published Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Kennedy: Are independent voters really miserable?

A recent article in The New York Times caught my eye. It was an op-ed piece with the headline: "Why Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals."

It was written by Arthur C. Brooks, president of a conservative think tank called the American Enterprise Institute.

Brooks has concluded conservatives are happier than liberals based on behavioral research.

People in both of those political camps can fight it out over who is happier for all I care. The combatants in the culture wars are well armed. They have their own cable television networks, their own political parties and their powerful PACs. (Interestingly, conservatives reported a higher incidence of marriage and regular religious worship, two lifestyle choices that both strongly correlated with raising happiness levels, Brooks reports.)

What chaps me is the fact that the same research that Brooks uses in his essay notes, almost in passing, that moderates -- political centrists, including many who call themselves independents -- are the most unhappy bunch of all.

Really?

As a lifelong centrist, this has created a kink in my belief system. Part of the satisfaction of being an independent is watching zealots at both ends of the political spectrum go at it. Who knew, to quote KC & the Sunshine Band, that's the way -- uh-huh, uh-huh -- they like it?

Here's what Brooks concludes in his essay: "... The happiest Americans are those who say their are either 'extremely conservative' (48 percent very happy) or 'extremely liberal' (35 percent). Everyone else is less happy with the nadir (low point) at dead-center 'moderate' (26 percent)."

Yikes.

I can only conclude that being self-certain in your beliefs, unencumbered by any reflex to find middle ground with an ideological opponent, must be liberating.

I will admit that there's a strain associated with being a moderate. You begin to feel like the pole holding up the big tent while all the partisan circus clowns play pie-in-the-face down below.

Well, we independents are tired of being ignored in politics and in culture in general. We are mad as heck, and we aren't going to take it any more.

Here is our milquetoasts manifesto.

• We will not vote for anybody who is mean-spirited or weak. Don't laugh. We know both when we see them.

• We will reserve special disregard for sponsors of nauseating negative television ads.

• We will try to end the cycle of partisan rancor by encouraging our children to identify with neither political party, but to think independently in every election cycle.

• Any candidate who insults us with a robocall will be disqualified from ever receiving our votes.

• We will give fair consideration to independent candidates until they prove untrustworthy in holding the middle ground.

Finally, a thought for the day:

A few hundred thousand of us -- moderate, independent voters in Florida, Virginia and Ohio -- will wake up on the morning of Nov. 6, tie our shoes and elect a president.

And there's nothing much dyed-in-the-wool partisans on either side can do about it.

Hmm. Who's happy now?

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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