Imagine a president of the United States who rounded up and deported more immigrants than any other in history; put an entire generation of black men in jail with their draconian anti-drug policies; ran a horrid racist campaign against America’s first black president; attacked victims of sexual assault; or had policies that were responsible for the deaths of countless innocent civilians?
Would the cast of “Hamilton” give a special wag-of-the-finger message to such leaders during their performance?
When Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a “Hamilton” performance Friday night, the cast made a spectacle of his presence. “We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” said actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the hit Broadway musical.
“We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”
I don’t disagree at all with this sentiment. I have had similar concerns when it comes to Donald Trump’s administration and have been an outspoken against the bigotry, racism, misogyny and other troubling aspects of what his campaign represented.
But what do you think the millions of Americans who voted for Trump perceive when they see cast members of the most popular musical ever appearing to lecture the next vice president—who was merely attending a Broadway show?
It’s patronizing. It’s insulting.
It’s yet another example of the pomposity of entertainers and celebrities who fancy themselves as guardians of acceptable thought and speech, and so many Americans are just plain tired of it.
This condescending attitude of the cultural elite is also part of why Trump won in the first place.
The “Hamilton” cast’s behavior is a prime example of the “smug style in American liberalism” described at length by Vox’s Emmett Rensin:
There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really —but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them.
In 2016, the smug style has found expression in media and in policy, in the attitudes of liberals both visible and private, providing a foundational set of assumptions above which a great number of liberals comport their understanding of the world.
British actor and comedian Tom Walker—a progressive vehemently opposed to Trump—made a similar point about the left’s attitude toward those outside their political and cultural bubble in an angry but poignant video rant after the election.
“Not everyone that voted for Trump is a sexist or a racist,’ Walker yells. He continued:
The left is responsible for this result because the left have now decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable. We don’t debate anymore because the left won the cultural wars. So if you’re on the right, you’re a freak. You’re evil. You’re racist. You’re stupid. You are a basket of deplorables. How do you think people are going to vote if you talk to them like that?
The cast of “Hamilton” was not explicitly rude to Pence, though some in the audience were:
Yet, singling Pence out in a way the cast never would have with virtually any Democrat, sends a message that what the Vice President-elect represents is uniquely deserving of contempt. It broadcasts the notion that anyone who voted for this man deserves scorn, disdain, and yes, lecturing.
People are tired of it, and this weariness goes beyond mere Republican and Democrat, left and right, and even basic right and wrong.
Rensin wrote his Vox essay about liberals’ smug style in April. He predicted at the time, citing Trump’s support, “It is this attitude that has driven the dispossessed into the arms of a candidate who shares their fury.” He continued, “It is this attitude that may deliver him the White House, a ‘serious’ threat, a threat to be mocked and called out and hated, but not to be taken seriously.”
“The wages of smug is Trump,” Rensin concluded.