Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts gave two of the fieriest speeches at their parties’ nominating conventions. Rubio accused President Barack Obama of pushing “ideas that people come to America to get away from” and said, “Hope and Change has become Divide and Conquer.” Patrick said Mitt Romney “was more interested in having the job” of Massachusetts governor “than doing it.”
In other words, they aren’t soul mates. But next week in Washington, Rubio and Patrick are scheduled to share the headliner role at a conference sponsored by Opportunity Nation, a new organization whose guiding principle is that “the Zip Code you’re born into shouldn’t determine your destiny.”
Bipartisanship is mostly out the window in Washington, but the presence of strange bedfellows Rubio and Patrick at the Sept. 19 summit at George Washington University shows that “opportunity” is, at the very least, a word that continues to appeal strongly to both Republicans and Democrats.
Opportunity Nation, which was launched last year, is dedicated to giving poor people a better shot, but at a breakfast meeting with reporters Wednesday in New York, Executive Director Mark Edwards said that organizers deliberately avoided using “poor” or “poverty” in the name because the words conjure up an “us vs. them” mentality. To boost its bipartisan credentials, the organization convened a brainstorming session earlier this year with policy wonks from the conservative Heritage Foundation, the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, and the middle-of-the-road Brookings Institution.
On Wednesday, Edwards unveiled the organization’s eight-part plan. It turns out to be considerably narrower than the original ambitions of some supporters, reflecting the difficulty of finding ideas that all 250 member organizations could agree on. All eight ideas are related somehow to improving the transition from school to work. Ideas include more company mentoring and internships; stronger career and technical education; and ways for low-income people to save for higher education.
“We started around a much broader agenda of 35 ideas,” including such ideas as expanding the earned income tax credit, boosting early childhood education, an infrastructure bank, and a tax credit for hiring young people who have been out of work, Edwards said. “It was just too broad. We decided to focus on this area [school-to-work] as the leading part of the campaign.”
Disclosure: The co-chair of the Leadership Council is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, majority owner of Bloomberg LP.