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.
Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter may rock a star-spangled Telecaster and play it for American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as an elected official, he’s got a somewhat sparse record on the arts, where he mostly parrots conventional Republican positions (though he doesn’t demagogue as aggressively on arts funding as some of his rivals do):
2000: While a Michigan state senator, McCotter introduced a bill pushing for Michigan to appoint a poet laureate. At the time, the state was one of 13 that didn’t have a poet acting as ambassador for the arts. “We’re a hardworking Midwestern state, but we’re smart, too,” he said, suggesting Bob Seger be the initial laureate.
2004: McCotter got on the broadcast decency bandwagon after Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s breast at the Super Bowl, supporting the Broadcast Decency Act of 2004, which would have increased FCC fines to as much as $500,000 per incident. That bill didn’t pass, though similar legislation was enacted in 2009. At the time, McCotter said, “We have to have a safe haven so parents don’t get any surprises…we don’t really know what’s safe for our kids to watch.”
2005: As isn’t particularly surprising for a Michigan lawmaker, McCotter’s been skeptical about the American trade relationship with China. As he wrote to President Bush that year, “As you know, China, despite strong action taken by Congress, continues to pirate intellectual property; produce counterfeit goods; dump these and other products into our markets; and engage in currency manipulation.”
2007: While in Congress, he co-sponsored a resolution that supported music education on the grounds that it helps boost test scores and develop students socially.
2009: McCotter was one of the Republican leaders who held a joint press conference opposing President Obama’s budget, objecting to items ranging from dog park funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. Their reaction was, he said, “the result of the American people across this country finding out what is in that bill and in their infinite common sense they understand that there is no relationship between billions in this bill and their chance of keeping their job or finding a new one.”
McCotter’s challenge on the arts and intellectual property issues is the same on many others — he’s a relatively undefined candidate, and in a crowded field, he may not be able to show off much in the way of meaningful differences.