Sack: Don’t politicize coffee

Blue State Coffee has a political agenda that excludes those that do not share its views. The politicization of coffee threatens to create a community that is unwelcoming to a diversity of opinions.

One store may not have a large effect on the neighborhood, but many color-specific stores create a community in which dissimilar people feel inconvenienced, forced to seek out politically neutral retailers. The result of the politicization of common goods is the marginalization of the minority.

According to its Web site, Blue State Coffee’s two locations have donated almost $26,000 to ActBlue, an organization that raises money for Democratic candidates and committees. The buyer does not know to which Democrats his or her money is funneled. The New Haven branch at College and Wall streets donates 5 percent of its proceeds to charities that are neither overtly liberal nor conservative. But 95 percent goes to the Blue State Coffee Company, whose other branch in Providence channels money to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. Customers in New Haven may not be directly supporting Democrats, but in sustaining the Blue State Coffee chain, customers are supporting an organization that in other locations benefits leftist causes. Those who do not want to directly or indirectly support the Democratic Party must avoid Blue State Coffee.

I fear that the Blue State concept will spread: Blue State Dry Cleaning, Blue State Groceries, Blue State Books and Blue State Clothiers. How would any conservative, Republican or apolitical person feel living in a neighborhood where he must donate to leftist causes in order to buy the simplest necessity?

As a Democrat from a solidly Republican district, I fear that Red State Coffee will catch hold in my neighborhood. I will have to think twice before buying a cup of coffee, first having to consider how my purchase will affect a woman’s right to choose, environmental stewardship and a homosexual’s right to marry. All of us will someday leave this haven of liberalism known as Yale University, some of us to states and districts in which progressive liberals are in the minority. My hope is that the political affiliation of the coffee shops will not affect where I choose to live.

Blue State Coffee reflects a larger reality in American politics: political polarization. Sadly, it seems, liberals tend to live near liberals, and conservatives near conservatives. Blue State Coffee parasitically feeds off this trend while exacerbating it. Republicans should feel comfortable living in blue districts, and Democrats should feel comfortable living in red districts. In neither case should one have to consider the political bias of a neighborhood’s amenities when deciding whether to live there.

When we swore in President Obama last week, I like to think that we ushered in a new era of unity in this country. Blue State Coffee stands in strong contradiction to Obama’s pledge to end divisive party politics. If Blue State Coffee wishes to further progressive ideals, it should encourage inclusivity while donating to causes that apolitically benefit the community. In the words of our president, we are not a nation of red states and blue states but rather the United States, and our coffee shops should reflect that ideal.

For now, I’ll take my coffee black, not blue.

Peter Sack is a sophomore in Silliman College.


  • anon

    walk literally 2 minutes to the next coffee shop. you're not too inconvenienced.

  • Andrew

    Whether the author likes it or not, coffee drinking (at least in the United States) is an inherently politicized act. He cannot now avoid the choice between drinking coffee from plantations with a de facto slave labor force, and coffee from others that pay their workers a living wage (a still quite meager one at that).

    And need I say more than to call attention to the sensationalism of the author's purported fear of "Blue State Dry Cleaners"?

    If he doesn't like Blue State, he shouldn't drink there. In which case his coffee drinking is no worse off than it was two weeks ago.

  • Y '11

    Peter, In the words of Howard Zinn, "You can't be neutral on a moving train."

  • ?

    Most American companies donate money to political campaigns. Wal-mart gives millions. At least Blue State is transparent about it and makes its politics known. That way the decision is left to the consumer whether he wants to buy his coffee there or elsewhere.

    And Shelter Now and Dwight Hall? Sound pretty apolitical to me. I'd rather some of my purchase go to those groups rather than to no charities at all.

  • Recent Alum

    Dwight Hall is apolitical? It sure was a highly partisan organization when I was at Yale, which wasn't that long ago. Has it changed that much over the past few years?

  • anon

    I agree. While I think the causes are noble and I am a proud liberal, I cringe at the name "Blue State," as it's kinda asking for a "Red State" alternative.

  • Anonymous

    their mocha tasted like a regualr coffee with chocolate syrup in it…I don't even have to look down deeper to decide its a crappy coffee house.

  • robert99

    Wow, they must be pretty confident to risk alienating perhaps 50% of their customers. I am guessing that they aren't the only game in town, by a long shot.

  • Anonymous

    It isn't the name or political affiliation that's the problem, it's the sterile tile flooring and the strange furniture.

  • Yale 09

    As a conservative, I fully support this market based differentiation. The progessive donations thing is a popular marketing gimmick.

    They have a more than suitable customer base- Silliman/TD kids plus everyone going to class at Whitney.

    They have a huge coffee house with WIFI.

    But can they survive the hot summer months and semester breaks when students empty out of campus?

    Are their margins steep enough to account for rising material costs?

    Yale has a rep for charging high lease rates- so they better be selling a lot of coffee.