The unanticipated showstopper midway through the first act in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is Jonathan Groff as King George III. The actor – better known for his stints on Glee and voicing Kristoff in Frozen – emerges on stage in a massive white fur-fringed red cape topped with a golden crown before launching into a Brit-pop number that is, essentially, a breakup song.
“You say / The price of my love’s not a price that you’re willing to pay / You cry / In your tea which you hurl in the sea when you see me go by / Why so sad? / Remember we made an arrangement when you went away / Now you’re making me mad / Remember, despite our estrangement, I’m your man / You’ll be back, soon you’ll see / You’ll remember you belong to me / You’ll be back, time will tell / You’ll remember that I served you well / Oceans rise, empires fall / We have seen each other through it all / And when push comes to shove / I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.”
Replace battalion with Super PAC, and you have the message of America’s political elite to the nation. The 2016 cycle has seen an utter collapse of the established order of things. The assumptions of consultants, of political scientists of elected officials, of endorsers and endorsees, of organizations and candidates and parties have all been cast aside.
The general tenor of conversation among the elites today is not “what should we do,” but “how did this happen.” They realized too late that the rebellion on the right was a real thing, not a celebrity fling. And on the left, they are waking up to the fact that their favored candidate is weaker than they ever could’ve imagined.
2016 ought to bring about a reshuffling of the deck for America’s ruling class. The expert analysts are not that expert or that good at their jobs. They are in their positions, it turns out, not due to merit, but because of the right positioning, the right agent, the right promotional strategy. There has basically been one well-run campaign this cycle – Ted Cruz’s – which uses advanced voter analytics to do traditional GOTV. Everyone else seems to have spent a great deal of money to no good effect.
Politics is a business often insulated from the ramifications of failure. Like an ESPN commentator who is always wrong, the commentariat and the consultant class are not penalized for making mistakes with the frequency of people who pick stocks or games in Vegas. But the mistakes made this cycle are going to resonate because they reveal how distant the ruling class was from the people – that they might as well be separated by an ocean.
If you are someone who lives in and among the elite, ask yourself if you know anyone legitimately supporting the two leading candidates for the Republican nomination – people who think Donald Trump is a good leader, or that Ted Cruz is a good man. If the answer is no, re-examine whether the knowledge you bring to this race is accurate, or skewed by the bubble that surrounds you, which kept suggesting all the way to the end that Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, or Marco Rubio could happen. Because they are not going to happen.
Later on in the musical, the post-war king re-emerges to mock the ability of the newly liberated colonies to govern themselves.
“What comes next? / You’ve been freed / Do you know how hard it is to lead? / You’re on your own / Awesome. Wow / Do you have a clue what happens now?”
Our country doesn’t know, but most of our elites don’t know, either. That makes for an uncertain future, one with the potential for chaotic upheaval. That’s what freedom looks like sometimes.