Has Trump seen “Hamilton” yet?
Does he even know that the blockbuster musical — whose cast openly dissed Mike Pence when he saw it on Broadway — is now available for streaming? We know Pence has seen it. But Trump? Maybe not.
There is much there for Trump not to like.
For starters, it’s written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose parents came from Puerto Rico, and who has been loudly unappreciative of Trump’s enthusiastic blindness to the plight of that hurricane-ravaged island.
Then there’s the show’s recurring theme, immigrants succeeding, which will not play well with Trump. He’ll wonder how Hamilton, the immigrant in question, was even able to enter the country, let alone become Secretary of the Treasury before Mnuchin took over. Why wasn’t he turned away at the border? Why wasn't he separated from his parents? And how did an immigrant get on the ten-dollar bill anyway? Does Stephen Miller know about this?
“Hamilton” is set during the American Revolution, a subject in which Trump has famously dabbled. Who can forget his stirring tribute to the Continental Army, whose brave soldiers “took over the airports” from the British? While the show gives a brief nod to Hamilton’s theft of British cannons from a Manhattan garrison, it makes no reference to air travel at all. Or Twitter, for that matter.
Trump doesn’t have much use for history. History is overwhelmingly about dead people, and we know that dead people — even in the hundreds of thousands — do not hold his attention. Not like Confederate statues.
So when the company sings “History has its eyes on you,” we can imagine him being fairly oblivious to the implications. Unlike Bill Barr or, say, Mike Pompeo — who might be more sensitive to their rapidly putrefying places in history — Trump may not care. As long as any eyes are on him, that’s all he cares about. But even so, he has to sense, albeit dimly, that history will be like fake news — very very strongly not fair to him.
And he will surely be offended by the show’s cast, which is made up largely of non-Norwegians, some of whom play big names like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. Even Trump has heard of these guys. He knows they get huge ratings. He knows they get states, cities, and avenues named after them, a narcissist’s wet dream. But Black people playing them? Is that legal? Can we cut off their funding? Is Barr looking into this?
If Trump were curious (unlikely, I know) he would find much to admire in Alexander Hamilton. The show never gets into Hamilton’s Trumpesque fondness for monarchs and authoritarians. But it does cover, in detail, his extra-marital affair, including the hush money he paid to keep it from going public. And even Trump has to applaud Hamilton’s founding of the New York Post, which he must’ve made a bundle on when he sold it to Rupert Murdoch.
But for Trump, the star of the show would have to be King George. As white as they come — in stark contrast to the rest of the multi-racial cast — George sings love songs to the colonies, which he considers his personal property. These are, of course, the love songs of a serial abuser, but Trump wouldn’t give that a thought. And when George sings a line like “I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love,” how could Trump’s heart not be warmed?
While the parallels between that time and our current circumstances are striking, metaphors are as lost on Trump as his daily security brief. Still, “Hamilton” is, above all, about “the world turned upside down.” A world marked by threats that must have at times felt existential.
The British invasion of the late 1770s was terrifying and lethal. It spread through the population, tanked the economy, exposed broad failures in governance, and did not disappear with the summer heat. It was not a hoax. It could not be downplayed or gaslit.
Real leadership was called for, and real leaders stepped up.
That was then.