My daughters, Hamilton and the Election of 2016
My dearest daughters,
When I hear you channel the revolutionary sass of Hamilton’s Schuyler sisters — any hour of the day in any room of the house — you still the madness of this election year. Your enthusiastic Angelica-Liza-Peggies save my optimism from the abyss, and your melodies remind me that no matter what happens on November 8th, no matter who wins, our country will endure.
I have to coach myself into such optimism. For me and many Americans, this election has been grueling, scandalous and abusive. America is a tinderbox right now, kindled aflame from too much indignation, vitriol and blame.
We are tired, so tired. And when you are tired pessimism is the easy choice.
What a world of ironies! The same year in which the Academy Award for Best Picture went to a film about worldchanging journalism is the year in which the value of journalism has become so watered down that most Americans can’t tell the difference between the authentic and well-sourced and the disingenuous and manipulative. The patriotic dedication of some people is so great that, should the opposition win, they have threatened to leave or, in extreme cases, disrupt the country’s systems.
I too have fallen into this psychological trap, the difficulty of envisioning the survival of the republic if the other side wins. So much is at stake!
But when I hear you take turns promising to tell Thomas Jefferson to include women in the sequel (of the Declaration of Independence for all you non-Hamiltonians), I change my tune:
America will endure because we have a system that adapts. It’s not perfect, but as de Tocqueville said, “The great privilege of Americans lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in their ability to repair the faults they commit.”
Tuesday could end up a disappointment. The next four years could be a real setback. Decades from now, we might look back and shake our collective heads at what we allowed to happen. Racial tensions could be here for years to come. Xenophobia and misogyny may have a temporary home in the hearts and minds of many Americans for the foreseeable future.
Yet, our system allows us to fix these problems. The ability to repair our faults doesn’t just happen, though. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
You will need to be part of the solution, my daughters, just as your mother and I strive to be also. This responsibility requires you to speak out when you disagree. It requires stamina: the ability to take a loss and over months, years, decades even, turn it into a win.
The 19th Amendment, which guarantees your right to vote, didn’t just happen. When the amendment was introduced in Congress, the woman’s suffrage movement had been going full steam for thirty years. Even still, the amendment had little support and was shot down.
Until it wasn’t. Forty years later. Seventy years of struggle and setback. To give you your right to vote.
Progress takes time. It sometimes takes multiple generations to achieve. Know that your mother and I are dedicated to continuing the work — of fighting for a better America with you together — regardless of election results. Whether Tuesday is one step forward or two steps back, America will endure. Thank you for reminding me of that.
Anxious yet optimistic,