“It’s hard to beat, ‘My opponent is a hermaphrodite’ or ‘My opponent is dead. Vote for me.’ Which is the election of 1800. It just reminds us that past is present is past is present is past.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda is waxing historical on which election was more fraught with transgressions—the fourth U.S. Presidential election in which Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams, or the most recent election in 2016.
Hamilton receiving a first-of-its kind award at this week’s Kennedy Center Honors (Dec. 2) brought under one roof the creators of the smash musical, the author of the biography that started it all, and some of the original cast members.
Christopher Jackson, who depicted George Washington in the original Broadway cast, thinks the country’s founders would find today’s political climate “closely resembles” what it looked like back then. “The beautiful part of our constitution is that it’s flexible, and it’s built to endure moments like this. There are a whole lot of people out there that feel like it’s not so bad, and a lot of people who can’t go to sleep at night because they are stressed out about the current state of things,” he says.
“But the one thing that has preserved our democracy is the fact that there is an undying and unwavering loyalty to the idea of what is supposed to be. It has never been a solid line one way or another,” Jackson adds. “I’m always concerned for our society, always concerned for our country. But that’s the kind of concern that should spur all of us to be involved as citizens of our country instead of critics.”
Alexander Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow, who’s been selected as master of ceremonies at next year’s White House Correspondents Dinner on April 27, told Billboard he often wonders how Hamilton would fare in today’s political world.
“Hamilton was an extreme rationalist, so when he felt strongly about an issue it was not unusual for him to sit down and write a string of 15, 20, 25 essays. He felt he should appeal to people through their intellect rather than through their emotions. So it’s a little hard to picture Hamilton in a world dominated by tweets and sound bites,” Chernow says.
“Without getting being partisan about it, I think he would find contemporary politics thin and superficial in certain ways because of the depth with which he would argue things,” he adds. “Our founders were all great intellects, highly verbal people and they argued with each other in letters and in articles, in pamphlets and in books. So there was a tremendous amount of intellectual substance.”
Chernow says he “thought maybe by this point the fascination with it would start to ebb in the theater,” but its continued ascension tells him a few things. “Audiences are hungering for complexity in character and situations, hungering for reality. There are a lot of delightful Broadway musicals but they exist in a Never Never Land, a dream world. Hamilton shows people respond when confronted with the complexity of reality. It also shows people are hungry for American history.”