The Election of 1800/2016: The “Hamiltome” and Modern Politics

Me, in my bathrobe, holding up my Hamiltome seconds after ripping open the package.
I voted yesterday.

Even though this was only my third eligible election, it was the most difficult decision I’ve faced so far. There was no clear-cut choice for me: all of the options seem like they’re not going to represent my best interest. I was going to cop out and just vote for the Dogs and Ice Cream Party so I would have a clear conscience, but alas, there was no representative for my part of town.

So I did the honest-to-goodness responsible thing: I looked up each of the parties, scrolled through their policies and promises, and looked at the potential MLAs for my region. And then I read my new book.

I got Hamilton: The Revolution in the mail on Monday (even though it wasn’t released until Tuesday! Thanks Amazon) and I haven’t been able to put it down since. Even as I type this, at school, the book is beside me, wrapped in a protective plastic bag. The book goes through each song in the show and includes the complete annotated libretto (or lyrics/script) and an essay introducing each portion of the show. On Twitter, it’s known as the #Hamiltome because the three hundred-some page volume is not an easy read, but its’s one that I’ve greatly enjoyed so far. In the less than 48 hours since I first held it in my hands, I’ve read nearly two hundred pages. I’ve never enjoyed American history so much before.

This book is teaching me all sorts of things about this show that I thought I had memorized – I’m finally getting Washington’s first verse from “Right Hand Man” down, I learned that the opening notes of the show were based on a door creak noise from iMovie, and that Lin-Manuel Miranda does more creative things while on vacation than I’ve done my whole life. But mostly, I’m learning that even though these events took place over two hundred years ago, the politics are almost the same.

On page 190, the latter part of the lyrics for “The Room Where It Happens,” Lin annotates the following:

COMPANY: The art of the compromise –
BURR: Hold your nose and close your eyes.
COMPANY: We want our leaders to save the day –
BURR: But we don’t get a say in what they trade away.
COMPANY: We dream of a brand new start –
BURR: But we dream in the dark for the most part.

This is what he says:

I’m perhaps proudest of these three couplets in the whole show: they encapsulate everything the number is about, are fully in character, and also speak to something fundamentally true about contemporary politics that I’d never been able to verbalize until these lines showed up.

So not a lot has changed since Washington, D.C. became the U.S. capital. Canadian politics are likely even less evolved since we weren’t even considered a country until over thirty years after Burr’s death (and over sixty years after Hamilton’s). I complain as I wait in line for my advance poll and I complain more when I have to use a golf pencil to determine the future of my province. But this is the system we have. And until we find a way to make it run more efficiently (Like when Jefferson is trying to get Washington to support France – Jeff: But sir, do we not fight for freedom?/Wash: Sure, when the French figure out who’s gonna lead ’em/Jeff: The people are leading/Wash: The people are rioting. There’s a difference), standing in line and voting with a tiny pencil is what we’re going to have to do.

This system is the best we’ve got. Do not throw away your shot.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s