So, I asked my liberal friend Matt Zemek why liberals are so miserable. To my way of thinking, they have everything politically: the President, the Congress, most courts, and the press. What more could they have outside complete ideological domination–that is a Matrix-like mind control over the masses? And yet, even with this power, sulkiness. The bad attitude was exemplified by the Netroots gathering in Las Vegas. While the conservative conferences I’ve been to over the last couple years have been unfailingly cheerful, the liberal groups sound morose. Why?
Now before getting to Matt’s response, a caveat. Matt is a religious man. He’s Catholic. He is not a secular humanist. This changes his philosophy profoundly. That is: Life does not begin and end with this terrestrial existence. His belief in an afterlife gives him a hope not shared by secular progressives. And so, he is, while generally frustrated, a kind-hearted (if delusional ) center-leftist. He’s generally more cheerful, if disappointed. [Yes, I'm gleaning all of this from my interactions with him on Twitter.]
Another core factor – which flows from everything just said – is that because conservatives cast a more skeptical eye toward human nature, they are much more willing (from the interactions I’ve had with conservatives on blogs since 2003) to simply say, “Life isn’t fair – deal with it.” Conservatives get frustrated just like anyone else, but it’s been my experience that they are, on balance, better able to vent their anger, let it go, and move forward. Their skepticism of human nature allows them to possess and sustain a cultivated awareness of life’s difficulties, which then enables them to develop a tougher and more resilient attitude to life. It’s not cold – surely not to conservatives themselves – but merely a steely defense mechanism, a necessary survival tool that liberals would do well to cultivate on a more consistent basis. Lefties aren’t as ready to admit that life isn’t fair; we want to make life fairer! Again, I won’t flesh out the policy merits (or demerits) which issue from such a dynamic; merely understand that this is how we generally think, and why we are less happy than righties generally are.
No wonder lefties are unhappy. They have a wrong view of human nature that sets them up for continual disappointment. That would be like a parent expecting two year olds to play nice and share toys. They don’t do it. Neither do nations squabbling over territory. Neither do countries fighting over fundamentally different ideals. Wanting peace doesn’t make peace happen. Wanting fairness often ends up creating unfairness (see Affirmative Action).
But still, I don’t feel Matt gets to the meat of it. Not because he doesn’t try but because he’s not a typical leftist. A leftist has all the panicked mission of a person struggling to Change The World Or Else. So, every generation has had a pseudo-religious substitute whether it be the next Ice Age, Ebola, HIV, or now, Global Warming aka Climate Change aka Gaia be pissed.
When it all depends on you, the anxiety must be nearly impossible to bear. And then, when the leftist has it all–all branches of government–in their very grasp; and for the elected officials to fail at stopping war and famine and general unfairness and badness, it’s so defeating and misery-inducing.
The biggest hippie dream came to fruition with Barack Obama and guess what? He’s in bed with corporations. He acts like a war-monger (who knows what’s rolling around his noggin on this score). He refused to ensure the public option, aka socialized medicine.
Sad part is, for them at least, right now, this moment, is the pinnacle for like forever. They worked for a generation to achieve this win. They have the most liberal president in ages, who has set America on the road to the kind of socialism most only dreamed of (if only they could be French), and it’s not enough.
So yeah, miserable.
Oh, and another thing. It’s one thing to be hatin’ on The Man, but hippies have become The Man. They’re large, in charge and (horrors!) responsible ‘n shit. I’m guessing they’ll be happier again (in that miserable way) when they can blame someone who isn’t Democrat. It will be better to hate Republicans and demonize conservatives and generally screech about the evil inequity and ain’t it awful. This has been a tough couple of years, after all. Having no one to blame can be a real bitch (not that they haven’t tried–see Bush Tax Cut expiration blaming).
Also, lefties have discovered that America just doesn’t buy what they’re selling. For years, they’d been delusional. They’d convinced themselves that Americans hadn’t fired Republicans because of their big-spending, corrupt ways. Oh heck no. Republicans wouldn’t go far enough. Democrats would spend more and stop war and raise oceans and make more rules and love the earth and Americans would love them. No they wouldn’t. No they don’t. Yeah, it’s disheartening. Americans like Europe. To visit. They don’t want to be Europe.
So, lefties are sad, sad, sad. I fell their pain. The squandered possibilities while Bush and the Republicans had power is nauseating to remember. Just think: had Congress listened, maybe Fannie and Freddie wouldn’t have been a black hole. Just think: President Bush expanded government control with prescription drug benefits and the No Child Left Behind bill. The government grew and the Republicans stopped representing the common man and allied with big corporate interests. They became Democrat lite. It was vile. It was difficult to watch fat cat Republicans ruin the brand and then turn around and give us unviable candidates like John McCain and tell us they needed to be more moderate when what Americans wanted was to cut spending and and become more responsible.
Remember when Barack Obama campaigned on fiscal responsibility? Yeah, me too. He’s everyone’s biggest electoral regret.
Anyway, lefties have lots of reasons to be miserable. But they’ll be back to their happy miserable selves when they’re out of power. Chucking cheap shots from the cheap seats is easier than wearing big boy pants and governing. They can march around again demanding social justice and bleat in impotent rage, but with the secret comfort that adults are back in charge. And because I’m just so compassionate, I wish this miserable happiness on my hippie friends. I can hardly bear their sadness one moment more.