Hamilton the prophet

Robert F. Walsh

Robert F. Walsh

Hearst Connecticut Media

Today’s date, Dec. 3, is no stranger to tragedy. On this day in 1971, Pakistan launched strikes against India that instigated a full-scale war (and eventually resulted in millions of deaths in Bangladesh); eight years later on this date, 11 fans in Cincinnati were killed in a stampede for seats before a concert by The Who (it resulted in changes to general admission policies across the nation); and on Dec. 3, 1818, Illinois officially became the 21st state (the jury is still out on this decision). In 1965, this date saw the release of the seminal rock album Rubber Soul by the Beatles. While this was not at all tragic, the Monkees note-for-note knockoff More of the Monkees, released a year later, was; the album’s cover art might as well have been photocopied.

Nowhere is that sense of gravity felt more clearly than in the vestiges of our most recent presidential election. Lest anyone think the protracted wrangling of the last few weeks is an anomaly, I implore you to go back and watch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton one more time. On this date in 1800, Thomas Jefferson finally defeated incumbent John Adams in the Electoral College, ending a fierce debate that had raged for 34 days. In the end, the defeated president claimed he’d been robbed (sound familiar?) and Hamilton sowed the seeds for his own death at the hands of the man his Electoral College had defeated (Aaron Burr).

The jury’s still out on whether Hamilton’s tragic end was outweighed by the denouement in Manuel’s musical, but I say it’s a wash.

Proponents feel the Electoral College preserves the role of states in presidential elections, forcing candidates to focus on all states and their diverse populations rather than those cities with the highest population densities. Critics argue the system subverts the more democratic ideal of “one person, one vote,” especially when a president is elected who failed to win the popular vote (as has happened twice in the last 20 years). Ironically, Hamilton championed the Electoral College as a result of his abiding distrust of popular voting, deeming it “desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder.”

Yeah. Maybe that hasn’t exactly worked out as he’d hoped.

Rarely has the trustworthiness of the general population been so clearly on the ballot as it was last month. We were asked to demonstrate ourselves worthy, as an informed electorate, to vote on such critical issues as social justice, the existence of climate change, the rational reliance on medical science, and the viability of the Fourth Estate. Roughly half the country disagreed on these basic issues, proving Hamilton more prophet than alarmist.

Nobody knows what a Biden administration will bring, nor whether his presidency will adequately address the aforementioned issues in a way that truly moves this country forward. Will we get something truly experimental and transformative like Rubber Soul, or will it be More of the Monkees? The jury is still out, but my money is on some sort of Rubber Monkee.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.