The 2012 Candidates on the Arts: Herman Cain

With arts and public broadcast issues percolating on the edge of the race for the 2012 presidential race, I thought it made sense to look at where the declared and prospective candidates for president have stood on arts issues throughout their careers. Their views on everything from arts education to support for local artistic traditions say a lot about how they value culture — but also about how they think about the role of government.

Herman Cain’s had an interesting career, whether serving as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, as a director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, or a Naval mathematician. None of it, however, has given him much background on arts issues or intellectual property rights, leaving his stances in these areas — as with many others — something of a mystery. Literally the only clue to his position on anything arts-related is a comment he made on an appearance on Eliot Spitzer’s CNN show, when the former governor of New York asked Cain what kind of spending cuts he’d make, cautioning, “I’m not talking National Endowment for the Arts, I’m not talking about everybody’s got their favorite target.” Cain refused to say he’d eliminate NEA.

That’s it. Nothing on arts education, nothing on public broadcasting, nothing on intellectual property or piracy. Zip. Cain won some early momentum, mostly due to an empty field. But unless he comes up with actual ideas — on the arts or anything else — I’m hard-pressed to see how he stays a remotely serious candidate, even in a cycle with a lot of silly options.