The Cast of “Hamilton” Refuses to Treat the Trump Presidency as Normal

Trump's election with a minority of the nation's votes, matched with his obsessive need for approval, could make reminders of his unpopularity powerful.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, top center, leaves the Richard Rodgers Theatre after a performance of "Hamilton," in New York, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Vice President-elect Mike Pence, top center, leaves the Richard Rodgers Theatre after a performance of "Hamilton," in New York, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki) Photo: Andres Kudacki/AP

The polite but firm scolding administered to the Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, by the cast of “Hamilton” on Friday night — in which they expressed their alarm at the new administration’s lack of commitment to racial and gender equality, protections for the rights of the LGBTQ community and action on climate change — reverberated across social networks, racking up millions of views on Facebook and hundreds of thousands of shares on Twitter.

The message, written by the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, with input from the cast and crew, certainly reached Trump Tower, less than a mile away from the Richard Rodgers Theater, since it inspired a fit from the man whose divisive campaign stirred the alarm and anxiety the cast described, Donald Trump.

Despite the intensely civil tone of this act of dissent, Trump inaccurately claimed that Pence “was harassed” by the cast of the play, and then described their plea for tolerance as “very rude,” before demanding an apology.

Although Pence was met with a mixture of boos and applause by audience members before the show, the actor who plays Vice President Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, silenced scattered jeers when he addressed the incoming vice president during the curtain call at the end.

“There’s nothing to boo, ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing to boo,” Dixon said. “We have a message for you, sir, and we hope that you will hear us out,” he added, pulling a piece of paper from his pocket.

Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at “Hamilton: An American Musical.” We really do.

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. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.

Thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story, told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.

After Trump’s indignant response on Twitter the following morning, it was left to the actor to explain to the man who will swear to uphold the Constitution on January 20 that the expression of dissent is not harassment.

Trump’s fit of pique over theater professionals expressing their First Amendment rights did divert attention away from perhaps more significant developments, like a Washington Post report that foreign diplomats are spending money at his new hotel in Washington in a clear attempt to curry favor with him, and that he had agreed, on Friday, to pay $25 million to former students of Trump University who sued him for fraud.

The attention paid to the “Hamilton” protest prompted some objections that reporters were giving too much weight to the president-elect’s temper tantrum and not enough to the lawsuit or the many financial conflicts of interest he has shown no interest in resolving before he takes office.

There is an argument, though, that Trump’s inability to brook dissent, in a nation where more than 53 percent voted against him, could turn out to be a central issue during his strange presidency. His election with a minority of the nation’s votes, thanks to the “genius” of the electoral college system, matched with his obsessive need for approval through ratings and poll numbers, could make reminders of his unpopularity particularly powerful and important.

As more votes are being counted in states where he was trounced, like California, Trump’s share of the popular vote now stands at 46.7 percent and looks certain to fall further.

That means that, for all the talk of his election giving him a mandate to undo the accomplishments of President Obama, he takes office with the support of a minority of voters — having secured a lower share of the vote than even Mitt Romney did four years ago — and over the objections of an unprecedented majority of the country that views him negatively.

According to Gallup’s post-election poll, 55 percent of Americans view Trump unfavorably, as against just 42 percent favorably.

Holed up in his tower, Trump might be able to spend much of his time shutting out the reality of his unpopularity, but as a Twitter and cable-news addict, constantly monitoring the networks for material to shore up his ego, messages of dissent, particularly those as powerfully stated as the one from “Hamilton,” will no doubt continue to reach and unsettle him.

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