Wednesday, May 08, 2024


In The New York Times, Thomas Edsall examines the reported disparity in happiness between liberals and conservatives:
Why is it that a substantial body of social science research finds that conservatives are happier than liberals?

A partial answer: Those on the right are less likely to be angered or upset by social and economic inequities, believing that the system rewards those who work hard, that hierarchies are part of the natural order of things and that market outcomes are fundamentally fair.

Those on the left stand in opposition to each of these assessments of the social order, prompting frustration and discontent with the world around them.
Edsall devotes most of his lengthy column to the question of whether liberals are miserable because they think the world treats certain groups poorly. He seems to agree that that's the case.

He points out that conservatives also have problems with the world as it is. However, they don't turn sad -- they just get angry:
Citing a wide range of polling data and academic studies, [Vox's Zack] Beauchamp found:
* More than twice as many Republicans (39 percent) as Democrats (17 percent) believe that “if elected leaders won’t protect America, the people must act — even if that means violence.”

* Fifty-seven percent of Republicans consider Democrats to be “enemies” compared with 41 percent of Democrats who view Republicans as enemies.

* Among Republicans, support for “the use of force to defend our way of life,” as well as for the belief that “strong leaders bend rules” and that “sometimes you have to take the law in your own hands,” grows stronger in direct correlation with racial and ethnic hostility.
... [They] respond to adversity and what they see as attacks from the left with threats and anger, while a segment of the left often but not always responds to adversity and social inequity with dejection and sorrow.
So research suggests that they're angrier than liberals, but they're also happier than liberals. Edsall seems to accept the notion it's possible to stew in anger while feeling quite happy. Does that match your real-world experience? It certainly doesn't match mine.

Right-wingers certainly seem angry -- angry that Joe Biden is president; angry because they think the election was stolen; angry at the very existence of Black people, undocumented immigrants, gay and trans people, feminists, abortion-seekers and providers, Muslims, vegetarians, Hollywood filmmakers, city-dwellers, and liberals in general. So how do they remain cheerful?

Here's a theory: Right-wingers aren't angry at all. They have fulfilling, happy lives in their overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Christian, permanently Republican outer-ring suburbs and exurbs. What they express as anger is actually mild frustration because they can't force the rest of us to live exactly the way they do.

Where they live, no one would dare to stage a Pride parade or open a vegan restaurant, much less an abortion clinic. But that's not good enough for them. They want to impose constraints on us as well. They don't want our children to read books they wouldn't want their children to read; they don't want any of us buying from companies that market to groups they don't like, even if those companies separately market to them.

And they certainly don't want to share power with us, even though, based on the popular vote totals in seven of the last eight presidential elections, we outnumber them, and even though our politicians regularly do outreach to them -- with welfare reform and the crime bill in the '90s, and the infrastructure bill now -- while their politicians express nothing but contempt for us.

They want us to become them, by force if necessary. But they're happy to live their bubble-dwelling lives in the meantime, because they're not really angry -- they just want conquest.

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