When you grow up in 1990s Pikesville, you know a lot of overachievers, and you became too comfortable in their company. You begin to wonder how you came from a place where so many people seemed marked from birth for the super-class, and if you’re not one of them, bitterness can grow within you like a cancer that you weren’t. You start forgetting that 99.999 percent of the world cannot even fathom the potential for as much privilege and influence as you were simply born into; privilege which your parents knew nothing like until adulthood, your grandparents only ascended in dotage and peasant great-grandparents barely knew existed.
Our parents may complain about our laziness, but the urgency among my generation of Jews to achieve is something unheard of even to them, let alone the rest of America. Most American families reached the pinnacle of their earning power in the late sixties, and since then there’s been a slow, steady, humiliating decline in their standard of living. American gentiles who live in 2017’s upper class probably had great-grandparents who did the same. But the average Jew could only reach top earning power at the beginning of the 70s, and since then our earning power only increased. Jews were the final ethnic group to reach the American upper classes, and the moment after we did, we helped goyim slam the door shut.
For college and grad school, most of our parents went to state schools, or at best, local private universities. But they lived their baby boomer lives during the one generation when a boss would look on a resume with a public alma mater on it and might consider the candidate on par with any Ivy Leaguer. What did our parents do with that privilege? They used it to send their children to Ivy League schools. A new elite was born that includes Jews rather than excludes them, and whenever this new elite falls, the gentiles will be fine, they’ll simply use the power they’ve always held to put things back to the way they were. The only members of the elite who could suffer widespread retribution are us, as usual.
For a kid who almost didn’t graduate high school, it astonishes me how many elites are peers and acquaintances — well over a hundred Ivy Leaguers, probably a couple dozen self-made millionaires, multiple holders of impressive government appointments — former and present, some of the most influential journalists in America and a soon to be congressman. Is the average among them smarter than the average person? Of course. It’s nearly impossible to get America’s best jobs or educations if you’re dumb, unless you run for president. But the distinction between them and the rest of the most intelligent people I know is not their intelligence; it’s their being well-adjusted. I often feel in their company that I’ve time-traveled to another era, because they’re often the only people I know who don’t feel as though the country isn’t on fire.
Is it any wonder why political radicalism and partisanship is so prevalent today? Everyone in America agrees that the status quo is lacking, but the only people willing to challenge today’s status quo exist at political extremes. It may sound like a contradiction in terms to challenge the status quo from the center, but if it were, the Obama presidency wouldn’t be possible. Whether left- or right-of-center, today’s political center put the energy that should be reserved for advancing a society into advancing their prestige. Potentially great scientists became bankers, great teachers became lawyers, great public servants became entrepreneurs, great artists went into PR and advertising. If people of elite intelligence are not present in the wider world to lead, then the only places the under-serviced can find the solace they seek are from social justice non-profits and the Church, left-wing blogs and right-wing radio.
Every day, it becomes more clear that the Trump Administration is not run by diabolical cabal but by the dumbest men on the planet. And even the world’s stupidest people could sail over all the credentials in the world by doing the one thing meritocrats would never do — the Trump campaign challenged the status quo. Many things made Trump possible, but the only one that made it inevitable was that elite people of merit who should use their privileges to lead us used it to solidify their position.
Evan Tucker is North Baltimore-based writer and composer. He is the violinist and lead singer of the Yiddish rock band Schmear Campaign and has a monthly podcast, “Tales from the Old New Land,” which is a Jewish version of A Prairie Home Companion. Listen at podomatic.com/podcasts/oldnewland.