Conservatives: Closet nihilists?

I was reading an article by William Kristol on Tony Snow's passing, when I came across this quote:

For quite a while now, optimism has had a bad reputation in intellectual circles. The fashionable books of my youth — and they are good books — were darkly foreboding ones like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and George Orwell’s “1984.” Young conservatives of the era were much taken by Whittaker Chambers’s gloomy memoir, “Witness.” We who read Albert Camus — and if you had any pretensions to being a non-Marxist intellectual, you read Camus — loved the melancholy close of his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus”: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

The basic attitude one derived from these works was that pessimism is deeper than optimism, and existential angst more profound than cheerful confidence. This attitude remains powerful, perhaps dominant, among many thoughtful people today — perhaps especially among conservatives, reacting against a facile liberal belief in progress.
I will freely admit that for a long time, my thinking was very similar to that in the previous paragraphs. I had an implicit belief that people who smiled too much were probably too stupid to recognize all the reasons that they should be unhappy. My mom referred to me as "being a bit of a Raskolnikov." It was all very high school and I'm very glad that I've moved past that point.

So, I'm definitely a bit puzzled by the fact that Kristol has politicized this point of view, tentatively claiming it for conservatives. Especially if this type of overly intellectualized brooding is rooted in particular books, my immediate thought would be that it's more of a matter of one's education. I mean isn't wearing black, smoking a bunch of cigarettes and talking about nihilism more in the domain of liberals with artsy-fartsy degrees in existentialism. It seems much less well-suited to Southern baptists or libertarians. Anyway, just my thoughts.

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