Conservatives critics have written favorably about the musical “Hamilton.” Alexander Hamilton is, after all, a hero to some conservatives. And conservatives are inclined to be pleased any time large audiences are exposed to American history in a manner that doesn’t abuse or demean men like Hamilton. In the case of “Hamilton,” conservative critics found the history presented to be serious and reasonably accurate.
Even so, I couldn’t help suspecting that, at bottom, “Hamilton” is a leftist project. To be honest, I suspect that virtually anything coming from the mainstream culture is a leftist project. But just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean the culture isn’t after me.
I haven’t seen “Hamilton” and don’t intend to. But the haranguing of Mike Pence this weekend, through the reading of a sophomoric leftist statement that the Hillary Clinton-supporting author of the musical reportedly helped write, confirms my suspicion.
Pence responded graciously to the cast’s grandstanding and to the booing he received from members of the upscale audience. Would he have attended the play knowing what was in store for him? I don’t know. Most in Pence’s position wouldn’t have.
Shortly before the election, when it looked to me like Hillary Clinton would win, I recommended that, going forward, conservatives “maintain a status apart.” Donald Trump’s victory doesn’t change my view; it only suggests that, for a while anyway, we may not be as isolated as I had supposed.
What happened to Mike Pence at “Hamilton” reinforces my view. Here was a show that has been touted as something liberals and conservatives alike can celebrate. Yet it turns out that the vice president-elect of the United States could not attend without being booed and lectured to in the most hackneyed terms. (Pence would have been no less enlightened had he read a typical memo to students from a college administrator.)
Imagine if the situation had been reversed. Suppose vice president Biden had attended a college basketball game and a coach had grabbed a microphone to deliver a lecture to him about the threat to liberty posed by the Obama administration. The coach would have been excoriated and some of the students at the game might well have retreated in tears to a “safe space.”
In a culture this asymmetrical, most conservatives will be well served by maintaining a status apart.
This doesn’t mean refusing to expose ourselves to views with which we disagree. I don’t recommend that.
Nor do I recommend cutting ourselves off socially from those who hold such views. Some liberals can discuss politics civilly with conservatives and it’s possible to have social relations with those who can’t, provided political subjects are avoided.
By maintaining a status apart, I mean refusing to subsidize or participate much in left-wing institutions. This might mean changing the school your children attend, or switching to a different religious congregation, or cancelling a newspaper subscription (you can stay abreast of left-wing views online for free), or boycotting most Hollywood productions.
Peter Wehner described what happened to Mike Pence at “Hamilton” as a “collision of two different Americas and two different sets of experiences, happening at once, and happening in a rather dramatic way.” The theater is a place for drama, but not that kind.
Most conservatives will find it satisfying to eschew political collisions and to avoid those who insist on perpetrating them. This can be achieved by maintaining a status apart.