ast February, Fox News commentator Sean Hannity challenged his detractors to criticise a portrait ofDonald Trump painted by the arch-conservative artist Jon McNaughton. “The ‘left,’” Hannity wrote on Twitter, “loves art, and especially taxpayer funded art that is ‘provocative.’” He wanted to see if that love of art would extend to McNaughton’s portrait, in which a characteristically navy-suited Trump, bearing a presumably unintentional resemblance to Newt Gingrich, clutches a tattered American flag as he stands in the middle of a stadium full of football fans. The piece is titled Respect the Flag, invoking protests against racial injustice that several NFL players have staged during the national anthem.
Hannity’s willingness to cede “art” to the “left” was a natural extension of the culture wars waged by the president, which have turned the most American social phenomena – football, TV sitcoms, ESPN and even department stores – into partisan battlegrounds. Lost, however, in the whirlpool of clamour and chaos that is the Trump administration, is the president and his party’s indifference toward the arts – both as a publicly funded entity and a platform for American values.