The Closet Moderate: Happy as a con

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy as a con

The Washington Post reports this morning on yet another survey showing that Republicans are, on average, happier than Democrats. You lefties reading this will no doubt leave me a comment saying "What about all those angry people at the Palin rallies? They don't seem happy." Yes, yes, they're not happy about creeping socialism, or secularism, or the gays, or whatever. But they're happier with their lives than you are. Grover Norquist, a taxation expert and lobbyist, explains:
"I'm very happy," says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and a Republican. "When I was 12, I realized the world was not organized around my desires and wishes. The problem with guys on the left is they never figured that out at age 12. And they're just irritated the world is not organized around their vision. This makes them grumpy."
I've tried explaining this idea to my wife, a socialist, but I think we're just talking past each other. There was a cartoon in the New Yorker about this a few weeks back that nailed it pretty well.*

What it boils down to, in my experience, is not how happy we are but what makes us happy. The Post article quotes Chris Lehane, a Democratic "consultant," for the proposition that Republicans are happy because we're all so wealthy and ignorant:
"The typical Republican is happy coming home to a 62-inch television, pulling out a fine bottle of cognac or Scotch, putting his feet on the table and enjoying the fruits of his labor, but not caring what's going on in the world outside their living room . . . and their gated community."**
This speaks to my point about the source of happiness. Lehane must believe that wealth is the source of happiness. He seems to be saying that anyone with the lush lifestyle he describes would obviously be happy as a pig in shit -- look at his fine possessions! He must be tickled pink! But this sort of materialism does not resonate in everyone. Some people are rich and sad. Some are poor and happy. Clearly, having a 50-inch screen and a leather sofa isn't cutting the mustard for some folks.

Neither does this materialism carry over to voting habits. In the last Presidential election, 9 of the 10 poorest states voted Republican, and 7 of the 10 richest voted Democratic. So what are these impoverished souls so pleased about? Something besides money? Something unrelated to politics? Heaven forfend!

Those of you who love politics above all things will be shocked at what I'm about to say, but I think it explains why I'm happy: if my party loses the election, but my baseball team wins the World Series, I'll still be happy. In fact, if I could control the outcome of either the election or the Series, I'm not sure which I'd pick. For me, happiness has many sources. All of the things the left doesn't understand (God, sports, etc.) give a great deal of pleasure to folks on the right, myself included.

If all I had to make me happy was cash money, I'd be very anxious right now, what with the recession and all, but because my happiness spring from many founts, I'll be OK either way. As long as the Phillies don't freakin' blow it.

*Yes, I looked at the New Yorker, but only for the pictures.
**Apparently, I'm not living up to typical Republican standards; my TV is too small and I drink lager out of a can. No gated community, either. I do like putting my feet on the coffee table, though.


Corey Goldiner said...

I don't see how liberals uniquely have an un-healthy obsession with politics. I too like baseball and though I'd probably go with Obama winning, I'm definitely hella excited about winning a world series too.

I do agree with your point that happiness should be derived from many sources. Though I still read the blogosphere pretty frequently, its definitely less enjoyable than it was Freshman and Sophomore year. The more I actually work in politics the more I need to pursue other outside interests so I dont burn out.

Harold Lasswell said...

But Cal, you've overlooked all us ennui-ridden centrists! I can't stand happy or depressed people!!!