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.