Dana Gioia, who served as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts under President George W. Bush, says he’s well familiar with the latest battle over federal arts funding.

As part of his budget blueprint, President Trump has proposed eliminating the NEA, but Gioia said that “there is a certain anti-NEA hard core” that has long targeted the agency, including those who have worked for the Heritage Foundation. The attempts to abolish the agency go back to at least the 1980s, when controversy erupted over support for exhibitions featuring works by artists like Robert Mapplethorpe.

But the NEA’s grant-making procedures have long since been changed, and now a big chunk of money is going to arts grants reaching “ordinary Americans,” and to such things as small towns and inner city arts programs, he noted.

“If you have ever seen a dysfunctional family in which members immediately erupt into arguments that are 40 years old, you will immediately understand the battle that is going on right now about the NEA,” Gioia tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS.

He said that critics of funding are fixated on controversial grants from the ’70s and ’80s, about a dozen total compared to the 100,000 the agency has given out since it was founded in 1965, he said.

Gioia said that “abolishing the NEA is not a universal opinion among Republicans or conservatives,” and he is actually surprised that Trump proposed eliminating the agency.

“First, I am surprised that someone that has grown up in the New York area doesn’t understand the civic importance of the arts, and secondly, why pick a battle you cannot win?”
He predicted that the proposal to eliminate the agency will be stopped, perhaps by the Senate.
Listen to the interview here, and excerpts are below.

‘Freedom to Marry’ on Screen

Evan Wolfson, who founded the group Freedom to Marry, talks about the new documentary on the movement for same-sex marriage. Despite 2015’s historic victory, he talks about the current challenges, including efforts to roll back protections of transgender students, as well as other civil rights.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.