One of my favorite songs on the Hamilton soundtrack is “The Election Of 1800.” It tells the story of that year’s presidential election, with Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and John Adams all competing for the presidency.
Per this song, the election ended in a tie between Burr and Jefferson, and the county looked to Alexander Hamilton for his input. Hamilton and Jefferson were from opposing parties, and they were longtime rivals. Burr was a candidate of Hamilton’s own party. However, Hamilton (who’d been frenemies with Burr for years) didn’t like that Burr was a man who liked to hang back and “wait for it” rather than putting his ideas and his ideals out there for the world to see. So Hamilton backed Jefferson, who won the vote in the House of Representatives and the presidency.
I love this. So much.
I love the idea that a political leader would support the member of an opposition party rather than supporting a flawed leader from his own party.
One of the reasons why this song resonates with me is that it’s hard for me to imagine this actually happening in the modern era. Our country is so divided by party, or so it seems from where I’m sitting, that it seems incredible to think of any politician choosing to support someone from an opposing party.
I read an interesting article by Tom Nichols in February 2016. He proposes utilizing “The Hamilton Rule” with regard to the 2016 presidential election. He quoted Alexander Hamilton’s words about the election of 1800: “If we must have an enemy at the head of government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible.” Basically, Nichols is arguing that he’d choose to vote for Hillary Clinton (whose ideals he does not share and who he does not like) rather than voting for a candidate he does not believe in just because that candidate is his party’s nominee.
To be clear – I’m pushing no political agenda here. What I’m doing is giving appreciation to the idea that people would be open to supporting a candidate from an opposing party. I’ve often thought that if a Republican candidate had good ideas and plans for my community, seemed like a good leader – I might vote for that guy rather than not-that-awesome candidate from the Democratic party. But – who knows? A hypothetical vote is way different than an In Real Life vote.
There’s an episode of The West Wing called “The Supremes.” (Probably my favorite episode EVER!) The premise is that there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court; a young Conservative justice has died suddenly and a Democrat (#JedBartletForPresident) is in the Oval Office. The first scenes of the episode are all about the White House staffers scrambling around to find a moderate, middle-of-the-road Centrist that they can nominate and get confirmed by the Republican Congress.
Halfway through the episode, Donna (assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff) tells her boss a story about her parents. They were adopting a cat, and each wanted a different breed. She told Josh, “They said after thirty years of marriage, they’d outgrown compromise, so they got them both.”
Josh gets hit with a lightning bolt of an idea: the White House will ask the Chief Justice (a very, very old liberal) to retire, and they will nominate a liberal for his seat. They will then allow the Republicans to pick a conservative for the other open seat.
Donna’s reaction to this is amazing:
My reaction is this: WHY CAN’T THIS HAPPEN? I’ve thought of this episode over and over again since Justice Scalia passed away, and I really do wish this was an option. A compromise between two parties – allowing for incredibly smart and opinionated and different voices to join the conversations. I wish it could happen, but it’s almost impossible to imagine.
Oh, Hamilton – where art thou? Let’s have another round tonight.