Republicans, conversely, have embraced loserdom. Alex P. Keaton, with his Wall Street Journal subscription and his William F. Buckley Jr. daydreams and his Ivy League ambitions (spoiler alert: He ends up not going to Princeton after all), would be looked at askance in Donald Trump’s Republican party. In 2017, conservatives rail against “elites” and Big Business leaders and corporate executives — the very people a lot of young conservatives wanted to become back in 1984. Victimhood? They speak of practically nothing but victimization: of small towns and small-town people sneered at as “flyover country” tornado bait by coastal elites; of farmers and family businesses that find it difficult to compete in a global marketplace; of workers and former workers in moribund industries; of put-upon Christians and put-upon whites and doubly put-upon white men and trebly put-upon white Christian men. They complain that their jobs are being “stolen” by scheming Orientals and sweaty immigrants happy for the opportunity to live on one tortilla a day. They believe that practically everybody who is successful in any field other than talk radio or right-wing cable news has somehow gotten one over on the rest of us. The great capitalists of our time — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk — are for them figures of contempt and derision. Even the American soldier — the most dangerous thing going about on two feet — is for them a victim, duped into fighting someone else’s wars for someone else’s agenda, a puppet of (take your pick) “neocons,” the “Deep State,” the Israel lobby, Wall Street.
I think we all know how Alex P. Keaton would feel about carried-interest tax treatment of private-equity investments. Donald Trump sees the question . . . differently.
The Democrats have become what the Republicans once were: the party of the respectable upper-middle class — and of many of those who aspire to it. (The poor are for patronage and vote-farming.) They are, as the bourgeoisie always are, obsessed with social convention and etiquette (If a young white woman in college wears hoop earrings, is it “cultural appropriation”? How ashamed should I be for having watched Speedy Gonzales cartoons as a kid — and enjoyed them?). The Republicans have gone seeking tribunes of the plebs. (Weird thing: Our tribunes of the plebs have an awful lot of private jets backed in Palm Beach.) Up is down, left is right, confusion reigns.