Nobody really wins in the Hamilton message situation

There’s no winner in the decision by the cast of Hamilton to send a message to Vice President-elect Mike Pence by reading a rather innocuous statement on the “diverse America.” It’s generated a nice weekend of publicity, with pretty much everyone weighing in on the issue (John has a good round up here).

The Hamilton cast didn’t do anything wrong (or illegal) by reading the statement (hi First Amendment!), but at the same time, it may have been better for them to try to deliver the message personally to Pence. This way it doesn’t come off as publicity seeking, as it’s being portrayed, and could also have an even better effect. It’s like with the fashion designers publicly saying they won’t create dresses for Melania Trump (or the Trump daughters). They have every right to do it, but it might be better to privately state why they are opposed to doing business with the Trumps. Again, there’s nothing wrong with a public statement, but it’s still too “attention seeking” for me.

There’s also a bit of irony in the message, as noted by Heat Street’s Emily Zanotti and National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke.

That’s right…Alexander Hamilton favored the anti-liberty Alien and Sedition Acts AND did the Electoral College that Democrats are trying to get rid of because they’re angry about President-elect Donald Trump (or just Clinton cultists). Here’s what James Morton Smith wrote in 1954 on Hamilton and the Alien and Sedition Acts.

After the enactment of the Alien and Sedition Laws, Hamilton became a leading advocate of their enforcement. Early in 1799, following his appointment as a Major General in the provisional army raised against France, he bemoaned the failure of President Adams to executive the laws more vigorously. “What avail laws which are not executed?” he asked the Speaker of the House, Jonathan Dayton. He claimed that many incendiary presses were edited by renegade aliens who engaged in their “destructive labors” in “open contempt and defiance of the [Alien and Sedition] laws.” “Why are they not sent away?” the General demanded. “Are laws of this kind passed merely to excite odium and remain a dead letter?” Vigor seemed to him as necessary in the enforcement of the laws by the executive branch as in their enactment by the legislative. “If the President requires to be stimulated,” he suggested to the Speaker, “those who can approach him ought to do it.”

Here’s how Hamilton felt on the Electoral College in Federalist No. 68.

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: “For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,” yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

I’ve not seen Hamilton the musical, so I have no idea if these topics are covered during the show. But there is a certain amount of irony for the show’s creators, producers, and actors to read their statement after a musical about a man who supported laws Trump would probably support.

As for Trump, he did no favors in his series of tweets after learning of the message to Pence.

Someone seriously needs to take away Trump’s iPhone or Droid and never let him touch it again. His demand of an apology from the Hamilton creators and actors is rather #headdesk inducing, because there’s no need for it. Trump is going to have to get used to being criticized or this is going to be a long four years for him. If anything, Trump’s thin skin and hyperbolic statements will only enhance the fear from his detractors that he’s some dictator in waiting, looking to crack down on dissent whenever possible.

This is why there aren’t any real winners in this entire kerfuffle. The Hamilton cast and crew made a mistake by reading the statement in public, instead of meeting with Pence in private to deliver it. Trump made a mistake by demanding an apology and saying the “Theater must always be a safe and special place.” No on broke the law by making their statements, but no one can really “claim victory.”

The only winner might be Mike Pence, who apparently listened to the statement, then left without comment. That was probably the right response, versus how everyone else behaved.