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Hardcore Conservatives The Happiest

Think that Tea Party types are mad, miserable people? Think again. Salon reports on a Canadian study that finds people who consider themselves highly conservative are happier than everybody else. Salon writes (and it must have just about killed them to have done so):

[T]his research calls into serious question the notion of far right-wingers being grumps who are taking out their misery on those around them. If these results are correct, they may be making others (such as, say, Republican moderates) plenty miserable, but on a personal level, they’re doing quite OK.

Any idea why that might be? My first guess would be that conservatives have a stronger sense of metaphysical order, which lessens their anxiety by comparison to others. I could be wrong. The reader who sent this to me says he comes across as grumpy in his comments here, but he’s actually really happy. I get that. I’ve found that people who only know me through this blog often tell me, upon spending time with me personally, that they’re surprised by how laid-back and chipper I am, given how woeful and heavy the posting here can be at times. My wife says she doesn’t understand how I can read such maximum-heaviosity books at bedtime, then just roll over and go to sleep. I have a way of being able to talk about serious, even depressing, subjects with detachment. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about them, it just means that for me, there’s a certain abstract quality to the discussion that doesn’t affect the way I carry out my daily life. I’m a philosophical pessimist, but not a very consistent one; temperamentally, I’m fairly upbeat. You want to get a sense of what I’m like in person? It’s in my food-related posts.

Another possibility that might explain the research: conservatives, unlike liberals, don’t expect Utopia, so aren’t so angry that we have failed to reach it. They can more easily find inner peace even though perfect justice hasn’t been accomplished. Sometimes this is a bad thing, e.g., conservatives being more tolerant of injustice than they ought to be. But it does explain greater personal contentment. In my personal experience, the unhappiest people I’ve come across tend to be highly educated liberals, of the sort who tend to feed off of anxiety, or who think that perpetual righteous anger is a sign of blessedness. Always deeply worried or royally pissed off about something.

UPDATE: Sorry, I should have added the caveat that I take studies like this with a grain of salt. I just thought there was something about it that made intuitive sense, and was worth speculating about, anyway. I don’t think MSNBC drones or FoxBots are good examples of liberals or conservatives, but rather a subspecies of both trends. People who get caught up in the partisan media of their own side tend to think they are normative and that the other side is just like them. Only two million people in the country watch Fox News in prime time; MSNBC is less than half of that. The conservatives I know who are really into Fox News, to the extent its content strongly drives their viewpoint, are older ones. I imagine the same is true for the liberal cable channels. I think most people in this country hold to their own positions without being angry about it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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