Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical Hamilton had already been a sensation when it debuted Off Broadway months before Lew’s announcement about the ten-spot. And it’s not hard to grasp how the show fits exactly what wealthy white New York liberals want to see: minorities defending Wall Street. It’s the Obama of musicals. (The president, by the way, made time in his schedule to see Hamilton twice last year.)
Miranda envisions Hamilton, the grandson of a Scottish laird, as a West Indian immigrant “whose life embodies hip-hop.” Kendra James writes for the Toast:
Imagine a stage filling slowly, populated by characters plucked directly from history: Aaron Burr, George Washington, Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, Angelica and Elizabeth Schuyler, and others”all white in historical reality, but here imagined as people of color. Imagine a Broadway stage where the only white featured lead is King George III, the one common enemy of everyone onstage telling this story about the struggle to first found and then succeed in America.
This sounds agonizingly dumb, but it’s not. By all accounts, Hamilton is a highly skilled entertainment. I haven”t seen the musical, but I have read the 818-page book it’s based on, the 2005 doorstop biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. He writes sympathetic histories of financier dynasties, such as The House of Morgan and The Warburgs.
The composer and star, Miranda, is exactly the kind of minority whom wealthy white people want to believe in: a rare cultured Nuyorican from a high-achieving family (his father was a political adviser to former mayor Ed Koch) who reads massive books about the Founding Fathers. (And he’s even a Broadway composer who is straight.)
Granted, the notion of Alexander Hamilton”who struck everybody who knew him as far right by 18th-century American standards”as a progressive hero would have seemed more than a little bit nuts to Americans at any time before the present. Whereas the other Founding Fathers were followers of the Whig philosopher John Locke, Hamilton was by nature a disciple of the monarchist Thomas Hobbes. Woodrow Wilson described Hamilton’s antidemocratic ideology with the words “A very great man, but not a great American.” (But then, Wilson is on the outs these days.)
Miranda promotes Hamilton’s birth in the West Indies as bringing vibrant diversity to stuffy white America. But historian Paul Johnson pointed out that Hamilton’s cynicism represented
the gutter-philosophy of the West Indies…where it was the war of every man against every man”and woman. It was distinctly un-American…. But if un-American, he went a long way towards creating, perhaps one should say adumbrating, one of the central fixtures of American public life”the broad conjunction of opinion which was to become the Republican Party.
Not surprisingly, the cheapest single Hamilton ticket for this month costs $325.
Also unsurprisingly, last November the Democratic National Committee sponsored a benefit performance of Hamilton to retire Obama’s 2012 campaign debt, with tickets going for up to $5,000.
There’s no report if Bernie Sanders showed up.
But, in any case, the Democratic Party’s Hamilton was a sellout.
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