“I nudged my kids and reminded them that is what freedom sounds like.”
So said Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Fox News Sunday after he was booed at a Friday night performance of the hit musical “Hamilton,” where he was also addressed from the stage by actor Brandon Dixon (who played Aaron Burr).
The dissembling third VP pleaded with the real 48th VP to “uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us,” claiming to speak for “the diverse Americans who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us…and uphold our inalienable rights.”
Pence said he wasn’t offended and that the show was “a real joy,” but the top of the ticket didn’t take it quite so well.
In a pair of tweets, President-elect Donald J. Trump demanded an apology from the cast and said the theater should “always be a safe and special place.”
That’s right. The tough-guy candidate got offended on someone else’s behalf, complained about being bullied by a bunch of theater kids (I was one in college, and believe me, we aren’t very intimidating), and demanded a safe space.
Perhaps the cast should have let the art speak for itself rather than confronting Pence publicly, but they were certainly within their rights to speak out.
Also, because apparently no one (Marco Rubio, Michael Bloomberg, the New York Times, Emmy voters, etc.) can criticize Trump without also being bad at their jobs, Trump addressed his third tweet to the “cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated.”
Trump’s supporters responded with calls to #BoycottHamilton, which I imagine would have the same effect as Hillary supporters boycotting Jeff Foxworthy.
This comparison prompts an interesting thought experiment. Imagine a world in which Vice President-elect Tim Kaine was booed by the crowd at a Jeff Foxworthy show and then addressed by Mr. “You Might Be a Redneck” on behalf of blue-collar workers and pro-life advocates who worried that Hillary Clinton would not stand up for them.
If the idea of Tim Kaine attending a Jeff Foxworthy show sounds completely implausible, that only shows the willingness to reach out that Pence showed in attending “Hamilton,” the typical audience of which lies just as securely in Hillary’s camp as Foxworthy’s does in Trump’s.
In praising the production and recognizing the right of the cast and audience to speak out as they did, Pence demonstrated a maturity and thickness of skin that Trump must learn to emulate.
He has no shortage of possible role models. Even as his approval rating dropped to 25 percent and liberals called him a war criminal, George W. Bush never became petty or waspish, and even when conspiracy theorists accused him of Satanism, Barack Obama responded with a good-natured “C’mon people!”
I had hoped that after the election Trump would be able to reach out to his critics and become the unifier he always claimed to be. We have seen some progress in that direction as he assembles his cabinet, but this “Hamilton” incident shows that he has a long way to go.
The first step would be easy though—Mr. President-elect: Delete your account.