Election Day Thoughts - The Single-Issue Voter, Cross-sector Advocacy, and Mission Creep
Without a crystal ball or Miss Cleo's digits, it's impossible to write a "what will the election mean ..." piece before the polls close. Right? Well, I like a challenge, so I'm going to try anyway.
Of all the blocs of voters we have heard about this election -- women, moderates, youth, Tea Party, single, unemployed, etc. -- there is a breed of voter that hasn't made the headlines: the single-issue voter, the person who chooses a candidate based on his stance on one issue.
Even in "normal" times -- when unemployment was less than 10 percent, when the National Debt wasn't accelerating at a rate of $4 billion a day, and when Americans were confident in their country's competitiveness -- even in these times, many frowned on the single-issue voter. It's unrealistic. It's not sensible. It's missing the forest for the trees.
That said, I wonder whether our organizations -- the voices for the arts and arts education -- are making the same mistake as single-issue voters. Given the reality of the times, for us to focus squarely and solely on "our issue," is that wrong? Is that a waste? Or is it smart, mission-driven, effective advocacy?
Over the summer, the Obama administration announced $100 million in funding for initiatives to make communities more sustainable. Agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts would work together to award the money, and together they encouraged arts organizations to apply. Here in Illinois, this resulted in at least 3 grants, all with arts partnerships and components.
The arts and sustainability might be a no-brainer to us, but I believe these agencies took a chance and a stand by bringing us to the table. On my karmic balance sheet, they're in the black.
This all brings me back to the question I asked before, do we owe it to our comrades in advocacy and to our communities to care about more than the arts and arts education?
What about our allies in active transportation? Wouldn't better buses and trains, by the way, make it easier for everyone to experience and participate in the arts? What about teachers, school administrators, and education reformers (and not just those interested in the arts)? Isn't our advocacy in schools ultimately about the students and their success anyway? Or is it just about audience development? What about those working in immigrant communities? Certainly the arts play a role in cross-cultural understanding, so should arts advocates play a role in reform efforts? Or is it too controversial to be worthwhile?
It would be very, very easy to write these ideas off as mission creep, and maybe that's what they are. But I believe as we increasingly talk about cross-sector collaborations in our programming, we also need to talk about cross-sector collaborations in our advocacy. And just as the single-issue voter seems to hopelessly miss the point given the times we're in, part of me thinks the same can be said of the single-issue advocate.
What do you think? I hope you will leave a comment on this or any of your election predictions.