From Friday: Dallas Museum of Art director Jack Lane, the Frisco kids, their teacher and — gasp — nakedidity: With his museum was in the spotlight, should Lane have been more visible?
A few days ago I was web-surfing this season’s political advertisements when I heard a radio ad that included this: “In this time of war, Larry Grant wants more spending on the arts…” FYI: Larry Grant is a Democrat running for Congress from Idaho’s first district; Bill Sali is the Republican candidate who placed the ad. The race is unexpectedly close.
How odd. Nothing about the arts has been a national political issue in at least a decade. So why now!?
I suppose it could be that Sali genuinely believes that spending on the arts imperils America’s ability to fund the so-called war on terrorism or the Iraq War. If that’s the case, Sali needs a math lesson: The National Endowment for the Arts received about $125 million in funding last year; America has already spent $340 billion on Iraq, with about $500 billion appropriated through FY 2007. If Sali thinks the problems in Iraq are arts-funding-related, he’s an idiot.
My puzzlement continued: Art is not necessarily unpopular among Idahoans, not even among Republicans. According to the Idaho Commission for the Arts, a state government agency, Republican Sen. Larry Craig was “one of the leaders involved in getting Congress to agree to additional arts spending this year.” I guess Craig, a bonafide right-winger, didn’t consider art spending likely to cause America to lose the wars it is fighting. The Republican-dominated Idaho Commission for the Arts even sent out a mailing trumpeting Craig’s role.
So what was Sali’s campaign talking about? I listened to the ad again and noticed that the announcer made a distinct pause after the word ‘arts.’ A telling pause. A conspiratorial pause. I realized what the Sali was getting at.
In the wake of the Mark Foley scandal, when Republicans were reminded that they could no longer pretend that gay people were not a part of their party, “arts” is the new way of insinuating ‘gay.’ Sure, not all arts people are gay. But people who like art probably know people who are gay. That means that they tolerate gay people and thus, in Sali’s campaign’s parlance, Grant’s support of arts funding is not a “traditional Idaho value.” The district Sali is running to reprsent is one of the most anti-gay districts in America. Infamous gay basher Helen Chenoweth once loudly represented Idaho’s First. (And as we just read: Larry Craig, widely known to be gay but little-reported until now, supports the arts. Ahem.)
Sali had to use an indirect smear: He couldn’t say that his opponent supports gay equality because, well, he doesn’t. Not a single national gay group support Grant’s candidacy. So what did Sali try in an effort to demonize his opponent: He made ‘art’ a dirty word.