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.