The recent release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails revealed much — from DNC staffers’ bigoted campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders to former party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s effort to use her post to score seven free tickets to “Hamilton.”
The latter one seems fitting because the blockbuster Broadway show celebrates highly accomplished American politicians who failed spectacularly to take a stand on the most important human rights issue of their time.
Similarly, mainstream modern-day Democrats that Schultz sought to elect to high office — especially presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — have spent their careers doing the same: largely ignoring some of the most important contemporary human rights issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved “Hamilton,” a riveting soap-operatic tale of our most drama-prone constitutional framer, an immigrant (and, a friend of mine noted, “the hottest founding father”).
But as the magazine Current Affairs recently noted, the show glamorizes people who were largely passive on the matter of slavery.
Thomas Jefferson, a principal author of the Declaration of Independence and reimagined in the show as a dreadlocked black man, was a slave owner. Alexander Hamilton, though in principle an abolitionist (as the show emphasizes), wasn’t outspoken or active on the issue.
Do today’s Democrats identify with that, perhaps unconsciously? After all, Clinton has negotiated with the government of Saudi Arabia, a country where slavery is widespread, according to Human Rights Watch and other groups.
The musical’s political message, the celebration of immigrants and their contributions, is one the DNC should closely heed as it gears up to face nativist Donald Trump, whose anti-immigration message relies on racist stereotypes about Muslims and Mexicans.
The Obamas, Clinton and many other members of the Democratic Party establishment have seen “Hamilton.”
Maybe they need to see it again, reject the part of the message that lets indifferent elites off the hook, and resolve to fight even harder for a more tolerant society.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.