Chris Powell: Bad manners at 'Hamilton'; Hartford is bankrupt

For the sake of argument assume that the vice president-elect, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is an awful person, as are Donald Trump and everyone who voted for them. That still would not excuse Pence's treatment the other week by the cast of Hamilton during his attendance at the show on Broadway.

As the show ended and the cast took its curtain call, one of the actors stepped forward, called attention to Pence's presence in the audience, and, addressing him, said the cast is "alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us," adding that they hoped that the show "has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us."

It was as if there had not just been an election campaign full of rhetoric about "American values" and as if Pence hadn't heard it and responded to it already, if not to everyone's satisfaction. The cast's stunt was only self-righteous posturing and bad manners from people who are a little too full of themselves.

Pence should have expected it and he claimed not to have been bothered by it, though, of course, Trump couldn't wait to inject himself into the issue indignantly, as if he had finished assembling the new national administration and had run out of things to do.

"The theater must always be a safe and special place," the president-elect proclaimed. But in a free country the theater doesn't have to be anything. It can be like a presidential campaign: safe or unsafe, special or mediocre, vile or sublime, stupid or thoughtful. Anyone can put anything on the stage and anyone can attend or not.

But one doesn't pay extravagantly for a ticket on Broadway to be singled out as the target of the political grievances of actors who can't bring themselves to let the audience draw its own political conclusions from their work.

The Hamilton cast indicated that its main concern about the coming Trump administration is immigration, Trump having campaigned against illegal immigration and having at first equated all Mexican immigrants with criminals and all Muslim immigrants with terrorists. But Trump has been reprimanded pretty well for resorting to such stereotypes and as a result has begun moderating his position, while his critics have not yet acknowledged any problems with immigration. No, Trump's critics seem perfectly happy with the uncontrolled immigration that the country has tolerated in recent years, despite its threats to the working-class wage base, national security and the country's democratic and secular culture.

The refusal of the governing and intellectual classes to acknowledge those threats is one reason the election turned out as it did.


Hartford is supposed to get Gov. Dannel Malloy's permission before filing for bankruptcy, but in effect the city has already gone into bankruptcy without it. That is, the city is threatening to stop paying its dues to the regional water and sewage-treatment agency, the Metropolitan District Commission.

Hartford's threat has caused the MDC to instruct its other member municipalities to put money aside to cover the city's share of the agency's budget, amounts that for some towns will exceed a million dollars a year.

This is silly because Hartford does have the money to pay the MDC. The city is just choosing to divert water and sewer money to pay others instead, like city employees, vendors, and lenders. City government figures that it's easier to stiff fellow MDC members.

But if the MDC responded to Hartford's delinquency by turning off the city's water and sewer service, the city instantly would come up with the money, nothing being more important than water and sanitation. The suburban delegates to the MDC should stop being such patsies and instead tell Hartford to stiff someone else.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn., and an essayist on social and political issues.