This year marks the first time that President Trump will honor members of the creative community with the National Medal of Arts recognition. Trump declined to do so in 2017 and 2018. Legendary movie star, Jon Voight, is slated to be honored this year. Cue The Resistance.
There are two pieces online about this – one written by Sonny Bunch in the Washington Post presents a logical reaction to this story. Bunch says that it doesn’t matter if Voight is a MAGA fan and a huge Trump supporter. He certainly deserves the award after a lifetime career in the movie industry. The other article is in The Atlantic and is not nearly as friendly to Trump and his choices for the recognition. America is not just divided in politics, the world of entertainment is also divided for those unwilling to accept anything President Trump offers. Show biz is overrun with political hackery committed by people who literally earn a living in a fantasy world.
As the WaPo piece points out, Voight should accept the honor and not look back. He’s earned it. Now 80 years old, much like Trump himself, Voight began with liberal political leanings and has now moved into a more conservative territory in his later years. This is not at all unusual. Young people typically are more liberal than older adults. My college years were in the 1970s and I can tell you from personal experience that being a Republican on a college campus is not the norm. It was true in my college days and it’s true today after the takeover of our educational system by a generation of liberals.
Before the last couple of presidential elections, the name Jon Voight wouldn’t have sprung to mind when listing known Hollywood conservatives. He supported liberal causes and actively protested the Vietnam war. He was pals with Jane Fonda in the 1970s and supported the leftist Unidad Popular group in Chile. He worked for George McGovern’s voter registration efforts in inner cities like Los Angeles. You get the picture. By 2008, Voight wrote an op-ed expressing regret for his anti-war protesting days and declared a realization that Marxist propaganda drove those protests. He criticized the Democrat Party and their candidate Barack Obama. He endorsed Mitt Romney.
Voight has been an enthusiastic supporter of President Trump. While most of the entertainment business strive to outdo each other in their opposition to Trump, Voight regularly praises him. So, in The Atlantic article, the fact that this is the first year Trump has participated in the National Medal of Arts recognition is supposed to prove what a Neanderthal he must be. What else could explain such neglect of the arts community? I paraphrased the criticism a bit there but that’s the implication. And, who in Hollywood would want to receive the honor from Trump anyway?
Until this point, Trump has shown little enthusiasm for the arts world. For three years running, he’s proposed budgets attempting to zero out federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. The administration has argued that the NEA’s activities—including promoting the arts through financial grants—are not “core Federal responsibilities.” The NEA works with a body called the National Council on the Arts to offer recommendations for the national award. (The council’s rank and file are holdovers from the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations; Trump has nominated four people for seats, but the Senate has yet to confirm them.) Look at the NEA’s webpage devoted to the medal, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Obama never left office.
As Bunch points out, why would Trump make a big effort to continue on a traditional awards system that might be a bust for him? How many times have we seen athletes, actors, and other public figures boast that they have no intention of accepting an invitation to the White House or attending an event hosted by the president? Why would he want to set himself up? This year’s recipients are much safer choices. Along with Voight, all five U.S. military bands, country singer Alison Krauss and Sharon Percy Rockefeller will be honored. Trump has no intention of kowtowing to liberal personalities and why should he at this point?
It’s a well-deserved honor for Jon Voight. He has an impressive career in movie performances – “Coming Home” (for which he won an Academy Award) still stays with me to this day. There is a love scene in that movie that was quite controversial back in the day. President Ronald Reagan, another Democrat turned Republican, signed legislation creating the award in 1984.
Some members of the National Council of the Arts are squawking that Trump didn’t take the traditional path of abiding by their recommendations. Gee, who would have thought Trump would be non-traditional?
When members of the National Council on the Arts met late last month, however, they got a surprise: They learned that Trump had made his picks, and the winners would be formally announced in a matter of weeks. In choosing the recipients, though, Trump had bypassed recommendations the council had previously put forward, several council members told me. The members said that was a break from past practice and that presidents normally give the council’s recommendations more credence. When they looked at the names, some members objected to what they saw as partisan political considerations or a lack of diversity.
Politics and culture are intertwined, now more so than ever. Resistance is futile. The cultural elitism expressed by most in the field of the arts is adequately summed up with this paragraph that references the reaction from an Obama recipient.
One of the winners selected by Obama was the acclaimed novelist and short-story writer Tobias Wolff. When I first emailed Wolff to talk with him about Trump’s picks, he replied, “What true artist would accept [the medal] from these hands?” When we spoke by phone later, he questioned whether Trump truly values the fields he’s purportedly trying to celebrate. “It’s kind of ridiculous for this particular president to be handing out awards for the arts,” Wolff said, “especially when he himself is so sublimely uninterested in them.”
They can resist all they want but times have changed in politics as well as the world of culture. This is yet one more lesson for our betters on the left to learn. The majority of Americans will neither know about these honors and the ceremony nor will they care. The arts are secondary to making a living and going about their lives. America tuned out a long time ago.