December 14, 2016
fter shooting Alexander Hamilton on stage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on November 18th, Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” took a verbal shot at the Vice President-elect, Mike Pence.
Dixon, one of the elite actors in America just now, literally talked down to the next vice president: “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents.” We are “diverse,” but you are not? As used by Dixon and throngs of academics and journalists, “diversity” does not mean “reflecting an array of opinions, beliefs, religions, and cultures.” Non-whites (so long as they are on the Left) are “diverse.” Whites are not, and never can be.
The conceit behind this hectoring is that Progressives are free to talk down to others, but non-Progressives don’t possess the same right. The latter are benighted or malign, needing the reform and enlightenment that only Progressives can provide. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal just before the election, Shelby Steele pointed to the contradictions and debilitations of our “culture of deference.” In it, “There is a presumption…that heartlessness and bigotry are somehow endemic to conservatism, that the rigors of freedom and capitalism literally require exploitation and inequality—this despite the fact that so many liberal policies since the 1960s have only worsened the inequalities they sought to overcome.” This presumption pervades “the mainstream media, the world of the arts and entertainment, the high-tech world, and the entire enterprise of public and private education.” The goal of this culture, now known as “political correctness,” is to banish all contrary views from public discourse and popular culture, either by edict, as in campus speech codes, or informal but irresistible pressure: “No decent, intelligent person can possibly believe that.” (See “The Rise of Political Correctness,” by Angelo Codevilla in the Fall 2016 Claremont Review of Books.)
There’s no doubt that the great majority of those who can afford the sky-high ticket prices for “Hamilton” share this attitude. How stark is the divide? As Jay Cost noted, “Rutherford Hayes won 58,776 votes in Manhattan in 1876. Trump won…58,935.” Such is the Progressive bubble. Given this cultural isolation, it’s no wonder that pejorative stereotypes about the “flyover states” abound on Broadway and, more generally, among those around the country whose pride in their own enlightenment imparts meaning and purpose to their lives.
Dixon seems to have regarded his lecture to Pence as an effort at “dialogue,” which apparently means “diverse” people talk while others listen, as opposed to a free, open exchange of ideas. Dixon’s Twitter feed contains conventional leftist sentiments like, “Until I see LEGIONS of good cops in the street holding bad the cops accountable, they’re all complicit.” That was the attitude on display at the theatre.
It is worth noting that Dixon’s point of view is not merely personal nor in any sense idiosyncratic. He was reflecting the ideas embedded, with great subtlety, in the score of “Hamilton.” As noted in my review of the show, the score follows the Progressive rewrite of the Founding. Absent are the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, or, indeed, “nature” at all. Similarly, there is no mention of “inalienable rights,” which is ironic in light of Dixon’s declared fears that the Trump administration will not “defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.”
In the world of “Hamilton” there is no nature, so there can be no such thing as human rights with any fixed meaning. The word “rights,” in the political sense, occurs in the show only once—in reference to the Founding’s limitations, not its successes. Given that point of view, it follows logically that the show endorses calibrating rights to skin color and victimhood. Indeed, the producers hire actors based on the color of their skin as much as the ability to portray characters.
This Broadway vision is not Lincoln’s, according to which the Declaration of Independence explained the immutable, self-evident truth about the rights of men. To Lincoln, the Declaration provided a “standard maxim,” and Americans had to work to see that the republic secured those rights as well as possible, given human nature’s severe imperfections. Lincoln, of course, preached charity toward all, a view conspicuously lacking in the cast of “Hamilton.”
Dixon’s harangue against Pence is a fitting conclusion to the age of Barack Obama. Recall Obama’s view of negotiation: “You have to be the one who’s dictating how the compromises work.” Obama’s spirit lives on Broadway, even as he exits Pennsylvania Avenue.