The politics of joy

The news emanating from the political campaigns — yes, even this early — keeps jarring me into flashbacks of Jimmy Carter and the “politics of malaise.” For those of you who may not remember, in July of 1979, President Carter, then in the midst of an energy crises, a hostage crises in Iran, an inflationary crises at home and a growing unemployment crises, gave what he believed was a “call to arms” speech intended to energize the nation’s citizens into action. What it turned out to be is a wallow in misery and a suggestion that only government — more government — a government lead by a liberal Democrat — could pull us out of this national malaise.

That speech, thereafter, became the foundation for every Democrat presidential campaign since then. (The only exception was the second campaign of Bill Clinton which primarily focused on how well the economy was doing.) The politics of woe are now echoed by Democrats on the national, state, and local levels. In marked contrast, Carter’s opponent in the 1980 presidential race was the champion of optimism, President Ronald Reagan. His buoyant campaign of “can do” and admiration for the American spirit crushed Jimmy Carter in one of the most embarrassing rejections of a sitting president in the nation’s history.

And yet today, liberal columnists in the mainstream media and liberal talk show hosts (on the very few radio stations that carry that carnage) still run out a steady stream of all that is wrong in America — always accompanied by an assertion that just a little bit more government, just a little bit more taxes, just a little bit more regulation will provide the cure. For liberal Democrats, global warming is about to choke off our oxygen, raise the seas to flood our coastal cities, and create a worldwide dust bowl — all of which can be solved by raising taxes, buying and selling carbon credits, and shutting down American industries, just American industries.

For liberal Democrats, American trails the industrialized world in medical care, the children (always the children) are suffering, the elderly are dying in the streets, and we are moments away from an epidemic — any epidemic — of monstrous proportions. And all of this could by solved by national health care, financed by a little more taxes and administered by a little more government.

For liberal Democrats there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor, there are insufficient jobs for workers because they are being exported to other nations (even though there are between 15 and 20 million illegal aliens in the country taking existing jobs in America), and we are captive to foreign nations for energy (even though they steadfastly refuse to allow development of our own energy resources.) And once again, this could all be solved by raising taxes on the wealthy, increasing welfare rolls and reducing our standard of living through “conservation” measures.

And for liberal Democrats, we are losing the war in Iraq and we must bring the troops home in order to ensure that we lose the war in Iraq.

Damn, now I’m depressed from just writing this stuff.

Unfortunately, the politics of gloom and misery take their toll on the party faithful. Not long ago the highly respected Pew Research Group published a report on the “happiness quotient” of Americans. Republicans are happier than Democrats or independents.

For Republicans this continues to be good news because they are happier, not by a little but by a lot. Fifty percent more Republicans than Democrats identify themselves as being very happy. Now don’t start with excuses like Republicans have more money than Democrats. Whether that is true or not, it is irrelevant to the “happiness” factor. Pew noted in its survey:

“If one controls household income, Republicans still hold a significant edge: that is poor Republicans are happier than poor Democrats, middle-income Republicans are happier than middle-income Democrats, and rich Republicans are happier than rich Democrats.”

And let’s not be dismissive of the study on the basis of the liberals favorite excuses — race, gender and education. The Pew Research Group found:

“The same regression analysis also finds that education, gender and race do not have a statistically significantly independent effect on predicting happiness, once all the other factors are controlled.”

In the end, it is what you choose to do, rather than who you are, that determines happiness.

For the longest time I’ve thought that Republicans were basically a happy lot. Conservatives, while they are quick to identify and complain about problems, tend to be optimistic about the future and their roles in that future. In other words, they believe that the problems can be solved — and that they can solve them. That optimism is reflected in a political philosophy where Republicans tend to be the advocates of ideas with a vision to a brighter tomorrow — that is both in their personal lives and their political philosophy. They tend to focus on improvement, advancement and success.

In contrast, I’ve always viewed the liberal leadership as unhappy, dour men and women who view the world as unfair, burdensome and their role as that of a victim. They seldom have new ideas and spend most of their time complaining that someone else’s proposals are “unfair.” Their solution to every problem — real or imagined — is the same: spend more, increase government more, tax more, increase the misery index.

As we approach the “special” session of the legislature, watch carefully for a contrast between the politics of misery and the politics of joy. If the Republicans cannot effectively convey a view to a better tomorrow — one with hope, prosperity and increased opportunity for success — they are destined to remain a minority party for the immediate future.

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  • Jerry

    Larry – you are dead right on this! The joyless RINO Republicans are hurting the party more than they will ever know. They need to snap out of it NOW or move on to something else.

    I am deeply ashamed of just how weak, ineffectual, moronic, and incompetent the Republicans in Oregon have become. And they did it all by themselves.

    And they wonder why they keep losing.

    Man, what a bunch of sad sacks.

    They need to do what you say, and proudly and consistently stick to conservative principles, just like Reagan did, or they don’t deserve to be in office.

    I am depressed, too, just thinking about these hapless losers.

  • Jason Williams

    Those “just a little more taxes” you refer to, sure do add up to a lot.

  • John Fairplay

    The President got this question in his press conference yesterday. Essentially “with Americans worried about the housing crisis and the economy going into the tank, what are you going to do about it?” I thought he gave a poor answer. The economy grew at a 5 percent annual rate in the summer! That is almost too fast, as it could be inflationary. If I were on the White House press staff, I would have had ready a video montage of negative news stories about this booming economy and would have the President scold the press for being so negative. President Bush, though, never wants to put his enemies in their place.

  • veiledorchid

    I know it’s not PC but I seem to sense a lack of real outrage from our midst. Might we try rallying around “I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore”….call the turkeys to task….vote out the weak sister RINOs…elect some ball-bearing replacements? Easier said than done, I know, but amping up the volume just may help.

    • Jerry

      You can count me outraged and ready to act!

      • dean

        As a relatively happy liberal, I’m perplexed that you happy Republicans are so outraged. You just had a nice run with 12 years of control of Congress and the past 6 with Bush in the White House, and you remain “outraged?” What does it take to make you happy? A plague that wipes out every human to the left of Newt?

        I am “optimisitic” that we can get ourselves off Mideast oil AND put a big dent in global warming IF we stop arguing this issue as if it were left-right and began discussing it rationally, as a serious but solvable problem if we put our shoulders to the wheel.

        There is not a liberal world and a conservative one. Only one world we all have to share. The U.S does lag well behind the rest of the developed world on a range of social indicators. You can argue that it is a fair tradeoff for our prosperity at the top end of our economy, but don’t argue that we ARE NOT behind on health care, income inequality, crime, imprisonment rates, and a lot of other stuff. These are facts.

        And the US is that last industrialized nation to refuse to sign the Kyoto treaty. Our peers are already investing in new energy and transportation systems. We are the ones falling behind. You are the ones who seem pessimistic that we can’t make the necessary transition away from fossil fuels.

        • CRAWDUDE

          Dean, I need to paint GW as what he really is, George W. Bush is a liberal! The biggest problem with that is that he is an unfocused fiscal liberal that throws money at things with out ensuring it is spent in an intelligent manner.

          His social iberalism is all over the board and contridicts its self more times than it doesn’t. Of course this is just my opinion.

          He so bad branding him a liberal is insulting to liberals!

          There the King is wearing no clothes!

          • dean

            Not so fast CD…not so fast. Bush a liberal? Yes, he has been a fiscal spendthrift, but not on social programs other than the shameful effort to buy off the geezers with his drug plan, a pharmacutical subsidy program in thin disguise.

            Sorry my friend, he is all yours, and we liberals will hang him around your collective necks for at least the next 2 decades, as you have kindly done to us with president Carter’s less than stellar term.

            Fundamentaly, Bush’s problem is your larger conservative problem in a nutshell. He could not radically downsize government because the body politic won’t stand for that. We (a big majority) like most of what government does even though we don’t much like having to pay for it. Sort of like me and this new computer.

            That is why big government (as compared with pre-New Deal government) is here to stay. It is essential to modern life. You can nip at its heels, beat back a marginal program or two, find ways to squeeze more work out of the bureaucrats, install a crony as the head of an agency and undermine it from within, but you can’t make it much smaller than it is, and in fact will have to watch it grow in the next few years in order to tackle multiple unattended issues.

            It ain’t going away my friend. Bush or no Bush. Reality is a cruel mistress.

          • CRAWDUDE

            He’s not mine, I dont want him! lol! I think I’ve finally realized what the definition of a neo-con is. For the longest time I wondered!

            A neo-con are these RINO’s that have somehow gotten themselves in positions of influence in the GOP. They follow the distorted ligic that GW hangs him hat on.

            For the record, I’m not a Republican; GW, John McCain and the Oregon GOP made sure of that years ago. There is no honor in the GOP any longer, much like the Democrats they’ve lost sight of the true meaning of the constitution. It was never designed for the politicians to protect themselves with, it was designed for the people to protect themselves from the politicians. Unfortunately it has been so diluted by not only this administration but the many before it that we no longer live under the freedoms envisioned by the founders.

        • DMF

          If there is not a liberal world and a conservative world, why do you call yourself a liberal?

  • Ted Kennedy’s Liver

    Liberalism is the philosphy of pessimists and conservatism is the philosophy of optimists. For liberals the glass is always nearing empty, even when it’s full.

    • dean

      TKL…the difference between an optimist and a pessimist: An optimist thinks we are living in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist KNOWS that we are living in the best of all possible worlds.

      To characterize an entire political philosophy as optimistic or pessimistic is not very useful after all is it TKL? I mean, where does it get you in the end? Classical conservatism was a political philosophy that advocated caution, protection of existing institutions, warriness of too much power concentrating in too few hands, and favored only incremental changes. It rejected “big ideas” as dangerous.

      Modern conservatism is revolutionary. It assumes we can radically downsize government, radically deregulate private industry, suspend laws that protect civil rights because 3 buildings were blown up in a single event, and invade any nation we don’t like or suspect. A case in point is the movement conservative approach to undocumented workers. Deporting 14 million people is put forth as a serious policy option, with no analysis at all on how disruptive this would be to the American economy, top to bottom. And anyone who disagrees is branded a heretic.

      If “conservatism” is so dang “optimistic,” why is it always so angry and fearfull? Optimists are happy, secure people, not angry, frightened ones.

  • Scooter

    Liberalism can be illustrated with global warming. Everyone knows politicians love power and some would like to increase their power. Also, everyone should know there are hundreds of variables that affect our global climate. However, when the government says hay give us more power and we will fix this global warming thing, a liberal says OK. A conservative doesn’t trust the motivations of politicians and begins to ask questions. Questions like; the global climate has been changing for eons, so what makes this time so different, other planets in our solar system are getting warmer as well, why is that, or, It has been shown that the sun has been burning hotter, so why is that not the cause. Conservatives find it odd that a politicians think they can not mention these things and the electorate will simply give them more power – Were are not all super intelligent liberals.

    But, the liberal says people who question “man made” global warming are flat earthers and then they say the debate is over… give government the power.

    • dean

      CD…careful or you will end up like Utah Phillips, who once declared himself “the United States of me!” Politics is about compromise and coalitions, not purity.

      DMF…one world, multiple political philosophies. I meant we can’t simply inhabit different planets because we disagree.

      Scooter….if we shift into a global warming debate we will be here a long time. But…taking your illustration as a sample, I think you have it only 1/2 right. Liberals like myself are also wary of ceding more power to government, but our wariness is focused on CIVIL liberties like free speech, habeous corpus, freedom of assembly, freedom of and FROM religion. We want to keep a police state at bay, but we are willing to cede ECONOMIC rights to support what we see as the greater good (less pollution, conservation of nature, etc)

      Conservatives seem more willing to increase police power and accept limitations on civil rights in order to feel safer, either from criminals, foriegners, or terrorists. But they are wary of any encroachments on their ECONOMIC freedom, including regulation and taxation. Global warming fits this scenario to a T, because if we accept the peroponderance of evidence from the scientists, then we need to act collectively and limit the “freedom” to pollute by burning fossil fuels and clearcutting forests.

      So its not one side for freedom and one against. Its just that we prioritize different aspects of our freedom.

      And yes, since the science of global warming has reached a substantial consensus among the experts, to the extent “conservatives” persist in denying the evidence you are in danger of flat earth status, and it is not the first time. Even Newt Gingrich has come around and is supporting “free market” solutions. He is no longer denying the problem.

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