Coffee Party Bucks Status Quo

On anniversary, group shifts focus to third-party candidates


fledgling political group has slowly been gaining membership in Greater Cincinnati by organizing rallies and meetings where they try to hold local politicians accountable and ask citizens how they can reform their government.

Founded in March 2010, the Cincinnati Coffee Party is a nonpartisan grassroots organization that questions the policies of government and strives to get citizens involved in the political process.

“We promote government accountability,” says Sheli DeLaney, the Cincinnati Coffee Party’s co-leader. “We want to recruit better leaders and make our government a true expression of the collective world.”

Part of a national organization called Coffee Party USA, the movement was formed in response to the negative rhetoric and misconceptions regarding the health-care reform bill and the seemingly nonstop media coverage of the Tea Party. The local chapter decided it wanted to support the national movement and, during its startup phase, solely concentrated on health-care reform.

“After health-care reform passed, the group changed structure,” DeLaney says. “When I took over leadership, we decided to make the group more of an alternative to the two-party system. We wanted to create a venue to express concerns and support third-party candidates.”

The group wants to create a forum where Obama campaigners and supporters can share ideas and at times vent their frustrations about the way the administration is functioning.

“We are not on one side of the political spectrum and do not stand behind one party,” says Fariba Nourian, the group’s co-organizer. “We pick sides based on the issue and usually pick the one that would bring about the most social equality.”

Some of the issues the party has taken a stand against include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the city’s anti-marijuana ordinance and jail overcrowding.

The organization has held anti-war rallies on Fountain Square, written letters to Cincinnati City Council arguing against the ordinance and attended protests against Issue 5.

“In wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, we (recently held) a peace rally on Fountain Square on the eighth anniversary of the war in Iraq,” DeLaney says. “We have also asked the city to repeal nonviolent crimes like the anti-marijuana ordinance.”

While the group has had some successes, including the recent repeal of the aforementioned ordinance, members realize they still have a lot of work to do.

Some experts argue, however, that in order to have true success, such organizations must have elected politicians representing their needs and beliefs in public office.

“Organizations like this and political parties exist to get people elected to office, so you can have your own people in office,” says Professor Gene Beaupre, who is director of government relations at at Xavier University. “Organizations like the Tea Party are going to have greater credibility because they have elected people to office.”

Some experts believe that varying a stance based on the specific issue can be confusing and might cause a group to lose supporters.

“If a group has multiple platforms, it is going to be hard for people to want to be a part of that because they are going to get confused on what the organization actually stands for,” Beaupre says. “People are not going to be able to relate to that type of broad agenda.”

The Coffee Party currently is not focusing on getting politicians elected to office, but does hope someday to be able to find candidates that can represent its views and approach. For now, the party is concentrating on ways to make Cincinnati a better place and is taking suggestions from group members on what issues it should tackle.

“Everything we do is organic and is based on the suggestions of the people at our meetings,” DeLaney says. “Right now, we want to concentrate on Cincinnati’s biggest problems and figure out what can help the city.”

A few things the organization will be working on in coming months include the ongoing debate about jail overcrowding, the city’s financial problems and the repealing of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, which removed most restraints on corporate spending in political campaigns as long as it’s not coordinated beforehand with a candidate.

Citizens United is a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to be considered (as a) person,” DeLaney says. “This then allows them to make an unlimited amount of donations to any political campaign.”

Issues like this are why the Cincinnati Coffee Party says people should attend its meetings. Its members meet at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month at the Om Café, 329 Ludlow Ave., in the Clifton Gaslight District.

“If you are not satisfied with politics and would like to see change, you should come to the meetings,” Nourian says. “If we all have our voices heard, then we can really bring about change.”

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.