Re "Are Democrats Painted Into a Corner? Not Yet," Commentary, Nov. 19: Jonathan Chait's suggestion that the Democrats abandon supporting the National Endowment for the Arts to attract middle America's votes is uninformed and shortsighted. Surveys indicate that 79% of Americans favor governmental support for the arts.
The NEA has enriched culture locally and nationally, enriched arts education and materially enriched local communities. But perhaps its greatest effect has been organizational support to young and deserving arts companies. South Coast Repertory grew to national prominence in part from that support. What astonishes us is the cavalier position taken toward the NEA by Chait in his relentless pursuit of Bush voters. Let's see whom he's willing to throw over the side next week.
Producing artistic director
South Coast Repertory
I was halfway through Chait's piece before I realized this was not parody, but a serious, and seriously flawed, effort at political commentary. Chait, in his passion to be glib, implies that election victory in our democracy does not include the automatic imposition of a tyranny of the majority, whether or not that majority's policies are deemed backward, destructive and morally corrupt. If, as history never stops teaching us, the legacy of a nation can be gauged by how it prepares for the future, gets along with its neighbors, treats its least fortunate and encourages the cultural legacy it leaves in its wake, then the NEA is one of its most important and necessary creations. Hardly an extravagance, it is a luxury we can't afford to live without.