What will be the next great metaphor of our divided nation, struggling to find its center in the face of a devastating pandemic that has only further riven our land?
Get ready for the front page stories in The New York Times, the screaming headlines on the Drudge Report, the talking points for Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow, the personal narratives on Facebook and Twitter.
The metaphors will be just too hard to resist.
It’s July 4.
Here is what will be happening then. Red State America, mostly open for business, will be setting off fireworks en masse, all in the name of freedom. In those locations, to stand in a crowd and shoot a rocket, or to take part in a parade, will be a timely act of patriotism, independence and defiance.
Blue State America will still mostly be locked down and will oppose all July 4 celebrations on public health grounds, seeing them as a dangerous vector for viral transmission. Columnists in New York and Chicago will be telling us that true patriotism this year means a noisemaker or two in the safety of your own backyard.
It won’t matter if you’re watching Fox News or MSNBC, Independence Day will be a battering ram.
This will be rich in irony: we will have a civil war over the celebration of national unification.
And “Hamilton” will be at the center of the argument.
On Tuesday, Disney announced (along with its acquisition of more debt) that it will begin streaming a filmed version of the Broadway hit, a show about the idealism behind the founding of America, on July 3, thus giving America a clear and attractive alternative to all of its usual high-contact July 4 activities — the parades, the fireworks, the backyard parties, the trips to the beach.
Reason to stay home?
The Blue State editorials almost write themselves: Stay at home this year and watch “Hamilton.”
Even a few moderately conservative columnists might be willing to join the virtual party.
Once again, Lin-Manuel Miranda and his producer, Jeffrey Seller, have shown themselves to be brilliant futurists, seemingly able both to predict where America is going and ensure that “Hamilton” is at the center of the debate.
Their new partner, Disney, will, of course, see a massive increase in the number of people signing up for its vital Disney+ streaming service. (Sorry, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Quibi, the world spun in a different direction from watching micro narratives on your phone).
Now this is not the “Hamilton” movie per se (that’s long in the future) but a taping of the original Broadway cast in the theater. It’s already in the can. It’s set to go. And the timing is stunningly smart.
The previous plan had been to delay its release with Disney, ensuring that the live “Hamilton” would have a clear runway for its lengthy summer run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and a long fall stand at the Smith Center in Las Vegas. But although Broadway is only canceled officially through Sept. 6, we all know by now that “Hamilton” won’t be back anywhere until at least Thanksgiving. In other words, there is no point in protecting the premium value of live performances that won’t now exist.
It thus makes far more sense to keep the brand on everyone’s lips while the live theater is dark. And the demand for this virtual “Hamilton” will be through the roof on the July 4 weekend.
As always with this show, it’s an incredible savvy media play.
You can anticipate a long rollout during June, cast members sitting for their Zoom interviews on “Good Morning America,” the @Lin—Manuel tweets, the late-night appearances with “Stephen at Home,” the memories of better times. All will further the association of the show with progressive-patriotic values, and with staying home.
Instead of grilling burgers and gorging beers, Hamilton Inc. will be telling us to recommit to democracy.
Red State America won’t listen as closely. But that’s OK. That’s not the core brand. “Hamilton” made its politics clear when it went after Vice President Mike Pence in its Broadway audience; it picked a side and the dollars still flowed.
This show, symbolically, is about the resurgence of the values of the administration of President Barack Obama, under whose guidance it was forged.
At the White House. The old White House.
Nothing will be added but the implication and the imperative will be clear: All righteous Americans should watch “Hamilton” and plan to vote for Joe Biden.
And dollars to doughnuts, even as President Donald J. Trump opens the floodgates of celebration, the 44th president of the United States will crank up that quieter Twitter feed and wish everyone a happy Fourth of July.
Obama will let it be known that the Independence Day of 2020 is better spent with Aaron Burr, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton than parading down Main Street.
And at least half of America will listen.