Republicans spent the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection rewriting history, peddling the lie that Democrats stole the 2020 election and insisting that the people who stormed the Capitol were peaceful patriots. All indications are that the messaging is working as intended: Republican voters show no signs of punishing their party for attempting to overturn an election. To the contrary, a growing number of Republicans are on board with political violence. Cool. Cool. Cool.
BUT WAIT! Democrats have a counterpunch: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday — as she took her turn in a long list of party leaders decrying Trump and solemnly marking the anniversary — paused her remarks to throw to an on-camera tape of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the lyricist extraordinaire and author of the hip hop musical Hamilton.
Miranda, echoing a lot of others today, spoke about the value of justice and the importance of our democratic freedoms. “We are all stewards of the American experiment, working to pass down to our children and our grandchildren a more perfect union,” he said. “We should never take our rights and liberties for granted.”
Miranda treated viewers to a collection of extremely talented Hamilton cast members singing “Theodosia,” a delightful ditty about fathers’ love for their new progeny, and as well as the founding fathers’ love for their new nation.
It’s difficult to know how to stem the tide of MAGA-branded authoritarianism, as it’s protected by a well-funded pro-Trump media bubble that continually endeavors to weave his ranting into a reality in which his supporters can comfortably live. And it’s enabled by a cynical block of Republicans who see MAGA as a fine vehicle for installing conservative justices and passing regressive tax cuts. Defeating that coalition is self-evidently a complicated process.
But it’s clear that part of the recipe is ensuring that Democrats’ counter-coalition offers an attractive substitute. That’s particularly true for potential supporters whose devotion to American institutions is continually undercut by an economy that puts them on the losing end and a political system that for decades has failed to deliver the stability and prosperity Democrats have promised. Those twin failures are issues that a musical — no matter how inspired or inspiring — isn’t going to fix.
And the reliance on Miranda as a messenger smacks of an ongoing misreading of the national room by Democrats. At a time when people are struggling with a pandemic and see the Party as out of touch with the interests of the working class, a lofty discussion and glitzy celebrity just isn’t going to get the job done.
What might is sweeping legislation that results in immediate, tangible economic benefits for working-class Americans, the sort of Build Back Better reforms President Biden promised after taking office. An additional buttress for democracy would also come in the form of renewed federal protections for the right to vote, a right under attack by a host of state-level, Republican-backed disenfranchisement bills passed under the guide of fighting systemic voter fraud, a stalking horse if there ever was one. But so far, a year into Democrats’ control of White House and both chambers of Congress, both initiatives are stalled. Perhaps Democrats can get the Hamilton cast back together for a sharp rendition of “Wait for It.”
A Hamilton reunion is nice, and on a day when a lot of people were reliving painful memories, art is a balm. But if Democrats are serious about avoiding the next insurrection, they’re going to need something more than a musical.