Aspen ideas: Is the American Dream just a pipe dream? |

Aspen ideas: Is the American Dream just a pipe dream?

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – In addressing “The Obama Presidency and the Future of the American Dream” on Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, one thing was abundantly clear: The American Dream of today is not that of our forefathers.

“The American Dream is alive and well … and living in Denmark,” said Arianna Huffington, president, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of 13 books. “We have long had faith that our children will be better off than we are. That promise has been broken; we have betrayed the American Dream.

“I would say the American Dream has become a game of chance.”

According to Huffington, who sat on a panel with Michael Sandel, professor of government at Harvard University and author of “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” upward mobility is no longer achievable in America. In fact, America is now ranked 10th for upward mobility.

“We are behind France in this regard. And that’s like America being ahead of France in croissants and afternoon sex,” Huffington remarked to a standing-room-only crowd at the Doerr-Hosier Center.

The reasons the American Dream is being dashed are myriad, which led to a debate – moderated by Jeffrey Rosen, a professor of law at George Washington University and the legal affairs editor of The New Republic – that focused on whether President Obama has betrayed or saved America’s progressive tradition, and thus the American Dream.

The discussion explored both sides of the coin, with much emphasis on the politics of the common good – is the president willing and able to work toward the common good? Issues such as the financial crisis, unemployment, gay marriage and morality were woven into the conversation. And, ultimately, the future of politics in America was placed at the forefront.

“Young people today do want to do good, but not through politics,” Sandel said. “They don’t see the political system as a way to achieve the common good.

“We need to reconnect ideals and the public spirit with political governance.”

In the end, however, the question remained: Has the president betrayed American’s progressive tradition?

The panelists were broad in their analysis of the question, not casting a solid vote. The audience was similarly split, with nearly 50 percent saying no and just more than half saying yes.

“It’s tight, but I would say the ayes have it,” concluded Rosen.