Thursday, August 23, 2012

Paul Ryan and the Arts

Hey there,

So this'll be the third blog I've posted about Paul Ryan. Following one looking at him and LGBT issues, and a more recent one on internet memes inspired by him, I wanted to do one taking a look at him and the arts.

First, I'd like to highlight a recent incident that might initially come to mind when you think about Paul Ryan and the arts, or specifically artists. Sometime recently, he cited Rage Against the Machine as his favorite band, to which RATM's Tom Morello saw an opening and went for it, via an opinion piece in Rolling Stone:
Paul Ryan's love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades...
He goes on to say:
I wonder what Ryan's favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of "Fuck the Police"? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings! (read more
This is a great segue to what is the focus of this piece, and ties in with research I did in grad school on how artists define community and arts advocacy. While Tom Morello might not have been speaking specifically to Paul Ryan's stance on other issues, he is speaking to being informed and civically participating in society and the democratic process.

My graduate studies were just the foundation for a larger conversation, how to get artists informed and advocating for themselves. To this purpose, Americans for the Arts' Action Fund has a great tool at their Action Center to look up the legislative voting records of those in public office, in terms of arts related legislation. Here's the page for Paul Ryan.

If you click on the votes tab, you'll see a break down of Paul Ryan's. What's important to notice is that it's not necessarily how he voted, but if you look at the score column next to that, whether it's a check mark or an "x".

You can see the details of what he voted on and how, but to sum it up from the graphical representation, over the course of the past thirteen years, he has one unscored vote, three voting with the arts, and twenty-nine against.

Twenty-nine.

And this tool is more helpful than some because it translates what each vote means in terms of whether its support of or against via the score columns, when others only have the votes without any context.

Again, like with my blog on Paul Ryan and LGBT issues, this isn't to say that anyone should be a one-issue voter. But if the arts are something you care about and support, then this is a great tool to use and keep track of representatives and how they feel about and act on the arts.

So check out his voting record, and think about how the arts affect your life as you consider all the other issues that matter you in this upcoming election,

- JR
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