It is hard to know which was less foreseeable: that a reality-TV star with no government experience would be the Republican nominee for president or that the smash hit of Broadway would be a rap opera about the man behind the Federalist Papers. But there is a reason why the two phenomena arise at the same time, and there is a reason why that time coincides with the end of America’s first nonwhite presidency. The birther-in-chief’s campaign for high office and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical speak to the same deep issues about American identity at a time when the nation’s demography increasingly resembles that of the larger world. They just approach the subject from different perspectives. One seeks to protect an America that is still mostly white and Christian against Mexicans, Muslims, and other outsiders deemed dangerous. The other is so confident in the multiracial future that it rewrites the American past in its image. The passions that each one inspires are rooted in part in the desire to reject a vision of America that the other one represents. They are, in short, the same national transition but from opposite sides of the looking glass, and the year 2016 is a struggle between the two. History has its eye on them.
The result of this contest will shape the future of constitutional law. If Donald Trump is elected, the Republican Party may extend its hold on the Supreme Court into the indefinite future. If he loses, the Court will have a majority of Democratic appointees for the first time since 1970. But that prospect, momentous enough on its own, understates the transformation that may be coming. To see the larger possibility, one must imagine not just a majority-Democratic Supreme Court but a majority-Democratic Supreme Court in a world after Miranda’s Hamilton.