What’s at stake in November

American has never faced an election so consequential as the one coming up in November. In an era where “everything’s political”, what’s at stake is nothing less that the aesthetic vision of our future:

Even as the president makes the case for sculpture in teaching history and inspiring unity, his order advances another front in the culture war by dictatingan aesthetic vision for the park that emphasizes only the literal. “All statues in the National Garden should be lifelike or realistic representations of the persons they depict, not abstract or modernist representations,” the executive order reads.

A few months ago, the Trump administration put out a similar rule for federal architecture—nothing modern. Keep it traditional. So here’s our choice in November.



I think you know where I stand.



20 Responses to “What’s at stake in November”

  1. Gravatar of Shyam Shyam
    10. July 2020 at 08:14

    Biden lives in the Parasite house?

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. July 2020 at 08:30

    Is that what the picture shows? 🙂

  3. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    10. July 2020 at 08:49

    Wow, that really is straight out of Nazi Germany. Get rid of Deviant Art (“Entartete Kunst”).

  4. Gravatar of bb bb
    10. July 2020 at 09:16

    I love modern art, but I’m sympathetic to people who have a hard time appreciating it. I will never understand how anyone can dislike modern architecture.

  5. Gravatar of Capt. J Parker Capt. J Parker
    10. July 2020 at 10:19

    If Biden lived in that modern house then that would have been the most convincing argument I’ve ever heard to vote for him. But, IMHO the odds are Biden’s aesthetic sense is much closer to Trump than Frank Lloyd Wright.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. July 2020 at 11:21

    Capt. Parker, You don’t think I was serious, do you?

  7. Gravatar of Can Sar Can Sar
    10. July 2020 at 11:29

    In 2020’s newest twist this blog has become my main source of comedy. Really enjoyed this one.

  8. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    10. July 2020 at 12:59

    I must say that I like Biden’s rented house better from the inside. Trump’s interior design is just bombastic absurd luxury, but with little taste. Biden’s interiors are more modest and tasteful.

    Both interiors fit in well with the alleged nature of the two characters, but of course one doesn’t know how much influence both have on their interior design. Maybe Melania is interior decorating, and Biden’s house is rented anyway, so most of it was built that way, but still, he rented this particular house, and not a Trump house.

    Both interiors fit in well with the presumed nature of the two characters, but of course we don’t know how much influence both have on their interior design. It it possible and even likely that Melania influenced the interior more; and Biden’s house is rented anyway, so most of it was built that way, but still he rented this specific house and not a Trump house.

  9. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    10. July 2020 at 22:44

    bb, brutalism is a kind of modern architecture that’s easy to dislike. And many high modernist approaches to city planning were positively vile.

    The house in the second picture in the middle of nowhere would hardly offend anyone, though.

  10. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    10. July 2020 at 22:53

    mbka, I think most ‘degenerate art’ was terrible; it’s unfortunate the Nazis had to go and turn a bunch of terrible artists into martyrs. In any case, seeing eery signs of Naziism in anti-modern art sentiment is kind of like seeing eerie signs of Naziism in vegetarianism.

    I personally dislike most modern art. Scott’s trying to convince me to vote for Trump I think (though he seems rococo; I prefer baroque, or better yet, gothic, before excessive ornamentation became all the rage).

  11. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    11. July 2020 at 00:30

    Mark Z,

    dissing the victims, eh? While Trump’s taste for bombastic kitsch is alright I suppose.

    Weirdly, Goering himself was a collector of art deemed deviant/degenerate by the official Nazis. He kept the best of the conficated ones.

    It’s not a light matter when whoever is in power tries to push their personal aesthetic tastes onto everyone else. This is precisely what fascism is about. “Gleichschaltung” – making everyone equal. Media, opinion, art, all to be of one mould. The point of a liberal democratic order isn’t to like everything equally, the point is to accept and tolerate others’ likes and tastes.

    I personally like all sorts of art and architecture. e.g., I like much traditional architecture and I find a lot of modern architecture misguided. But I wouldn’t force my personal taste down someone else’s throat. That’s all.

  12. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    11. July 2020 at 05:51

    One of the most striking things about Trump is his utter lack of a sense of irony.

  13. Gravatar of MJ MJ
    11. July 2020 at 06:02

    Federal architecture was far better 1900-1940 than it was 1960-2000.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. July 2020 at 09:05

    Michael, There are so many striking things about Trump.

    MJ, I agree, as was private architecture. But modern attempts to recreate 1900-1940 architecture are awful.

  15. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    11. July 2020 at 09:20

    @Mark Z,

    ‘I prefer baroque, or better yet, gothic, before excessive ornamentation became all the rage).’

    Is this a sarcastic comment?

    @ Prof. Sumner,

    Purposefully trying to recreate a style from the past is … difficult. London’s stock-broker suburbs are full of absolutely disgusting ‘neo-Georgian’ houses that should all be torn down.

  16. Gravatar of Maynardgkeynes Maynardgkeynes
    11. July 2020 at 13:24

    Every time my “charming” circa 1920 DC federal style row house springs a leak somewhere I wish I lived in a Modern house #2, which looks marvelous. Is that your house, Professor? I like the cars too.

  17. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. July 2020 at 16:09


    It is a private residence in Sint-Martens-Latem, East Flanders, Belgium. It is one of the wealthiest residential communities in Belgium. I’m not exactly sure why Scott picked it. Probably because it looks very nice. Biden’s house doesn’t look like this at all.

    Mark Z,

    I am not an expert in rococo or baroque. But for me it looks more like what mbka has already noticed: terrible bombastic tasteless kitsch.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. July 2020 at 09:37

    Tacitus, Yes, we agree—as the comment before yours indicated.

    Maynard, My house is somewhere between modern and postmodern.

    Christian, I picked it because it looked modern, and Trump wants to ban modern in federal buildings and Biden does not. Who cares where Biden lives?

  19. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    12. July 2020 at 15:52

    Sorry, yes, I just meant to say that it is unfortunately a problem beyond the shores of America and beyond 1900-1940s architecture.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. July 2020 at 09:46

    Tacticus. I agree.

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