The American Dream: Not About Climbing To Heights Of Personal Success — It’s About Economic “Justice For All”

The short video, produced by the House Democrats, shown prior to Nancy Pelosi’s convention speech — Reigniting the American Dream: Building Ladders of Opportunity — communicated a thought provoking POV.

The video uses interesting symbology that suggests the American Dream can be reached by climbing straight upwards — about 15 stories. To reach the top, a person must overcome gravity and pull her or himself up on a swaying rope ladder. Very scary. To attempt such a feat would require an amazing act of courage and strength, and only the fit would survive.

The visual message of the video is that the American Dream is out of reach for most people, but, this visual message contradicts the words of the video: “Our nation’s ideal is the American Dream that if you’re willing to work hard, play by the rules and take responsibility, everyone should have the opportunity to succeed.”

The notion that we need more ladders so that more people can have the opportunity to scale a 15 story precipice is pretty funny. The lack of ladders is not the problem. The problem is that for some crazy reason, the American Dream is 15 stories up. Who put it there and how do we move it to a place that is more accessible? More ladders will not matter, because most citizens are unable to make the climb. Sure, some individuals, like Michele and Barack, have the strength and courage, and luck, to make it to the top. But, for the average Joe, the “opportunity” the Democrats offer is pretty meaningless.

The premise of this Democratic Party video is that the American Dream is about the individual pulling him or herself up. But, the party of the people needs a bigger and better vision of what the American Dream actually means.

The American Dream is that we live in a fair society where every citizen is valued, a society, yes, with no ceilings — where every citizen has the opportunity to climb socially and economically — but one with a strong floor, giving security and stability to our weakest or least successful citizens. It is shameful that in our rich country we have citizens who, regardless they work hard and play by the rules, live in poverty and insecurity. To suggest that these oppressed citizens simply need more opportunity is an insult. They need more money. They need health care. They need a fair deal.

The American Dream the Democratic Party should advance is not a dream about an individual climbing to the heights of personal success — it is a dream about a nation where there is liberty and justice for all.

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2 Responses to The American Dream: Not About Climbing To Heights Of Personal Success — It’s About Economic “Justice For All”

  1. Bryan says:

    You seem to be touching on the equal opportunity vs equal outcome argument. Ironically, I thought the video was good in highlighting that all to often people don’t get an equal opportunity because those that went before them have used their power and influence to restrict that opportunity. In my opinion, both parties are very guilty of this and it goes from the top level all the way down to the lowest level of government. I liked the idea of ‘throwing the ladder back down’ to get back to the equal in equal opportunity. Remember, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. No matter how many opportunities are there, there will also be some who refuse to do anything about it.

    I know most liberal leaning thinkers are against deregulation, but I hope I’ve found some that they might support. It’s noteworthy that they often causes taken up by ‘justice institutes’ trying to level the playing field.

    Some of the stories on topics like this highlight the fact that barbers, florists, hair braiders, and interior designers often have more permit costs and required training and annual training that EMT’s or other professions where there really is a life at risk.

  2. Mike Bock says:

    Bryan, I was surprised that this video was produced by a caucus of Democrats because it presents a view of reality that, I feel, should be rejected by those who want to advance a progressive POV. The video supports the notion that the “American Dream” is available to only a small fraction of the population. Only the super athlete would dare climb those rope ladders and sure, there may be a few super athletes, who, as you say, “No matter how many opportunities are there, there will also be some who refuse to do anything about it,” but, the issue is not why some super athletes are lazy, the issue is, the question, from a policy POV, is, “In this rich country, Why is the American Dream so difficult to reach? Why is it defined in such a way that only the super prepared and the abundantly gifted can have any hope of making it to the top?”

    Sure, some people who make it to the top may refuse to help anyone else become equally successful, but that’s not the big problem. The big problem is, as revealed by this video, in our society, the task of achieving the American Dream is out of reach to much of the population. The fact that some potential super athletes are never given the chance to get their hands on a rope ladder, never given the chance to pull themselves up 15 stories, is not the social issue revealed by the video. The problem is, we have a consensus view about the American Dream that agrees that it is OK if only the best and most fit have any chance of achieving it. In any population, 50% will be below average. Yes, it is good to have a society where the strongest and wisest ascend to the top. But must the top be so far above the masses? Must a CEO earn zillions of more dollars than the ordinary worker?

    We need to define the American Dream so that those who do ordinary work — clean our offices, pick our fruit, work in our factories and fast food places — can share equally in that dream.

    I did look at the links and I agree that a lot of regulation has been imposed to limit competition and to maintain a status quo of advantage.

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