From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
The Opportunity Society

December 3, 2004 11:21 AM

Karl Rove is framing Bush's domestic agenda around the "Ownership" Society, which is actually just a co-opting of DLC ideas. Rather than respond directly, we should instead frame progressive ideas around the "Opportunity" Society. Democrats provide opportunities for everyone to achieve the American Dream. We are all "partners in the American Dream."

This is stolen straight from the Labour party -- cribbing from Blair's speech in September: "In an opportunity society, as opposed to the old welfare state, government does not dictate; it empowers."

It indirectly attacks Bush's "Ownership" society while re-framing the issue around progressive values. People don't want a handout, they want an opportunity to succeed.

It fits into the protection frame as well. You can't have opportunities if you're worried about the basics: job, health, family, religious freedom, retirement. Republicans are out for everything. They want to take your job (offshoring), your religious freedom (marriage amendment), your health (stem cells, flu debacle, environment), and your family (unnecessary wars, mismanaged national security). Democrats will protect you while making opportunities available so you can achieve your dreams.

I really like the term "partner" because it is both personal and community oriented at the same time. Again, progressive values, just different language. I am a partner in something larger than myself.

So here are some ideas...

Public education -- particularly community colleges, state universities, etc. Anyone can learn the skills they need to succeed for hundreds of dollars not the tens of thousands needed to attend private schools. You can't get the classes you need at the community college because Republicans can't balance their checkbook. They are "squandering" our future.

Debt / balanced budget -- The Republicans are squandering our future opportunities with runaway spending racking up huge debt.

Discrimination -- Democrats ensure opportunities for everyone regardless of race, sex, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Equal pay in the workplace, etc.

Small business -- It's really embarassing that the Republicans own this one. Fundamentally, small businesses are the answer to large corporations. Everyone should have the opportunity to start their own business.

Monopolies -- To ensure opportunities for small business, we can't have monopolies. By putting this in the context of opportunity, we make corporate greed and crony capitalism more personal. The CEOs of these large companies are taking away my opportunities to succeed. We can push for a high profile bust-up as a way of making this an issue. And stay away from "anti-trust" -- no one knows what that means.

Research & Investment -- Small business innovates in the short-term, but government investment in research and infrastructure creates long-term innovations, providing opportunities for future small businesses and job growth. Large corporations are more interested in protecting their existing lines of business than innovating.

I'm sure there's more...

More from the archive in Framing.

The Opportunity Society (12.03.2004)

Next Entry: Weapons of Mass Deception (12.03.2004)
Previous Entry: KALX Tonight (12.02.2004)

Read the 9 comments.


So the Republicans want my job, huh? Why? If the Republicans are all big bad old capitalists who are only out to make a quick buck, why would they want to impoverish the workers who would buy their wares? Doesn't make any sense...Sure, their labor costs might be lower but cutting production costs by removing your customer base is just stupid.

"Democrats ensure opportunities...without regard to race..."
Oh, THAT'S rich... Unless you happen to disagree with their rigid lockstep way of thinking...see the attacks on Condolezza Rice and Colin Powell.

"You can't get the classes you need at the community college because Republicans can't balance their checkbook. "

Get a grip....

Fri Dec 3 2004 11:56 AM


nice post jim - i like the opportunity and partner frames a lot.

Fri Dec 3 2004 12:41 PM


Street runs both ways:

They (the democrats) want to take your job (offshoring - NAFTA), your religious freedom (only allowed under terms dictated by the ACLU), your health (socialized medicine doled out as seen fit by the government), and your family (a social worker on every corner ensuring you children are indoctrinated as seen fit by the NEA).

Fri Dec 3 2004 1:29 PM

Jim Gilliam:

Exactly, dhermesc. Bush gets away with being "strong on terror" not because his policies are actually getting rid of terrorism, but because they *could be interpreted* as being hard on terrorism AND they fit into a larger narrative of Bush standing above the rubble of 9/11 committing our nation to rid the world of evil. Remember the video they showed at the RNC right before Bush came out? That's the narrative, right there.

We can argue until we're blue (not RED, hehe) in the face about specific policies, but for Dems to re-establish themselves, we need a larger narrative. And obviously, I feel our issues fit into these frames far more honestly than Bush's do in his. These frames can then be used to create the narrative.

Fri Dec 3 2004 2:17 PM



I'd have to agree you're thinking along the right path to "rebuilding" the democrat party from the shambles it's in now... the problem I see is that it will take years before the leadership of the party turns it's ears your way or is replaced...

The Democrats need new leadership first and formost, I would say.

I think America is simply tired of hearing from Clinton, Daschle, Pelosi, Kennedy, and the likes of Moore...

Fri Dec 3 2004 3:04 PM

Tom from Madison:

Part of a larger narrative could involve a rational discussion of how we Americans pay for health care and how it is getting in the way of the opportunity society.

Many people are not pursuing their dream career aspirations today because they will get less or no health care benefits in a new job. Losing health care for your family is something Americans have to worry about when they change jobs. Canadians, Wesern Europeans, and citizens of most of other developed countries don't have any such worries.

Many employers' plans to expand in this country are limited because they have to compete with OTHER employers in providing health coverage. This provides incentives to expand in foreign countries rather than in the U.S.

Our system is costing us more than universal coverage in other countries. Yet their life expectancies are longer and their neo-natal death rates are lower.

Obviously that would be a long narrative and it's only part of one issue. Still, American workers will realize at some point that they should get better access to health care AND health care options are limiting their employment options.

Fri Dec 3 2004 3:24 PM

Jim Gilliam:

That's great, Tom. You're absolutely right. "Lack of health care is holding me back from achieving my dreams."

It's a problem I've dealt with, having a pre-existing condition makes it impossible for me to get individual health coverage, which is a huge incentive to stay working for a company. I took the plunge anyway, and eventually found Media Alliance, an organization in the Bay Area that will add you to their group coverage as long as you work in the media business in some way. I still pay the high rates of an individual health plan, but at least I can get coverage.

Fri Dec 3 2004 3:35 PM

Tom from Madison:


The challenge to employers in providing health care benfits is especially troublesome for small businesses. Compared to employers the size of Wal-Mart, mom & pop operations have no negotiating power in dealing with the insurance industry.

The complexity of choosing which provider to deal with is daunting for entrepreneurs. The net result is small business owners have to be experts in the complex business of administering health care benefits. This is obviously a huge distraction from dealing with running the rest of their business. They wouldn't have to deal with most of those headaches if we had a system like Canada.

Sun Dec 5 2004 7:46 AM

Tom from Madison:

The recent campaign touched only slightly on the issue of the National Debt. What about the crushing amount of personal debt many Americans face?

The Bush vision of an "ownership society" didn't address this issue at all. Personal debt is at record levels--yet Kerry and Democrats didn't attack Bush for producing the conditions where people are assuming more and more personal debt.

Whichever party can show people a way out of personal debt should win popular support.

Thu Dec 9 2004 6:09 AM

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