According to polls — Pew Research Center, the National Science Foundation — and studies such as Arthur Brooks’s Gross National Happiness, conservative Americans are happier than liberal Americans.
Liberals respond this way: “If we’re unhappier, it’s because we are more upset than conservatives over the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves.”
But common sense and data suggest other explanations.
For one thing, conservatives on the same socioeconomic level as liberals give more charity and volunteer more time than do liberals. And as regards the suffering of non-Americans, for at least half a century conservatives have been far more willing to sacrifice American treasure and American blood (often their own) for other nations’ liberty.
Both of these facts refute the liberals-are-more-concerned-about-others explanation for liberal unhappiness.
So, let’s look at other explanations.
Perhaps we are posing the question backwards when we ask why liberals are less happy than conservatives. The question implies that liberalism causes unhappiness. And while this is true, it may be equally correct to say that unhappy people are more likely to adopt leftist positions.
Take black Americans, for example. It makes perfect sense that a black American who is essentially happy is going to be less attracted to the Left. Anyone who has interacted with black conservatives rarely encounters an angry, unhappy person.
Because the liberal view on race is that America is a racist society. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, a black American must abandon liberalism in order to be a happy individual. It is very hard, if not impossible, to be a happy person while believing that society is out to hurt you. So, the unhappy black person will gravitate to liberalism and liberalism will in turn make him more unhappy by reinforcing his view that he is a victim.
The unhappy gravitate toward the Left for a second reason. Life is hard for liberals and life is hard for conservatives. But conservatives assume that life will always be hard. Liberals, on the other hand, have utopian dreams. At his brother Robert’s funeral, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy recalled his brother saying: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”
Utopians will always be less happy than those who know that suffering is inherent to human existence. The utopian compares America to utopia and finds it terribly wanting. The conservative compares America to every other civilization that has ever existed and walks around wondering how he got so lucky as to be born or naturalized an American.