Paul L. Caron

Monday, November 21, 2016

Law Profs Weigh In On The Hamilton/Pence/Trump Controversy

Trump 1

Trump 2

Trump 3

Hamilton 3Three law profs have weighed in on the controversy:

Dan Filler (Drexel), The Value Of The Pence Protest:

I know there is an active debate among progressives about whether the Hamilton audience and cast response to Mike Pence was appropriate or strategically counterproductive. My own take is that it is important to recognize Hamilton as a piece of explicitly political art, not an anodyne feel-good musical about a founding father. In both its content and its casting, it sends a political message that is in direct opposition to the views of the new administration. ... The response to Pence's visit to Hamilton was an utterly appropriate way to flag the deep inconsistency of Pence simultaneously embracing Hamilton and believing that immigrants are dangerous, that African-Americans are dangerous and that gay people have an illness that should be treated by conversion. And that's just a start.

Paul Horwitz (Alabama), Another View of Hamilton's "Politics":

What I find slightly more interesting and, given what I know about the political self-satisfaction of the class of people that can afford tickets to Hamilton, less likely to be noted outside of actual left or right circles, is what the decision to speak once necessarily implies about all the decisions not to speak. Every day, especially given both ticket prices and the nature of its audience and cultural appeal, Hamilton plays to an audience of neoliberals, militarists, wielders of economic power, beneficiaries of massive corporate corruption and economic and political inequality, people who exploit connections in a relatively closed circle of the rich and powerful, etc. And those are just the nights when Hillary Clinton catches the show! A substantial part of its consumer base and business model is brokers, corporate lawyers, legacy admits to the Ivy League, executives, managers, investors, media elites, and so on. Its audience base is people who can afford to complain about the help, or praise their nannies (who they may or may not pay well or legally), not the nannies themselves. No doubt the regular audience could do with a pointed extra-script lecture or two as well! But that would be bad for business, and disturb the audience-validating, as opposed to audience-challenging, function that is the essence of musical theater. None of this yet reaches Hamilton Inc.'s cozy relationship to President Obama, and the mutual benefits and ego-stroking that were involved in it. Maybe the PBS documentary cut this part out, but I don't recall the actors at the White House performance of Hamilton breaking script to say, "Mr. President, we, sir--we--can't help but notice that you have raided and deported the hell out of undocumented immigrants in record numbers. Also, what the [deleted] is up with the drones, or Syria, or...." I suppose that actually would have been seen as rude in people's eyes. But once you start picking and choosing your exceptions and special occasions, of course you are making a political statement, conscious or not, about all the morally complicit and dubious audiences you are happy to flatter, the number of questionable actions--deportations, assassinations, killings, etc.--you are willing to "normalize," and so on. 

Ann Althouse (Wisconsin), "That's What Freedom Sounds Like," Said Mike Pence To His Daughter As They Walked Into "Hamilton" To The Sound Of Boos:

Impressive. I add one point to the "good man" side of the ledger.

Ann Althouse (Wisconsin), Mike Pence Goes To See The Musical "Hamilton," And The Crowd Boos As He Walks To His Seat:

The actor delivering the lecture was Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, the man who killed Hamilton.

Years ago, in a theater, a President of the United States was shot by a politically overheated actor.

I understand hustling Mike Pence out of that place.

As for me, I stand with Jillian Michaels:


Prior TaxProf Blog coverage of Hamilton:

Legal Education | Permalink


Ruralcounsel is right. And what is it about entertainers that they think anyone should care what they think? The arrogance is palpable. And funny.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Nov 21, 2016 1:51:06 PM

This is much like the "Sad Puppies" debate among science fiction authors. Stories that should first and foremost be entertaining are used as platforms for pushing politically correct points of view. Typically, certain characters must be portrayed positively and others negatively.

It's particularly bizarre in that a POV that represses all others is championed as promoting diversity. Diversity, for instance, does not include teen girls who are expected to endure a naked guy showering with them. Nor does it allow Cathollc nuns to not pay for abortions under Obamacare. This liberal, enlightened, progressive worldview is nearly identical to the segregated South in which I grew up, with religious people replaced blacks and those put upon.

Religion writers have often been criticized for ruining stories by being too heavy handed. The secularized left, having adopted politics as a substitute for religion rather than an addition to it, is behaving much the same.

H. G. Wells took a similar step long ago. All his classic tales that are still enjoyed today were done before 1900. Starting with his 1901 Anticipations, he began to push an agenda—a world government headed by various technocrats. I read a number of them years ago and wasn't impressed. The plots of strained and terrible. None seem to attract readers today. Wells kept trying various ways to establish a world government. One even championed a Hitler-like figure.

G. K. Chesterton was Wells' main opponent and pointed out, at the end of WWI, what's equally true today with Briexit, that European people (as opposed to the elites) were displaying no interest in ridding themselves of nation-states. You can find that debate in great detail in a collection of his writings I edited that is called Chesterton on War and Peace. It's relevance to today is amazing. One need only substitute the EU for the League of Nations and Russia for Germany.

--Michael W. Perry

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Nov 21, 2016 1:36:23 PM

These people have too much time on their hands.

Posted by: Cheyanna Jaffke | Nov 21, 2016 11:15:07 AM

As for financial effect, it is my understanding that the Broadway version of Hamilton remains sold out for two years. It might not be able to actually track any financial response in the short-term.

Posted by: Tom N. | Nov 21, 2016 11:03:24 AM


The primary roles in the play are Hamilton, Burr, Eliza Schuyler, Angelica Schuyler, and Lafayette. Not a slaveholder in the bunch. In fact, in a play of more than two dozen roles, only three are slaveholders: Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. Books: a good idea.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 21, 2016 9:49:19 AM


Hamilton is sold out through September of next year. I think ticket prices will remain solid.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 21, 2016 9:45:32 AM

Make that vice-president-elect.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 21, 2016 7:53:56 AM

When the Broadway producers are begging the R-majority Congress to extend their tax break for reporting income on a production until profit hits, I'm guessing that "I can score you tickets to Hamilton" won't be a big selling point!

Posted by: Ellen Anderson | Nov 21, 2016 7:53:53 AM

I think it was impolite to single out the vice-president at the musical. He was there to relax and see a show. Not nice. I note, however, that the right wing was not nearly so sensitive when Ben Carson did essentially the same thing to President Obama. In fact, it was this lack of courtesy that launched Carson on his Republican odessey.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 21, 2016 7:53:04 AM

Some grad student should study the effect of this incident on the market value of Hamilton tickets. Is it really true that all publicity is good publicity? Or will alienating a percentage of the potential audience cause prices to fall? If the latter, many future customers will consider it a win-win: cheaper tickets and an audience free of heretics.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Nov 21, 2016 6:59:14 AM

Ted Nugent called Obama a "piece of shit," a "subhuman mongrel," a "Chimpanzee" and "gangster." He called for the hanging of Clinton and Obama. But i guess that's the same as the Hamilton cast respectfully addressing Pence.... You'll be judged by the company you keep.

Posted by: TH | Nov 21, 2016 6:49:11 AM

I thought Pence's response was high class. "This is what freedom sounds like." But very low class for the NYC ruler elites in attendance in the audience to boo him.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Nov 21, 2016 5:50:45 AM

Once one accepts that Trump suffers from a mental illness called NPD, none of his statements on Twitter or elsewhere is remotely surprising or even newsworthy. It's all really quite predictable.

Posted by: Jan | Nov 21, 2016 5:11:17 AM

I honestly wouldn't pay $5 for this. The idea of whitewashing American history by pretending a group of white slaveholders were really 21st century minorities strikes me as superb marketing but not especially realistic. And as for calling out Pence, where does it end . . . Springsteen calls out Christie . . . Ted Nugent calls out Obama . . . you get the idea

Posted by: mike livingston | Nov 21, 2016 4:08:38 AM