Vice President Mike Pence decided to take a break from the work on the transition to attend the award-winning musical “Hamilton.” In a remarkably classless and rude demonstration, audience members booed the Vice President-elect both upon his arrival and then at various points in the performance. The cast then read a statement to Pence about fears over the expected policies of the Trump Administration.
The booing of the incoming Vice President was, in my view, uncivil and uncalled for at a performance on Broadway. I would have felt the same way if this was the treatment given Hillary Clinton. Adults in a civil society should demonstrate a level of respect and self-restraint. This was not an appropriate forum for such conduct.
I also have objections to the statement read to Pence by the cast. Cast members had already come out in support of Clinton. That is well known (here and here). The audience, particularly Pence, did not pay to attend the performance to receive a political statement — a statement loaded with implied criticism for someone who was effectively a captive audience.
Cast member Brandon Victor Dixon stated:
Vice President-elect Pence, welcome. Thank you for joining us at Hamilton: An American Musical. We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of all of us. Thank you.
I do not view the otherwise respectful statement as outrageous and I entirely understand the concerns that led to the content. (Ironically, we previously discussed the controversy over the musical barring non-white performers from the cast).
However, I do not believe it is appropriate or fair to Pence in this context. Moreover, the performance speaks for itself. It is, if anything, reduced in its poignancy for Pence by converting it into a type of public lecture — particularly after the rude booing from the audience. The question is what such a statement accomplished beyond a cathartic moment for the cast or audience. It was certain to have an adverse impact on Pence after his treatment during the performance.
President-Elect Trump responded with one of his signature tweets, condemning the demonstration. Dixon responded by saying “Conversation is not harassment, sir.” Of course, it is not much of a conversation when you are reading a statement (in front of an overtly hostile crowd) to someone who simply came to watch your show.
“Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals, for the most part governed by the impulse of passion.”
What do you think?
Update: Pence had a classy response to the demonstration from the audience. He said “Hamilton is just an incredible production and incredibly talented people. It was a real joy to be there.” He also said that, when they were met by booing, “I nudged my kids and reminded them, that’s what freedom sounds like.” He said that there was no need for an apology over the incident.