday saw over 350 Coffee Party events held in cafes across the United States and abroad, bringing activists together in person for the first time for a national day of conversation and, of course, espressos and cappuccinos.

We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will
Coffee Party mission statement

"If our children acted like our politicians are acting right now they would be grounded for a very long time," says Ryan Clayton, a Coffee Party spokesperson in Washington DC.

Like the Tea Party, the Coffee Party is a movement, not a registered political entity. But that is where the similarities end.

The Tea Party is a loose affiliation of activists from all over America who are distrustful of the federal government, and what they see as bloated government spending.

Over the past year Tea Party groups have held a number of loud, angry rallies across America denouncing President Barack Obama and other politicians.

The first national Tea Party convention in February featured former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as its keynote speaker. Unlike their Tea Party counterparts, who want a smaller government with less influence, coffee partiers believe government can provide solutions, and they want politicians to work together in a more civilised way.

"We need to get together as citizens and show them [politicians] that we can sit down and talk about these issues; that we can solve problems and develop solutions; that we may not agree on everything, but that we can agree on a lot," says Mr Clayton.

Silent majority?

Founder Annabel Park, who began the Coffee Party on her Facebook page out of anger at the Tea Party and its growing influence, has seen it rapidly gain traction on the internet.

Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin has become a favourite with many Tea Party supporters

Its Facebook page has picked up over 138,000 fans in less than two months.

While the Tea Party can claim to have already helped win elections, including the vote for the new Massachusetts Senator, Scott Brown, can the Coffee Party gain the same sway on American politics?

"We're trying to approach politics differently so it's hard to compare the level of influence," says Annabel Park.

"Changing the political culture is not something you can measure by saying how many elections you've won."

But she maintains the coffee party represents the silent majority, who feel angry at politicians but do not want to voice their frustration by adopting the same aggressive and frequently negative tactics the Tea Party has.

"The two-party structure is just not working. There are so many of us who feel these labels are outdated, that we're much more complex and interconnected. And people are coming to us exhilarated that there's finally a place for them to have a voice," she says.

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