Presidential candidates and creativity

First off, let me express my overall disgust for modern American politics on the national level. It’s my own observation that serving in Washington is more about money, your family name, status, power and simply “being” a politician than it is about “serving.” The states’ attempts, namely New Hampshire and Iowa as I recall, to get the better of the other by having the earliest primary — primaries that are now ludicrously early — are also terribly annoying and detrimental, it seems, to U.S. politics.

I’m also personally disillusioned with the election process (popular vote or electoral college?) in that it doesn’t really allow a person to get to know the candidates. My wife, while working at the paper, was fortunate enough to interview Mike Huckabee’s wife, but most of us don’t even get that close to presidential hopefuls. Sure, you can read what they carefully post on their websites, what the blogs and media outlets write about them. But this is different than being able to sit down with them and talk as two people (i.e., not as candidate and voter).

Having gotten that out of the way, I must admit to cursory attempts at educating myself before hanging my chad. After another NPR spot on Mike Huckabee this morning I decided to take a look at his website. I was surprised to find a couple paragraphs on the importance of the arts and creativity on his site, under the “Education and the Arts” section. I quickly scanned the websites of Obama, Clinton and Ron Paul for similar blurbs on the arts or creativity and found nothing. It seems pretty clear that, among these four candidates, Huckabee much more highly values the arts. In fact, it’s under his “Issues” header. From Huckabee’s website:

  • Music and the arts are not extraneous, extra-curricular, or expendable – I believe they are essential. I want to provide
    every child these “Weapons of Mass Instruction.”
  • Our future economy depends on a creative generation.
  • I want to provide our children what I call the “Weapons of Mass Instruction” – art and music – the secret, effective weapons that will help us to be competitive and creative. It is crucial that children flex both the left and right sides of the brain. We all know the cliché of thinking outside the box: I want our children to be so creative that they think outside the cardboard factory. Art and music are as important as math and science because the dreamers and visionaries among us take the rough straw of an idea and spin it into the gold of new businesses and jobs. It is as important to identify and encourage children with artistic talent as it is those with athletic ability. Our future economy depends on a creative generation.

Now, I’m by no means convinced that a President interested in the arts will have much effect on artists at the local level. It might, and even if his interests don’t result in significant new policies that encourage or promote the arts it probably won’t do any harm.

However, I’m wondering as I write this if there’s any kind of policy a President could get passed relating to the arts that’s literally Constitutional. I’m no expert, by any means, but from what I can tell a multitude (maybe even most?) of existing Washington policies are outside of the federal government’s Constitutional prerogative already.

About eight years ago I read the Constitution through and was amazed at 1) how straightforward and easy to understand the 250 year old document was and 2) how modern America seemed not to resemble what the document intended. Two things in particular stood out me. The first is that (paraphrased) all powers not spelled out in the Constitution as responsibilities for the federal government go to the states. This presents very significant ramifications if taken literally — which I think it should be. Many people, for instance, suggest that public education as it’s run today is completely outside the boundaries of Washington’s power. The education of young people is not delegated to any branch of the United States government and thus, Constitutionally, falls to the states. This makes, from what I understand, the No Child Left Behind act unconstitutional (and, pretty much, the entire public education system as its funded by Washington). The other thing that stood out as I read through the document was language which pretty clearly stated that federal income tax is unconstitutional. As we all know from life here in America, though, what’s “legal” and what’s “Constitutional” are apparently (and sadly) two completely different things. Maybe I misunderstood what that section was getting at; I’m not a historian or Supreme Court Justice. But I think it was pretty plain.

So I’m not sure I can in good conscience support artistic policies doled out by the feds. It’s my own belief and understanding that this is outside of their jurisdiction. I would still be glad to have a fan of the arts as Commander in Chief — although I’ve not decided who I’ll vote for yet. I intentionally avoid choosing a candidate based on just one or two issues. Of course, if the status quo is not changeable and Washington continues to crank out all kinds of laws beyond their Constitutional powers, why not create more art-related policies!

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

6 Responses to Presidential candidates and creativity

  1. TAE says:

    I’m leaning towards Paul right now. I think Huckabee would make a good president in the context of American politics as they are right now (but so would a lot of other people), but as my post clearly suggests I don’t think American politics or government are in a good place. At all.

  2. Jeremy Weathers says:

    Huckabee is a likable, well-spoken person. I could probably support some of his policies at the state level, but he is wrong for the federal government.

    As you referenced, Article 1, Section 8 lays out 18 things that fall into the realm of the federal government – education is not included. (The concept of mass, compulsory schooling did not gain widespread acceptance until the 1880s – those initially behind the public school movement were quite open about their intention to use the public schools to change society.)

    The habit of ignoring the Constitution completely is less than 100 years old – notice that Americans valued the Constitution enough to amend it for Prohibition, but later couldn’t be bothered to do the same for the “War on Drugs”, instead opting for a ridiculous, all-encompassing interpretation of the inter-state commerce clause that has become the rationale for most, if not all, big-federal-government programs.

    This mentality of placing zero value on the constraints of our foundational law shows the weakening of the Republic Empire both intellectually and morally. I’m not sure that the current trends can be reversed, but I will speak out against them where and when I can. I desperately want to live in an America where states are free to try various solutions. I’d love to be able to choose between libertarian and semi-socialist state governments – that would be a political experiment worthy of the United States of America.

  3. TAE says:

    You lost Peter when you used the word “completely.” He knows that every candidate does this, but using such inflexible and often exaggerated terms is generally inaccurate and serves as fodder for opposition. Peter is now feeling very apathetic towards the whole election — in part because of conversation about the candidates we had last night.

    I very much understand his apathy.

    But I also understand the FEELING that the government (read “congress and the presidency”) has completely ignored the founding document. Yes, as Peter pointed out certain freedoms spelled out in the Constitution are still around – the right to bear arms, freedom of speech and so on – but other just as clearly annunciated provisions have been completely ignored. Has there ever been a case in the Supreme Court challenging Federal involvement in public schools? If the Justices have their heads on at all (read, “they are actually, apolitically defending the constitution”), such a case would surely succeed, no?

  4. Marissa says:

    I don’t know why but my blog reader is going back in time and pulling up blogs that I read awhile ago. Do you still think Huckabee would make a good president?

    I do not like Huckabee at all and I did not appreciate his Christmas ad with him basking in the glow of the cross. Or how he covered up how his son sadisticly stoned a dog to death in college so the son wouldn’t get in trouble. For being a psychopath that stones dogs to death!

    To say that I don’t like any of the Republicans other than Paul is an understatement. Most of them disgust or terrify me, or both. And I dislike most of the Democrats too and am fairly indifferent about the rest.

  5. Pingback: Creativity, the arts and Obama « The Aesthetic Elevator

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