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Will The Generation Obsessed With “Hamilton” Watch The Nation’s Fall?

2016, the year the Cubs finally won the World Series, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president and most surprisingly, the smash-hit musical Hamilton from Lin-Manuel Miranda braced Broadway and West End stages around the world. The hip-hop musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton through the American Revolution and the founding of the United States. Almost concurrently with the arrival of the last presidential administration, this musical praising the birth of a democratic nation blew up in popularity across the world.

However, six years later, Hamilton remains popular, but the solace Americans once found in the American musical just isn’t the same. In January 2022, the United States marked both the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and the Inauguration of 46th President Joe Biden. Americans find themselves with decreasing faith in their democracy now more than ever.       

January 2022 polls from NPR found that “64 percent of Americans believe U.S. democracy is ‘in crisis and at risk of failing.’” 

The survey also stated that “fewer than half of Republicans say they are willing to accept the results of the 2020 election.”

Since the election of President Joe Biden, many Republicans attribute the decline of democracy to the Democratic party forging the 2020 election through mail-in votes. Democrats attribute the decline of democracy to the protruding influence of the Republican party, and the shift toward partisanism. Faith in the American democratic system is at an all-time low.

This democratic anxiety comes during a standstill of the American political landscape. In 2022, many nervous Americans are watching the validity of Roe V. Wade questioned, increasing tensions between Ukraine and Russia and the approaching 2022 midterms later this year. Not to mention, these midterms won’t just be a bloodbath for House and Senate seats, but also a further test of the democratic principles the United States has held dear since the time of Alexander Hamilton.

The most evidence of crippling American democracy comes from Freedom House, a U.S. government nonprofit organization founded by Republican Wendell Willkie and Democrat Eleanor Roosevelt. The organization’s website states that it “was formally established in New York in 1941 to promote American involvement in World War II and the fight against fascism.”

In 2022, the Freedom House rates the United States as 83/100 in freedom, which is down three points from the previous year. In 2010, American democracy was rated at 94/100, which steadily fell 11 points in one decade. Comparatively, nations such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Uruguay, Germany and more are at least in a 10-point margin ahead of the United States in freedom. Seemingly, with each presidential administration, regardless of a political party, the land of the free and home of the brave is slowly losing hold of its trademark- freedom.

In a new report from the European organization, International IDEA, the United States was also classified as a backsliding democracy, with a shift toward authoritarianism. Similarly, in early January, Canadian political scientists reported dismal predictions for the coming years in the United States. In the Globe and Mail, political professor Thomas Homer-Dixon writes, “By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.”

However, the general attitude toward this assertion among college-age Gen Z individuals seems to challenge Homer-Dixon’s assertion. 

Livia LaMarca, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, stated that “American democracy is on the decline, however, I don’t think we’ll see the death of American democracy anytime soon. It would take an entire population of ignorance in order to eliminate our current regime.”

Sean Speier, a student at Florida State University, believes, “I think democracy is on the decline, but I have optimism that America isn’t headed that way. I think it would be more likely that we would fall to a socialist government rather than an authoritarian right.”

Genevieve Scarbrough, a student at DePaul University, thinks that “We’re definitely on a decline in democracy. I don’t think the nation’s democracy will end in my lifetime, I just think that America is too afraid of change for it to happen that rapidly.”

It seems that the generation obsessed with Hamilton both lost their faith in democracy but are optimistic about the continuation of their nation. After all, the United States has withstood 200 years, much longer than any founding father could have predicted. So, will this generation see the fall of the nation before finally getting Broadway tickets to their favorite musical? Only time will tell. 

As Yale professor Timothy Snyder wrote in his book On Tyranny, “We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is we might learn from their experience.”

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Hannah is from a small town outside of Chicago but currently resides in London through Florida State University's First Year Abroad program. She looks forward to spending this summer studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Her majors are Creative Writing and Media & Communication Studies. She's loved to write since she was very young, and her ultimate dream is to work on Saturday Night Live.
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