Congress will resume. Next time, onenmay hope, congressmen willing to donbattle on the NEA issue will comenloaded with heavier ammunition thannthey carried this year.nWhat conservative legislators neednto do is not merely rest with restrictingnthe content of what the NEA subsidizesnbut advance to questioning thenwhole concept of federal sponsorshipnof the arts. In the battle just concluded,nthey didn’t do that, but confined theirnattention simply to efforts to eliminatenobscenity and blasphemy. That omissionnpoints to a flaw in contemporarynconservative political tactics and perhapsnto an underlying misconceptionnof what conservatives should be fightingnfor and against.nConservative wrath about the NEAnseems to have derived mainly fromnoutrage at the misuse of public fundsnfor unseemly projects and from realizationnthat dwelling on such abusesnwould accrue, to the political benefit ofnofficeholders bold enough to campaignnagainst them. But by failing to connectnthese abuses with the actual functioningnand purposes of the NEA, proponentsnof “content restrictions” missednan opportunity to “raise consciousness,”nas our friends on the left like tonput it, and thereby to mount a far morenradical challenge to the dominance ofnliberalism than they expressed.nThe ostensible rationale for thenNEA, a creature of Lyndon Johnson’snCreat Society legislation of 1965, is, asnPresident Johnson put it in asking fornits creation, that “Government cannseek to create conditions under whichnthe arts can flourish.” But the demandnfor federal support for the arts (and thenhumanities) was also an expression ofnthe interests of the cultural and intellectualnelites that have flourished in thenUnited States throughout this century.nFederal support for the sciences afternWorld War II and following the Sovietnlaunching of Sputnik excited the appetitesnof humanists and artists, whonbegan to fear that they weren’t gettingntheir fair share of the federal boodle,nand both the inept John Kennedy andnthe far more efficacious Johnsonnsought to set up an agency that wouldnfatten and tame these literati.nThe federal care and feeding of thenintelligentsia, especially that part of itnlodged in such mass bureaucratic andnmanagerial organizations as universitiesnand foundations, has been as fundamentalnto 20th-century liberalism asnanalogous catering to business titansnhas been to the Republican Party. Innthe I960’s, the cultural and intellectualnelite played a crucial role both innwriting the mood music for the NewnFrontier and the Great Society and innactually designing the sets and writingnthe script. “The liberal mood ofnI960,” writes historian Allen J. Matusow,n”was largely defined by elitenintellectuals residing on the EastnCoast, principally in New York Citynand Cambridge, Massachusetts. Constitutingnan intense subculture at thencenter of the nation’s communicationnnetwork, these intellectuals — nearlynall of them liberals — shared a worldnview that profoundly influenced thenpolitical climate in this election year.”nThe NEA — and to an even largernextent its sister agency, the NationalnEndowment for the Humanities —nwere not only the eggheads’ payoff forntheir support of the Democrats andntheir agenda but also an effort to wednor fuse permanently the intellectualnand cultural elites with the managerialnleviathan in Washington.nOf course, it wasn’t the first suchnwedding. Historian Richard Hofstadternpointed out that in the Progressive Eranof the late 19th and eariy 20th centuries,nthe new, enlarged scale of intellectualnand cultural institutions, parallelingnthe similar expansion of businessnand governments — “large universitiesnwith adequate libraries, laboratories,nhuge endowments, graduate schools,nprofessional schools, and advancingnsalaries” — were essential to the wholenProgressivist project in the state. “Thendevelopment of regulative and humanenlegislation,” wrote Hofstadter,n”required the skills of lawyers andneconomists, sociologists and politicalnscientists, in the writing of laws and innthe staffing of administrative and regulativenbodies. Controversy over suchnissues created a new market for thenbooks and magazine articles of thenexperts and engendered a new respectnfor their specialized knowledge. Reformnbrought with it the brain trust.”nIn the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’snWorks Progress Administrationnundertook the first formal engagementnof the intelligentsia and the state, and itnpaid off when, as Hofstadter recognized,n”a generation of artists andnnnintellectuals was nursed through a tryingnperiod and became wedded to thenNew Deal and devoted to Rooseveltnliberalism.” Not only did the intellectualsnneed liberalism, but also liberalismnneeded the intellectuals.nSince the real — as opposed to thenostensible — purpose of this fusion ofnstate and culture was to facilitate thensocial reconstruction and engineeringnthat liberalism championed, the “abuses”nof the NEA really ought not tonsurprise us. The subversion of “Eurocentric,”n! male chauvinist,” and “homophobic”ninstitutions and beliefs isnonly the most recent stage of thennever-ending struggle to liberate usnfrom the American Way and replace itnwith the emancipated and militant cosmopolitanismnof what is now openlyncalled the New,World Order. Obstaclesnto the entrenchment of that ordern— and of its transnational bureaucraticnand technocratic elites — such as thenintegrity of American cultural traditionnand the social institutions that supportnit have to .be “deconstructed” if thenelites are to perfect their own culturalnhegemony..So far from “abusing” thenfunds appropriated for the NEA,nMapplethorpe, Serrano, the performancenartists, and the munchkins whonawarded them their grants were simplynbreeding the ideological progeny thatnthe marriage of state and intelligentsianhas promised from the first.nIf conservative politicians are reallyngoing to resist the deracination that thenNEA has come to symbolize, they willnhave to broaden their attack on itnbeyond moralisfn and fiscal responsibility.nRestricting the content of publiclynfunded art to stop only the most offensivenproductions will accomplish littlento preserve traditional norms and institutionsnfrom the federally endowednassault on them. Mapplethorpe andnCompany offer a valuable opportunitynto inform Americans of exactly what isnreally going on in the belly of the beast,nwhy it is going on, and why it is sondifficult to stop. It remains to be seennwhether contemporary conservativesnhave the imagination to understand thenchallenge or the courage to confront it,nlet alone any desire to resist it seriouslynin the first place. <^nDECEMBER 1990/11n