Friday night, the cast of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” took some pot-shots at Vice President-elect Mike Pence during his attendance of the performance. These are the same people calling for the elimination of the Electoral College. Count the irony that Alexander Hamilton provided the intellectual case for the Electoral College in Federalist 68—along with a host of other ironies noted here, here, and here—as completely lost on them.
Welcome to The John Oliver Generation. Their political views are formed exclusively from the acerbic, indignant rants of late-night comedians, content that offers little more than a façade of analysis. They are the generation that bashes Ayn Rand without actually having read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead; in other words, because they’ve heard other fashionable people do it. They don’t read; they believe what they are told and that thinking beyond certain parameters is a thoughtcrime.
These young actors, like so many of their generation and profession, are the victims of the “sheepification” of American culture, wherein you are commanded to blindly adopt the collectivist narrative without objection, and if you don’t, you face the wrath of screaming protesters who accuse you of bigotry. Thinking equals bigotry.
It forces us to ask whether anyone in the “Hamilton” cast has ever read The Federalist Papers. Do they understand what they criticize? Probably not.
This generation feels free to criticize government while simultaneously being completely ignorant of government.
In the unlikely event that they ever had to read The Federalist Papers or Democracy in America in school they crammed the “SparkNotes” version the night before the exam and forgot it by their third shot at the party after the exam. But, again, this is unlikely because, in most schools, “the Great Books” have been written out of the curriculum as the works of “dead white males” who can offer nothing of value to our supposedly diverse and enlightened age.
This is why the “Hamilton” cast—that phenomenally-talented ensemble of former dance and theatre majors who don colonial garb each night and sing pithy rap lyrics about Hamilton “not throwing away [his] shot” to the giddy delight of wealthy patrons shelling out hundreds of dollars per ticket—has virtually zero understanding of Alexander Hamilton’s intellectual contributions to our country. As a result, “Hamilton” is not so much a story about the life of Alexander Hamilton, but is rather a 21st century morality tale about diversity projected onto an 18th century canvas.
In Federalist 68, the real Alexander Hamilton provides several brilliant arguments for the use of the Electoral College over and against the direct election of our national executive. First, in explaining the role of the general populace in the election of the president, Hamilton argues that the, “sense of the people,” through the election of the electors to the Electoral College, should be a part—but not all—of the process. Good government requires an executive who can discern the best interests of the whole nation, not just those of a majority of its people.
Thus in the final analysis, a group of electors—who Hamilton notes are, “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice”—are given the duty to represent their state in the selection of a man who can secure the consent of the whole nation in governing.
Democrats now arguing that preventing the rise of a man like Donald J. Trump was the exact reason the Electoral College was put in place, “blew their shot” when they tried to tip the scales by doxxing members of the Electoral College and disrupting the Democratic process. Since these dirty tactics failed, they quickly switched gears and argued that the only solution is to eliminate the Electoral College. Any weapon at hand.
Alexander Hamilton argued that the person who will become president will have to be a person who possesses the faculties necessary to be a president, saying, “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.”
Broadway is one of the greatest showcases of American culture. Brilliant lyricists like Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, and Lorenz Hart crafted memorable lyrics and timeless masterpieces that will stay relevant for the next 100 years, but “Hamilton” has now lowered the expectations of Broadway to political diatribe and late-night comedy. “Hamilton” had a shot at the Broadway pantheon, but this self-inflicted wound may be fatal. “Hamilton” may have thrown away its shot.