Democrats and liberals can't do much to change the nation's political profile until the 2006 elections. What to do with all that downtime?
Drinking Liberally, a grass-roots organization that calls itself an "informal, inclusive weekly Democratic drinking club," finds the answer in a pint glass. Founded in May 2003 in New York City, the group is quickly spreading across the country, with 33 chapters based in Madison, Wis., and other college towns, conservative outposts such as Houston, liberal cities like San Francisco and Portland -- and now Pittsburgh.
On Jan. 4, the Pittsburgh Drinking Liberally chapter will hold its first meeting at 7 p.m. at Finnegan's Wake on the North Side.
Pittsburgh chapter organizer John Tadler says the group's first meeting will be "pretty informal" (Robert's Rules of Ordering, anyone?) and will mostly focus on getting to meet whomever else shows up. He hopes the weekly meetings will lead to solid friendships based on shared progressive values and networking opportunities. "I hope some really good ideas about advancing the local region will come out, or ideas to revitalize Pittsburgh," says Tadler, of Emsworth.
The opportunity to chat about politics with like-minded citizens currently attracts at least 50 weekly regulars to Rudy's, the home base of Drinking Liberally's New York chapter. "People can make friendships that can turn into political participation, or donations," says national co-founder and organizer Justin Krebs. He says members fund the group out of their own pockets, selling T-shirts and pins to cover expenses -- which may or may not include the sip of Southern Comfort Krebs enjoyed while being interviewed at a chapter meeting.
The group's only rules: Pick a regular time and place to meet, charge no admission fee, don't invite other groups or Democratic campaigns to present anything at meetings, and drink responsibly.
What about potential members who can't even be Drinking Legally? Krebs reports that offshoots for the under-21 crowd are springing up across the country. In California cities, Spending Liberally monitors campaign contributions by major corporations for shoppers hoping to "punish corporations that make the government work against the public interest." In Austin, Texas, Reading Liberally gives literary liberals a chance to discuss political books. Enthuses Krebs: "It's people's ingenuity and ideas making things happen."