The Hamilton Alliance

Any delusions that Donald Trump would no longer make enemies now that he’s won the electoral college dissolved on November 19, 2016. Less than two weeks after winning the electoral college, President-elect Trump started bullying the cast of “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

Eight minutes later:

Let us first review what has taken place offline and online since #ham4gate began. (In keeping with the Hamilton fandom’s preference for hashtagging #ham4___, I decided to call it #ham4gate.)

Mr. Pence Goes to Broadway

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On Friday, November 18, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence entered the Richard Rogers Theatre to attend “Hamilton: An American Musical,” he was mostly booed by the audience. At the end of the show, Brandon Victor Dixon (the actor who plays Aaron Burr) gave an unexpected speech to Mr. Pence that has since gone viral.

Lin-Manuel Miranda followed up by tweeting:

In a normal era, that would have been the whole story. But we’re talking about Tweeter-in-Chief Donald Trump, who used his short, vulgarian fingers to denounce Hamilton. This caused the internet to go bonkers.

Hamilton and fans fight back

Chris Jackson, the Hamilton actor to first play George Washington, tweeted an immediate response to President-elect Trump:

George Takei channeled Trump’s bombastic manner:

Laura Benanti, who played Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, wrote:

Internet celebrity Tyler Oakley chimed in:

Trump’s demand that theater be “a safe and special place” instigated a cyber-resurrection by our sixteenth president.

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Meanwhile, a former speaker of the House and, separately, a former leader of the KKK, weighed in to support Trump and Pence:

These reactionary calls were paralleled by a call from Trump supporters to boycott Hamilton. Hamilton fans began mocking the effort to boycott a show that is sold out through 2018.

By early afternoon on Saturday, the sleeping giant of fandom and its unique rapid deployment of creativity had woken up. As Buzzfeed reports, Hamilton’s “pro-immigrant and pro-diversity themes may seem an odd choice of entertainment for the conservative politician, so people on Twitter are making up their own Pence-inspired musicals using the hashtag #NameAPenceMusical.”

They took on the rape culture embodied by Donald Trump:

The classism of the Trump administration and Trump’s record of housing discrimination against blacks:

Trump and Pence’s war on women:

With each moment, the biting satire increased.

Pence’s exclusionary policies were not lost on the fandom.

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Nor was the irony of thugs and bullies feeling victimized by musical theater.

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Comics began to emerge.

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Like all fandom, sometimes things took a surreal turn.

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There were references to the first cabinet meeting in the Hamilton musical with what they envision Trump’s first cabinet meeting to look like.

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Hamilton producer Jeffrey Sellers, really hits the point out of the park with the following:

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The stream of creativity has been endless: Fans are rewriting the lyrics to the show to be against Trump’s ascent while others are turning Dixon’s statement into fan art.

Bannon Trolling Broadway

And yet, as this was taking place many of us Hamilton fans began to wonder if we were being played. Matt Yglesias wrote a piece called, “Don’t let Donald Trump’s antics distract you from what’s really important: He’s paying fraud fines and collecting bribes—and distracting you with Hamilton tweets.” Yglesias argues that #Ham4Gate is distracting us from:

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There is tremendous merit in the argument that harnessing generalized moral outrage rather than zeroing in on specific policies is exactly how Trump won. One friend pointed out that it’s how Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi maintained power. She writes of an Italian friend who said that, “people became virulently anti-Berlusconi (the man) based on his over the top behavior and missed focusing on the bad policies and laws. Her advice—don’t be like us. I put it this way: keep your eye on the plot not the character beats.”

Yet, that argument has its drawbacks:

Meanwhile, Mark Harris at Vulture took those who are saying that “this is just a distraction” to task for not understanding that post-election, we have switched from the linear nature of a zero-sum game in elections to the nonlinear nature of strong movement building:

The Hamilton episode touched on LGBTQ issues, which were shamefully underdiscussed during the campaign and remain so now. It touched on immigration; on race; on the impact and value of protest speech; on the president-elect’s temperament; on his demands for opponents to capitulate; on his disdain for First Amendment freedoms (his quartet of Hamilton tweets was consistent with his post-election attacks on public protestors and on the New York Times); and on the worries of several large populations that the Trump administration will demonize them and make them less safe. Those who consider themselves progressives — but view all discussion as a zero-sum game in which attention to one story means lack of attention to another — might do well to think harder before brushing this off as trivial because the gateway is showbiz, or because a different story is on their minds, or because they want their conversation to be the conversation.

From this lens, Ham4Gate becomes an opportunity for long term movement building in fan activism. 

The Hamilton Alliance

Ultimately, I don’t care if this was just an accident or an intentional distraction stage-managed by Trump svengali Steve Bannon. Either way, Hamilton fans just showed their rapid abilities to be creative in taking on Trump. Trump just woke up a sleeping giant and now we are awake and ready to double down.

What’s needed is to turn the rapid response to Trump’s provocation into an organization called “The Hamilton Alliance” that works on the following three issues covered in the musical:

  1. The rights and protection of immigrants (“Immigrants. We get the job done.”)

  2. Financial security (which in 2016 means expanding issues affecting working families including where Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father is from: Puerto Rico)

  3. Defending our democratic freedoms from Donald Trump and his Fragile Empire

If you’re interested in joining or organizing for the Hamilton Alliance, please visit The Hamilton Alliance or email me at

This is not going to be a war that is easily won. Instead, it is part of that “great unfinished symphony” that is the United States of America. And we, the fans of a musical that tells the story of what that means are not going down. We are rising up. This is our legacy.

“Raise a glass to freedom! Something they can never take away. No matter what they tell you….”