Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Scott Walters: Here's Your Challenge

“If it created jobs, you’d have 435 members of Congress saying, ‘Let’s put in more money to the N.E.A.’...The only shovel-ready aspect of it is that they need a shovel to clean up some of the bull they believe in over there.”

-Jack Kingston, Republican Congressman from Georgia and Tea Party-panderer.
Rep Kingston (R-GA) appears to be in the knee-jerk art-is-worthless crowd (remember Cash for Clowns?). Maybe he's the enemy, and we arts advocates need to make sure we pressure him to change his mind, or ignore him and fight to support people who don't think like him.

Or you, Scott, can take this as an opportunity.

See, from Kingston's perspective, the NEA doesn't create jobs. On a national level, that argument isn't worth all that much. And to the extent that it is true, the reason it doesn't create many jobs is because we don't fund it much.

But you see, Kingston is from Georgia 1st District. I wish I could find the NEA breakdown on money by district, but I haves me a feeling that it doesn't have much for Georgia's 1st District. And Rocco doesn't seem inclined to take rural theater very seriously, after the whole Peoria shennanigans. Georgia's 1st is home to Okefenokee Swamp. (Oh, and his website also says "The First District is a literary haven." Is he anti National Endowment of the Humanities?)

Kingston's stance right now is, the NEA is useless to my district, so it is way easy for me to rag on it. After all, how many people in my district have any connection to or value of the NEA? Why not kick it around? What would I lose?

And if you look at the political math, if the NEA's money is going mostly to large metropolises, then it will be undersupported in the House. And probably the Senate too.

So my challenge to you, Scott, is can you use CRADLEArts model to the political advantages of the arts? Can you go to Kingston and say, "If the NEA uses the current model, most of its money is going to go to big historic theaters in big cities. If you help reform the NEA's approach, you can bring some of that support to locals in your district. Don't scrap us, fix us."

And maybe Republicans aren't ready for this message. Maybe it's the 54 Congressmen of the Blue Dog Democrats. After all, maybe this is a winning moderate issue for them -- they get to go toe-to-toe with the "urban liberals" of the party (Take that, Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich) and brandish some populist, pro-local tendencies while still investing in a Democratic principle of supporting the arts.

Basically, can we end this manichean game of either pro-the-current-model or anti-the-arts?