Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling Congress

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 11 2011 10:38 AM

Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling Congress

A few weeks after "cowboy poetry" became the GOP's favorite talking point for budget cuts, Adam Nagourney heads to Nevada and talks to cowboy poets.

"They brought it up on the Rush Limbaugh show," said Mr. Dofflemyer, who is 63. "They’re trying to make a mountain of a molehill. Taking away money from the humanities is not going to balance the budget. What do they want to do — send it to Libya? Afghanistan? Iraq?"

Paul Zarzyski, 59, a rodeo cowboy and a regular reader at the gatherings, acknowledged that at first glance, the idea of cowboy poetry might seem strange.

"A lot of art forms at first brush might sound peculiar," he said. "After you learn a little bit about them and the people who perform them, you find out that they are as significant as any kind of art forms. Cowboy poetry comes out of a culture that most people don’t understand. Most of that criticism is urban and uninformed." 

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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This is enlightening, even if it's not relevant to why Republicans defunded the program in HR 1. Their objection is to arts funding -- any arts funding, unless we are really generous in how we talk about NASCAR ads. Remember, Rep. Doug Lamborn's objection to NPR funding is not rooted in his desire to destroy NPR . It's rooted in his belief that the government shouldn't pick winners and losers in the arts and media.

That said, how did "cowboy poetry" become a Republican talking point? It became one because it sounds silly. That's the goal of the anti-earmark, budget-cutting strategist -- define "spending" as "spending on stuff that sounds silly." And if it takes a follow-up in the NYT to explain why it isn't silly, mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, do read the poem Dofflemyer wrote about this .

Easy to get emotional on the Senate floor, misspeak
extemporaneously to take the snipers’ potshots while
trying to save the arts for humanity like a little girl lost

in the crossfire, or before investing more on war.
Katrina came and left New Orleans underwater
slick with oil. New England fracks for natural gas

and Fukushima leaks real radioactivity to California’s
happy cows.

 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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