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 intellectual property rights 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.
Rep. Ron Paul’s a libertarian, so it’s no surprise that he’s not fond of government funding for the arts. But true to his libertarian principles, he’s shown that he’s uncomfortable with government regulation of the arts more generally:
1997: Predictably, Paul was in the midst of some of the debates over the existence of National Endowment for the Arts after he returned to Congress in 1997. “It is clear that there is no place in the federal budget for the NEA, the NEH or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” he said after President Clinton asked for an increase in NEA and CPB funding in response to Congressional cuts the previous year. Later that year, he voted to disband the agency altogether.
2001: In a profile, Paul used the National Endowment of the Arts to illustrate his vision of the Constitution’s limits on government functions in an interview with Insight on the News: “If you say, ‘What we must do is cut back on the National Endowment for the Arts,’ instead of defending the constitutionally correct position that there should be no National Endowment for Arts, you have conceded. The Congress made a feeble intellectual attempt in 1995, but it failed because, all of a sudden, the constitutional principle spelled out clearly in the 10th Amendment was ignored. The 10th Amendment says: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'”
2004: Paul was the only Republican to vote against a bill that increased the ceiling on Federal Communications Commission indecency fines from $27,500 per incident for companies and $11,000 for individuals to $500,000, complaining “I’m convinced that the Congress has been a very poor steward of the First Amendment.”
2007: Paul may not believe that the federal government should fund the arts, but that doesn’t mean he dislikes them. He cosponsored a resolution that expressed the House’s support for music education as part of a balanced curriculum.
Support for arts education shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted one way or another, unless the candidate in question is Mike Huckabee, for whom it’s a top issue. And other than that simple resolution, Paul’s views on the arts are straightforwardly libertarian.