Salt Lake City Drinking Liberally

Promoting democracy in Utah one pint at a time.

June 2, 2008

DL Salt Lake in the NY Times!

Well, it’s official.  Drinking Liberally now has a chapter in all 50 states, just in time for the 5th birthday festivities.

A chapter in all 50 states

Five years is a big milestone, and Drinking Liberally (and Living Liberally) have gotten a fair amount of media attention for it.  

Our very own chapter here in Salt Lake has even been mentioned in two national publications!

On Politico

And in the New York Times Sunday edition.  I didn’t talk to the reporter, Courtney, but Heather did and said they had a wonderful conversation.  Even though it was a brief mention in both, it’s still very cool.  We hope that you’ll join us on June 6th at our party/fundraiser for a toast to our media mentions!

Here’s the text of the NY Times article:

June 1, 2008
Every Thursday Night, Liberal Politics and Pints

On Thursday night in Hell’s Kitchen, an impassioned discussion of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s remarks about the Bobby Kennedy assassination as a reason for her staying in the presidential race took place in the backyard of Rudy’s Bar and Grill. Across the yard, Rachel Maddow, a host on Air America Radio, poured glasses of beer for a table of friends and debated Senator John McCain’s war record.

Among the regular patrons at the bar on Ninth Avenue were a few unsuspecting tourists. Dozens of people were squeezed together talking politics, drinking beer and eating free hot dogs. The conversation was cut short for an anniversary toast.

“To many more years, and many more chapters,” said Justin Krebs, 30. Mr. Krebs was one of the founders of the progressive social networking group called Drinking Liberally that has been meeting at Rudy’s every Thursday night for the past five years.

“We knew our friends wanted to talk about politics and the state of the country, but it felt like that was a taboo thing to do in a social setting,” Mr. Krebs said. “We wanted to create an environment where people would be told that politics is not off the table — that in fact, it’s what we’re here for,” said Mr. Krebs, a founder of The Tank, a nonprofit space for performance and public-affairs events in Midtown.

In the beginning, Mr. Krebs and his partner in starting the club, Matthew O’Neill, 30, would show up on Thursday, with just the two of them sharing a pitcher of beer. Since then, online social networking has helped the group grow into a national organization with 250 chapters across the country, at least one in each state.

“Eight years ago, someone told me that the Nader folks were trying to create a sort of potluck dinner group in every state across the country — the idea being that you organize people socially and out of that can grow a network that will move progressive politics forward,” said Sam Seder, a radio host on Air America. “The brilliance of this group is that they’ve actually done that.”

Four years ago, a person who attended meetings in New York moved to San Francisco and started a second Drinking Liberally chapter.

After the 2004 Republican convention, the Daily Kos and Atrios, two political blogs, began posting Drinking Liberally meeting times on their sites. By the time Election Day rolled around, 16 new chapters had sprung up.

“For a lot of us, it’s the only time that we really get to talk politics across generations, other than at Thanksgiving dinner,” said Katrina Baker, 27, the group’s national organizer.

Fred Gooltz, 30, was one of the early regulars in New York. At the time, he was an actor, but through Drinking Liberally he was introduced to political organizations that were experimenting with using online social networking to reach potential voters. Mr. Gooltz started volunteering with several of them.

“The Howard Dean movement went viral on the Internet, and all kinds of new technology emerged,” he said. “I walked out of the 2004 election with a newfound understanding of how to organize politically through the Web.”

Since then, he has worked for several campaigns, including John Edwards’s last presidential run, using online social networking tools to promote voter registration.

“While working on campaigns, I would go to other states and bring a bunch of Drinking Liberally buttons with me to recruit people,” he said. “But everybody had already heard of us because of blogs.”

Heather Culligan, a 28-year-old computer software trainer, and her companion, Jeremiah Roth, 31, started a Drinking Liberally chapter in Salt Lake City in 2005. They were raised in conservative, Mormon families but do not follow the church’s prohibition on alcohol.

“I can’t talk to the people at work or the people I meet socially about politics,” Ms. Culligan said. “At Drinking Liberally meetings we disagree on plenty of issues, but even being able to have the conversation is a privilege here. It’s really all we have.”

In addition to weekly meetings, many Drinking Liberally chapters host lectures, screenings, book clubs and panel discussions. In response to an interest in other types of liberal gatherings, the organizers have formed Laughing Liberally (a political comedy tour), Screening Liberally (a film series), Reading Liberally, Eating Liberally and Crafting Liberally. A year ago, they created an umbrella group called Living Liberally to encompass them all.

Baratunde Thurston, 30, a stand-up comedian, performs around New York City with Laughing Liberally.

“After the 2004 election, Drinking Liberally meetings were like a support group,” said Mr. Thurston, who was a co-host of the Boston chapter at the time. “There were a lot of questions: ‘What happened? How could fellow Americans re-elect this man? How exactly do you move to Canada?’ In 2006, the mood started changing from pity party to newfound hope regarding the midterm elections. Local politicians would come by and make their pitches. We did joint events with human-rights groups and abortion-rights groups. It was like a swap meet of liberalism.”

Through Laughing Liberally, Mr. Thurston met other politically oriented comics and found his current job as a Web editor and writer at the satirical newspaper, The Onion.

“This group has been an amazing tool for so many of us, injecting the political process into our everyday social lives,” Mr. Thurston said. “Talking about politics can be intimidating if you don’t know the inner workings of HR-257 or what FISA means. Having a social entree into the whole process makes it much easier.”


by @ 12:16 pm. Filed under Group News, Local Issues, National Issues

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