November 8th, otherwise known as Election Day, is right around the corner. Those invested in the arts should be aware of the many relevant issues surrounding each the candidates for the Presidency as well as for Congress. Luckily, organizations that advocate for the arts have done the heavy lifting and developed one-stop stop informational guides about candidate stances and how organizations can legally get involved in the election.
The following summarizes their findings and at the top of this post you will find an infographic for you to use or share.
In addition to the above infographic, the Americans for the Arts Fund develops a highly informative guide every two years that gives voters information about each current member of Congress, and “contains metrics and analysis based on previous congressional voting records, support for pro-arts initiatives, and participation in the cultural caucuses”. Finally, it gives each member a “thumbs up” rating if they meet a certain set of defined criteria.
Earlier in the election season, The Art Newspaper scanned several of each major candidates running in the primaries and developed a scorecard based on their stances on relevant topics to the arts. Bernie Sanders initially scored the highest with an A+, partly due to his strong voting record on issues presented by Americans for the Arts in recent years. Hillary Clinton received an A, because of her strong position on arts advocacy, as she has consistently voted to increase NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and National Endowment for the Humanities funding. She was recently quoted in defense of keeping arts education in schools, saying “[When] you remove the arts, you really hurt kids who learn that way”. On the flip side, Donald Trump has not shown much overt support for the arts or arts education. During an interview with the Washington Post, when asked about what sort of guidance his Education Department would give states as they begin allocating funding for arts education, he responded by saying “The states are best able to determine how education dollars are spent. The federal government needs to get out of the education business and let the states, local districts and parents determine what is taught in our schools.” However, he does appear to believe in a well-rounded education in theory, and was recently quoted saying “Critical thinking skills, the ability to read, write and do basic math are still the keys to economic success. A holistic education that includes literature and the arts is just as critical to creating good citizens.”
Both arts organizations and individuals themselves who believe in the future success of the arts in the United States have the opportunity to make an impact in the days leading up to the election. The Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network published a document for 501(c)(3) organizations, guiding them through all of the ways in which they are legally allowed to participate in the election. For instance, nonprofit organizations are allowed to distribute informative materials about candidate stances on various topics. However, it is illegal for organizations to encourage people to vote for certain candidates. Additionally, nonprofits organizations can sponsor forums and provide briefings to candidates on important issues to them, yet cannot provide financial support to their campaigns or bribe them to push topics that are important to them.
For instance, Americans for the Arts has advocated heavily for the arts with both Presidential and Congressional candidates on the following topics:
1. Increasing funding for the arts to $1 per capita (an increase from 46 cents per capita)
2. Establishing a cabinet level position for the arts and culture to advise the President of the United States on such matters as it impacts the economy, diplomacy, education, and the overall well-being of its citizens and the nation at large
3. Fully funding and implementing the “Well Rounded Education” provisions within the “Every Student Succeeds Act” by strengthening equitable access to learning in the arts
4. Preserving or expanding charitable tax deduction incentives for giving to non-profit arts and culture charities
Americans should be informed on candidate stances and the dynamics surrounding the election in relation to the arts. By leveraging materials available through key organizations, voters will be able to make educated decisions in the voting booth as to how the future of the arts may be impacted through their vote.