‘Coffee Party' looking for a little more civility on politics

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Some Republican delegates and observers of Saturday's state GOP convention say it was unnecessarily contentious. Instead of rejoicing in their candidate's victory, many say delegates focused negatively on Sen. Bob Bennett.

What is... the Coffee Party?
The Coffee Party Movement supports cooperation in government. It recognizes that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of the country's collective will. Members believe participation in the democratic process is necessary to address the challenges that face America. Members support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

There's no doubt there is a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment right now, but is there a difference between showing support for a candidate and acting uncivilly toward their opponent?

"The political atmosphere has been toxic, and it's very clear that some of the votes I have cast have added to that toxic environment," Bennett told convention crowds in a tearful farewell speech Saturday.

As he did so, many convention goers say supporters of his opponents jeered at the U.S. senator. Rather than sending him off with a vote of thanks, they threw the night's votes in his face by booing, taunting and even harassing him and his supporters.

"It was just a little contentious against the people who support Bennett and the people against," recalls Jennifer Pathak, a volunteer with the Utah Coffee Party.

The Coffee Party's Civility Pledge
I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.

Pathak's group is very different from the Tea Party, which is calling Bennett's defeat a victory. The Coffee Party is all about civility and putting party lines aside.

"I don't know what's going on. I don't know why this hate is so prevalent in our nation right now," says Kelli Lundgren, also a member of the Utah Coffee Party. "I think it is there because of frustration, but I don't think it's necessary; and I think that people need to step back and realize what they're doing."

Coffee Party event
"Clean up Wall St. & K-Street"
Saturday, May 22, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Federal Building Plaza
100 South State Street
Salt Lake City

Lundgren says Coffee Party members would like to see less divisiveness and more open discussion -- just sitting down and talking about the issues over, say, a cup of coffee. They're hoping the movement catches on so everyone can meet somewhere in the middle.

"I think it's always important to have opposing sides, because they bring up conversation, they bring up ideas," Lundgren says. "But I think there's this big part of America who sits in the middle, and we need to remind those sides that we're here."

The Coffee Party name is a play off of Tea Party, and members say it doesn't matter what type of drink you prefer.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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