Today is Iowa caucus day, which is the traditional beginning of the presidential election cycle, though it seems like folks have been running for president since Barack Obama won his second term in 2012. I have major objections with the way we elect presidents. I think its indirect and a reminder of how this nation is closer to a patrician republic like the ancient Roman Republic than a democracy like in ancient Athens. I believe courageous system-changing politicians who speak of revolution like Sanders and Trump might want to start with ridding us with such constitutional appendixes such as the Electoral College rather then driving out Mexican immigrants or giving everyone free college tuition. With that all said, while we have this system let us all massage it a bit to at least give folks something to live for rather than fight against.
I had an interesting conversation with a couple friends the other day when I told them that arts funding was a defining position for me this presidential election. As an artist this makes sense to me. To them, both Bernie supporters, they could not see how a poor black gay person like myself would not gravitate more to Sanders positions on economic equality. My response was that I needed more than food and shelter to live on. After sacrificing the now majority of my life on pursuing an arts career in this fiercely anti-intellectual and anti-art era, its a vital interest that the next president turn the anti-culture trend around in order to try to nourish the starving human spirit of the nation.
A couple weeks ago I promised a post on where the candidates stood on arts funding. I happened to find a great resource that shows this information. Its called Americans For Arts Funding. They have a great website that shows where each candidate stands, and what each candidate has done in the past. Here are some interesting tidbits from their report on where the top two candidates in both parties stand. Visit http://www.artsactionfund.org/pages/artsvote2016 to see the complete report. First lets start with the Republicans and with Ted Cruz, currently second in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls behind Donald Trump.
Cruz does not support funding for the NEA or the NEH. He does not support common core standards in education; this despite the fact that the arts supports roughly 100,000 jobs, 4 billion dollars in taxable income and 200 million in profits in his own adopted state of Texas – by the way where are all the birthers at. As far as his personal tastes according to the Arts Action Fund he apparently was a classic rock aficionado until 9/11 changed his mind. Apparently the rock and roll community was too Al Qaeda for him. He’s a mess and impolitic – his own Republican colleagues in the Senate hate him (see here). There’s not much to say about him on the arts unfortunately so now onto Trump.
Trump has extensive experience in television and the movies with cameo or front-man positions in a dozen productions including of course the Apprentice. He actually has personally given extensively to the arts with more than an half million dollars in donations to arts organizations in New York State over the last dozen or so years. This is impressive but half a million for a billionaire is nothing. He’s of course against common course standards – which I should add now have been largely dismantled (see here). What I gather on his position on arts education is that he believe that it should be determined locally and not by federal directives, a position most republicans share. How easily they forget No Child Left Behind, Bush’s signature education accomplishment, when its inconvenient for them. I could not find information on whether Trump supported NEA or NEH funding. If he’s keeping in line with Republican orthodoxy, which he has bucked in the past, then he would not. However he’s a deal maker and a businessman so surely some adviser would remind a President Trump that culture and culture goods generated nearly 700 billion in profit as recently as 2012. NEA funding by the way has been stagnant for the past 20 years. There’s a really sad article explaining the 50 history on the NEA in yesterdays Atlantic. Now on to the Democrats
I’ll start with Bernie. Sanders believes in arts education investment and has been quoted as saying that it is significantly less expensive to send a person to college for a year than it costs to house an inmate in prison. In Vermont he is noted for supporting a waterfront park in Burlington the town he was mayor of for a dozen years or so, and sponsoring a children’s choir. He created an arts council in Burlington as well and has received a consistent A+ rating by the “Americans for the Arts Action Fund Congressional Arts Report Cards” for all the years that he has been in Congress. There are several inspiring quotes Sanders gives in support for arts education and the arts in general, too many to go through extensively. He’s quoted as saying “You have my promise that as President, I will be an Arts President. I will continue to advocate strongly for robust funding of the arts in our cities, schools and public spaces.”, and also “Art is speech. Art is what life is about!”. Awesome! He participated in a Arts Caucus in Iowa back in August 2015 that you can see a report on here. Sanders would certainly give robust funding for the arts, likely at a hefty fee as taxes would likely go up as it would for most of his social agenda. But I for one don’t think taxes are so bad, they pay for things we like.
Finally there’s Clinton, who for whatever irrational reason is reviled by Sanders people and every Republican in the nation. I’ve spoken on Clinton hate in an earlier post. Clinton supports NEA and NEH funding and was lauded when she was first lady for her support for those organizations. She supports increased arts funding and common course standards with some changes – she too agrees that there should be more state control over public education with robust standards that children should achieve before graduating high school. Clinton won a Grammy for her spoken word book “It takes a Village”. She was a supporter of the “Arts in the Embassies” program while Secretary of State – a program I’ve applied to before. While at State she was quoted as saying about the program, “Just think of what each of these artists means for people yearning to express themselves, that young artist living under a repressive regime, that budding painter who’s not quite sure where he or she fits in. Now, not all of these people will ever meet any of these artists, but they will learn about them and themselves, maybe even know something of their spirit and tap into a deeper level of inspiration, because they will encounter their works.” Clinton has angered some in the not-for-profit world by advocating capping charitable donations to charities – in an effort to require the wealthy to pay more actual tax rather than escape their tax burden through the deduction process. Clinton has the right temperament regarding the importance of arts education in my view as made clear in the following videos:
In short Clinton like Sanders would be an outstanding Arts President.
Okay that’s my take on where the candidates stand. I’m not a journalist so I make no apologies on my stated opinions on the candidates. Now I think in one of the next few posts I will look back at what Obama has done for the arts. I think its time to take a look back. On another note I just got the new Rihanna CD “Anti”and its pretty good, not great but pretty good. The first track I think is awesome its called “Consideration”. Here it is:
Okay until next time…