On April 21st Coffee Party Austin invested in our mission to reach out to a broader audience by renting and staffing information tables at the Travis County Democratic and Republican Conventions.
Special thanks to Gaye Kopas, Joanne Richards, Stewart Snider, and Chuck Poutas for staffing the Democratic Convention table, and to Ed Kopas, Teresa Taylor, and Mike Ignatowski for staffing the Republican Convention table.
As expected, we had a warmer reception at the Democratic convention than at the Republican Convention. At the Democratic Convention our large banner drew lots of attention. We also displayed a sign that asked, “Is Money Corrupting Our Political Process?” Many people’s reason for stopping seemed to be our Coffee Party name.
We had frequent visitors to our table, most of whom had never heard of us, and some thought we were just a reaction to the Tea Party. A few people stopped by because they thought we were serving coffee, but we offered chocolates instead. We encountered little disagreement with our causes. We spoke to passers-by about our two main issues: the corrupting influence of money in politics and comprehensive immigration reform. Twenty-eight people signed up for our email list, with seven expressing willingness to volunteer.
All in all, attendance at the Democratic Convention was very useful and an enjoyable experience. Gaye Kopas heartedly recommends doing it again.
At the Travis County Republican convention, about 25 people stopped by the table but only two signed up for our email list. All who stopped by agreed that money in politics is a problem, took our handouts, and said they would visit our web site; one couple expressed their intention to come to our Saturday meetings.
Mike engaged a moderate Republican in a worthwhile exchange. She liked the focus on the corrupting influence of money on politics. She coined the term “Smash & Trash PACS” to describe the negative campaigning that is about to hit us like a tsunami with the start of the fall campaign. We agreed that the heavy negative campaigning this fall might be a good opportunity to get people energized about reducing the influence of money in politics. She thought a more effective way to address corporate campaign contributions would be to require complete disclosure by public corporations of all funds used for political campaigns and lobbying – something Coffee Party Austin supports wholeheartedly. More information makes for better informed voting choices and thus a more effective democracy.
Since the delegates at the conventions seem to be a lot of the same people every year, the value of us displaying at the Republican convention is –in Ed Kopas’s opinion– marginal. In Mike’s view, however, his conversation with the moderate Republican made the time and expense worthwhile, and he would recommend that we have a presence there again.