Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good.— Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall in As Good as it Gets
Why are liberals, leftist, and progressives so mean? I started to list the mean, outrageous, and downright revolting things progressive have said in the last four years, but I try to keep these posts to fewer than one thousand words. Besides we all know them. If you are on the right, you’re aghast and if you’re on the left you’re gleeful. The interesting part is not what they said, but why the fringe left has such a deep-seated need to bully people with opinions different than their own.
Melvin got it right. Progressives are unhappy people and they feel a need to strike out at anyone who seems to be enjoying life. Their childhood was sad, or people were judgmental about their life choices, or colleagues got ahead and they didn’t. Others made more money, got the book contract, the exhibit, or the hot music gig. Their relationships are fleeting and loveless. Their children have problems, real or inflicted. Their social circle is not supportive because it’s made up of people just like themselves. Their world is a scary place with bad guys, invisible contaminants, and catastrophes just over the horizon that will wipe out civilization. Progressives are filled with guilt: guilt about their lives, guilt about imagined and real slights they’ve made against others, even guilt about others not feeling guilt. A few successful progressives feel guilt about their success, although this never seems to be the case in sports which is a pure meritocracy.
Progressives are mean because they’re miserable and want to shift the blame to someone else or at least make others feel equally miserable. Their natural reflex is to strike out at anyone who reminds them of why they’re angry. This may be so subtle the target is baffled by their interpretation. If someone else piles on and throws a truly offensive insult at the target, they cheer. In their world view, this is only just. And make no mistake; their view of the world and the future is entirely different than those on the right. Since we’re using a movie theme, it’s Blade Runner versus Star Trek.
Let me be clear; unhappy people do not make up the whole of the Democrat party, but unhappy people are Democrats. They are Democrats because Democrats promise to ease their pain. They don’t, but in most cases, soothing words are enough.
Here’s the problem for Democrats—and President Obama in particular—there are not enough people in the car. In As Good as it Gets, there are only three people in the car. They represent single mothers, gays, and pseudo-intellectuals. Race-baiting will get more into the car, but that’s still not going to be enough. In the President Carter years we talked about the Misery Index. If measured the same way as when Carter was president, the Misery Index is now half again as high. Shared misery: that ought to cause people to stampede to get into the car.
But perhaps not. True, there are enough people having difficulties that Obama could have a landslide victory, but most are generally happy people going through a rough patch. They are not unhappy people. They are just living through unhappy times. Will they clamor into the car to join the unhappy, or hitch a ride back to the future? We’ll find out on November 6.
James D. Best is the author of the Steve Dancy Tales and Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Look for his new book, Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic.