He’s the quintessential New Yorker: A brash, arrogant, polarizing, thin-skinned know-it-all. Sounds like Donald Trump, right? No, it’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who might very well have created the template for residents of Gotham.
As portrayed in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury was a brilliant and passionate writer. But while his verbal talents earned him the respect of Gen. George Washington, who hired him as an aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War, those with differing views, such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and his eventual killer, Aaron Burr, often found themselves on the other side of his barbs and responded with their own.
One of the most clever aspects of the musical is how Miranda frames post-Revolutionary War American politics in a modern context; Jefferson derides Hamilton’s plan for America’s bank as being “too many damn pages for any man to understand” — a reference to a Republican complaint of the Affordable Health Care Act — and Burr, while running for President in 1800, is given the George W. Bush-like praise of “you could have a beer with him.”
Listening to the original cast recording during this election season shows that many of the lines lobbed at Hamilton could also apply to Trump. After all, who, among those familiar with the show, hasn’t reacted to a Trump misstep with the sound of Jefferson, Madison and Burr singing, “He’s never gon’ be President now” from “The Reynolds Pamphlet” running through their heads? But it’s even more than that. Read on…
“Watch this obnoxious, arrogant, loudmouth bother / Be seated at the right hand of the Father” — “A Winter’s Ball”
Burr offers his services to Washington, only to have Hamilton get the job. Trump blusters his way through the primaries, picking fights with anyone in his party who dares question him or get in his way, and still manages to win the nomination. Similarly, in “Wait for It,” Burr sings, “Hamilton doesn’t hesitate / He exhibits no restraint / He takes and he takes and he takes / And he keeps winning anyway / He changes the game / He plays and he raises the stakes.”
“You solve nothing, you aggravate our allies to the south” – “Meet Me Inside”
Washington dresses down Hamilton for his role in the duel between his best friend, John Laurens, and Gen. Charles Lee, who was a hero for helping to defend South Carolina, after the debacle at the Battle of Monmouth. Trump began his campaign by saying he would build a wall on the U.S. – Mexico border, on their dime.
“Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?” – “Non-Stop”
In the first act closer, Burr sees Hamilton’s star rise after the war — first as a lawyer, then as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention until he accepts the position of Treasury Secretary — as a result of his dazzling intellect. Meanwhile, the Republican nominee for President of the United States said, “I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words. I have the best, but there is no better word than ‘stupid.’” Seriously.
“Ambition is my folly / I’m a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive pain” – “Take a Break”
In a letter, Hamilton confides to his sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler Church, what his rivals are saying about him as he struggles to convince Congress to vote for his debt plan. Being a wealthy real estate heir wasn’t enough for Trump. He had to go and expand his brand and keep himself in the news over the decades with an assortment of other projects — reality show, books, casinos, airline, for-profit university, beauty pageants, steaks and, of course, presidential candidate — with varying degrees of success.
“Time to pay the piper for the pants you unbuckled” – “Say No to This”
Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds causes her husband, who may have set it up, to extort hush money and eventually cost him his political career. Ivana Trump was reportedly paid $14 million plus real estate and child support in their divorce, which was the result of Donald sleeping around with future ex-wife Marla Maples.
“They don’t need to know me / They don’t like you” – “Schuyler Defeated”
In 1791, Burr was elected to the U.S. Senate by defeating the incumbent, Hamilton’s father-in-law Philip Schuyler, which effectively ended Hamilton and Burr’s friendship. Despite decades of opposition to Hillary Clinton, many high-profile Republicans have announced that they will vote for her over Trump.
“I swear, your pride will be the death of us all / Beware, it goeth before the fall” – “Schuyler Defeated”
Burr sees no reason why Hamilton should have taken his running for Senate against his father-in-law personally. After a post-Democratic convention week that saw the word “unraveling” being used to describe his campaign, leading Republicans were reportedly planning an “intervention” to try to prevent Trump from becoming so toxic that he affects down-ticket races.
“I’ll remind you that he is not Secretary of State!” – “Cabinet Battle #2”
Jefferson goes rogue in the show’s second battle rap, unloading a ton of invective about Hamilton during a debate on whether or not the U.S. should intervene in France’s revolution. Trump has shown little interest in diplomacy, receiving criticism from both sides over his comments about such issues as NATO and the use of nuclear weapons. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has called Trump a “national disgrace.”
“Everything he does betrays the ideals of our nation” – “Cabinet Battle #2”
Jefferson essentially starts the tradition in our politics of defining your rival as being “un-American.” That charge has been levied at Trump for, well, nearly everything he’s proposed, especially his plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. During the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan, the father of a decorated war hero who was killed in combat, asked, “Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’”
“You accumulate debt / You accumulate power” – “Cabinet Battle #2”
Still upset over Hamilton’s plan for the national bank, Jefferson gets in another shot. Donald Trump has referred to himself as the “king of debt.”
“If we follow the money and see where it leads / Get in the weeds / Look for the seeds / Of Hamilton’s misdeeds” — “Washington on Your Side”
Jefferson, Burr and Madison look to ruin him by digging up dirt on him. Donald Trump, through his foundation, illegally donated $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at the very moment she was investigating his for-profit university. And as for his foundation, it appears that there are some shenanigans going on there, too…
“Your sentences border on senseless / And you are paranoid in every paragraph.” – “Burn”
Hamilton’s wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, sings those words after he, in one of the worst pieces of damage control in American history, discloses his infidelity. Three months before the election, Trump, who had previously boasted that he was going to win, now thinks the system is fixed against him. “[T]here’s a lot of dirty pool played at the election, meaning the election is rigged. … It started with me in Louisiana when I won Louisiana and I got fewer delegates than Ted Cruz. … But, who would’ve thought that was going to happen? I win a state, I get fewer votes. Then, I poll great in Colorado and all of a sudden … the voters aren’t going to choose. The bosses are going to choose. Anything is possible.”
“Your father’s a scoundrel, and so, it seems, are you” – “Blow Us All Away”
This was directed at Alexander’s son, Philip, by George Eacker, who killed Philip in a duel in 1801. The first reference to Donald Trump in The New York Times was in 1973, regarding a racial discrimination suit filed by the Department of Justice against Trump and his father, a slumlord so notorious that Woody Guthrie wrote a poem about him.
But there’s one lyric that could never be said about Trump:
“Hey, at least he was honest with our money” – “The Reynolds Pamphlet”
Hamilton was forced to come clean about his affair when he was suspected of using government funds to participate in James Reynolds’ scheme to buy the pensions and back-pay of veterans. Trump has repeatedly been accused of not paying his bills and using bankruptcy laws to make himself richer.