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John McCain Hates Shakespeare

So, on to Mr. McCain.

I’ll be blunt here: John McCain wants to eliminate federal funding for the arts. That’s right, ELIMINATE it. (This from bipartisan Vote-Smart.org.) Even that nice NEA “Shakespeare for a New Generation” program. Alas, poor Yorick. Olivier as Hamlet Whatever your feelings about government funding for arts and the strings attached, some funding, however fraught, is better than none at all. 

Long ago, McCain voted for the Helms Amendment, which hoped to deny funding to work considered “obscene.” Certainly, this amendment might have put a dent in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s current blockbuster, “Frida,” considering that it features obscenity central to the artist’s work such as this: Frida Kahlo 

In 1999, McCain voted with, among others, Sens. Robert Smith, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Sam Brownback and John Ashcroft (who believes dancing is an affront to God, a notion I find obscene) for the Smith-Ashcroft amendment. The amendment hoped to cut all funding for the NEA from that year’s budget. And here’s the introduction it received:

“In proposing the amendment, Smith explained that his objective was not to reform or restructure the NEA, but to close it down. He argued that federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts is unconstitutional. Ashcroft joined Smith in speaking in support of their amendment.”

I’d love to list a point-by-point analysis of the Republican candidate’s current positions on arts professionals or funding, but, well, he doesn’t have any. (A quick search of “arts” on McCain’s website turned up Andrew McCain’s Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. Congratulations!) And if you’re wondering how McCain feels about arts education, you can keep on wondering, because his entire education policy goes something like this: here’s your voucher; now go somewhere else or stop complaining.

If you’re of the mind that the cream rises to the top and eliminating arts funding will get rid of all the dross cluttering our artistic landscape, then you haven’t visited a school, theater, museum or arts festival lately, and you sure wouldn’t be reading this blog, because the idea for it grew out of a recent NEA fellowship I received.

Without federal money supporting these outlets, they will disappear. Subscribers cover only a portion of operating funds, and closing the NEA will close them down too. Once that funding dries up–and it just might if McCain wins the election–so will all those fancy new theaters dotting Broad Street, as will our festivals and museums. And once the Avenue of the Arts’ neon lights are dimmed, you can also say goodbye to everyone who bought Center City condos during the housing boom, the galleries, boutiques and restaurants that have sprung up around the city’s various arts scenes, and all those tourism dollars spent outside of the historic district. At least you’ll still have the war in Iraq… for the next 100 years. Take that into account the next time you say you’re voting your pocketbook.

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