The candidates and the arts: where McCain and Obama stand
My interest in the upcoming U.S. presidential election surprises me. I'm not to the point yet of devouring hourly updates on polling data, but it's bordering on obsession.
A friend of mine who's a professional musician did some digging and posted a fine piece of citizen-journalism on his Facebook page. It compares the arts policies of the two U.S. presidential candidates.
You might say that in the face of a global banking crisis and impending climate change, the arts are way down the list. You might even argue that the federal government has no business supporting, opposing, financing, or tinkering with the arts at all.
But it's worth considering what might change after November 4th.
Here's his post.
I thought you all might enjoy some insight into the two candidates' views on the arts and federal support of the arts. I'm writing this because the vast majority of my Facebook friends are in some way or another involved in the arts.
I encourage you to read carefully what each presidential candidate has to say about the arts. It will only take a few minutes, and if you make your living in any type of creative industry--from music to marketing to education--I would hope that this issue would be as important to you as taxes, health care, Iraq, and the financial meltdown. You may have to cut-and-paste the following links into your browser.
Here is Obama's February 2008 plan regarding support for and promotion of the arts, drawn directly from his website:
Here is McCain's sole response to inquiries about support for and promotion of the arts, given to a Utah newspaper earlier this week (no sign of the arts on his website):
If you have just read carefully what each Presidential candidate outlines for the future of the arts in this nation, I trust that you will reach similar conclusions that I have.
- Obama has clearly given careful thought and attention to the arts, while McCain has not (a comprehensive plan in place since February 2008 compared to one paragraph primarily about school accountability created a few days ago).
- Obama understands the importance of the arts in terms of fostering global understanding, communication, and sharing of ideas, the capstone of which is this quote: "Artists can be utilized again to help us win the war of ideas against Islamic extremism." Remember the State Department tours of years past? McCain--from the supposed party of national security--suggests nothing of the sort.
- Obama seeks to support and encourage artists by at least discussing and at best providing health care options for artists who--as his campaign wisely notes--rarely have access to employer-based health care due to the nature of their work. McCain mentions nothing about artists' health care.
- Obama offers increased funding to the NEA--a claim that I presume would have to be rescinded in light of the financial crisis and global lack of money. McCain does not mention the NEA, but allows that communities on a local level would be best suited to invest in the arts if they so desired.
- Obama proposes an "Artist Corps" to train children and young people in low-income areas about the arts in what appears to follow a Teach for America-type format. McCain, again, offers no ideas to further promulgate the arts except where "local priorities allow."
There are more comparisons to be made, but I think I can confidently say that one thing is for sure: Barack Obama and Joe Biden and their subsequent administration would support and promote the arts to a far greater degree than John McCain and Sarah Palin and their administration. Clearly, support of the arts requires money, which nobody--not even our government--has a lot of right now. But wouldn't you feel better, as a person making a living as an artist or closely associated with the arts, knowing that your President has set up an administration that at least acknowledges the arts?
We may not have money right now, but in three or four years we will probably be back to better times, at least according to most economical commentators I have read and heard lately. This means immediate funding for the arts will be slim, but the future could be bright.
Take the time to read the links provided above, and ask yourself these questions as you prepare to vote: when the markets recover and liquidity returns, which candidate holds the arts in equal regard to other aspects of American life, and which tosses it off as passing sidelight that can just take care of itself? In short, who will offer the best support of the arts?
I think the answer to that question--and the ultimate choice for us artists come November 4--is clear.