Schadenfreude, taking delight in the misery of others, is a sin, a grievous sin, indeed one of the most grievous sins because it denies that essential sympathy with the human condition that is so obvious on virtually every page of the Gospels. But, in the realm of politics, filled as it is with out-sized egos and grotesque moral calculi, you can be forgiven a bit of schadenfreude now and then.
My current case of schadenfreude is unique because it is prospective. Usually, delight in the misery of others involves a looking back at a misery already accomplished. But, the news that Lou Dobbs is mulling a run for the presidency in 2012 fills with me glee that in the near future we will see this blowhard racist encounter a misery he thoroughly deserves.
Dobbs is a determined nativist, one of the longest running cancers in the America body politic. In the nineteenth century, nativism arose largely in response to the mass immigration of Roman Catholics from Ireland and Germany. These immigrants were viewed as a threat to the Protestant values that were the air young America breathed in its early decades. A convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts was burned. Maria Monk, a notorious con artist, conducted a wildly successful speaking tour publicizing her entirely fictional accounts of life in a convent. "Rum, Romanism and rebellion" were lumped together as the principal threats to civic society.
Today, the immigration comes largely from Latin America and Asia, adding a distinctively racist component to nativism, making it even uglier than it was two centuries ago. There is not a large audience for nativism, but it is a noisy audience and with unemployment in double digits, everyone wants a scapegoat. The principal threat to comprehensive immigration reform is the high unemployment rate: A guest worker program must be part of any comprehensive immigration reform and such a program will not sit well with unemployment so high.
After Michael Huffington spent $28 million dollars of his own money trying to purchase a Senate seat in California in 1994, a wise friend said, "Don’t you wish he had spent $38 million." Huffington came close, losing to Diane Feinstein by less than 2 percent of the vote but if he spent another $10 million it wouldn’t have mattered. Dobbs is more like Ross Perot and will probably peak at around 20 percent, almost all of which will come out of the Republican pool of votes. Dobbs, with all his fame and all his money, preaches a political creed that most Americans reject. Most Americans have a keen sense of fair play and they acknowledge the myriad gifts immigrants bring to our country and our culture.
It is shocking enough that a candidate who combines paranoia and venom in equal measure can garner any votes. But, it will be a great lesson to all the haters in the world to see him fail. It will also be fun. Let the schadenfreude begin.