Last night, Hillary Clinton’s nomination-accepting speech at the Democratic National Convention included a number of rhetorical flourishes. There were memories of her childhood; there were calls for unification; there was some stellar Trump-trolling. Perhaps most surprisingly, though, there were not one but two references to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. In quick succession, she quoted the songs “The Story of Tonight” (“I may not live to see our glory/But I will gladly join the fight”) and “The World Was Wide Enough” (“Planting seeds in a garden you never get to see”). And it’s not the first time she’s hinted at how many times she’s seen the Tony-winning smash hit, or drawn from it in a stump speech.
Not surprisingly, the move didn’t land well with everyone:
Who had ‘Hamilton name drop’ in Hillary Pandering Bingo?
— Benjamin Yount (@CitiesBen) July 29, 2016
Hillary disqualified for public office by giving a vomit-level pandering Hamilton reference. Bring on Pres. Trump!!!
— Nick Robinson (@Nickrob) July 29, 2016
To detractors, it might be another example of Clinton pandering to fans. But it’s actually the culmination of her history of authentic and longstanding enthusiasm for Miranda’s work, and musical theater in general. She’s been a fan of the performer and songwriter for the better part of a decade–long before his name was known outside musical theater circles.
Back To in The Heights
Miranda’s first award-winning musical was In The Heights, set in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. It opened in March 2008; and that Christmas, before Tony nominations had been released (it would go on to win four the next year), Hillary and Bill attended a performance. Furthermore, it’s not an unusual occurrence for the Clintons to show up at a Broadway show. A simple Getty Images search turns up photos from over the years of Hillary along with her family at productions of The Producers, Avenue Q, Next To Normal, and Billy Elliott. They’re well-known theatergoers, and former President Clinton has earned a reputation as the biggest Broadway enthusiast of any modern President.
Ahead of the Hamilton Curve
Lin-Manuel Miranda worked on the songs that would become Hamilton as early as 2009, when he performed in front of the Obamas at a White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. (President Obama joked about this early debut when the cast visited the White House earlier this year.) The fledgling musical went on to a workshop production at the Vassar Reading Festival in July 2013. When it debuted in previews off-Broadway in January 2015, Hillary and Bill waited six weeks before seeing the show on March 1. According to Playbill, they snuck into the theater “just before the lights went down, but at intermission were mobbed by as many well-wishers as the Secret Service would allow.”
The Clintons were here tonight.
So that’s presidents #1, 2#, #3 and #42 accounted for. (Maybe #45?)#HAMILTONpublic
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) March 2, 2015
That’s a full five months before the musical debuted on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre that August. And Miranda has paid back that continued support during this election cycle. The Clintons visited Hamilton again, this time on Broadway, earlier this month. And Miranda returned days after his final performance as the title character for a July 12 matinee fundraiser, introducing the candidate after the show with an emphatic endorsement.
Hillary Clinton can and should be criticized for parts of her record and some of her statements during this campaign. But don’t let anyone convince you she’s pandering by referencing the ubiquitous musical everyone and your grandmother has heard about. (Miranda was pretty psyched to get the shoutout.) Don’t be the person who finds out that a woman likes a band, only to quiz her about how many albums she can name or her favorite songs. In all likelihood, Hillary Clinton was a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton before any of us.