Schadenfreude & Lou Dobbs

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Joe Garcia
9 years 1 month ago
Would that Michael Huffington had spent $128M. Then the former Mrs. Huffington might've had considerably less disposable income to start her publication.
Pearce Shea
9 years 1 month ago
Michael Sean,
In all seriousness, a sinner  can probably be forgiven for every bit schadenfreude in which they engage as long as they are remorseful and aim to correct themselves. Judging from your daily blog here though, you are gleefully, happily, comfortably, and perpetually ready to revel in the misery of your imagined political adversaries. Indeed, you've made yourself a bit of a living doing it. And that is a condition that ought not be forgiven.
Helena Loflin
9 years 1 month ago
Great job, Mr. Winters!  Long before I stopped watching CNN (fauxFAUX), I stopped watching Lou Dobbs.  "Mr. Independent."  Oh, sure.  Of course, it's typical for his type to be hateful, but it was his unrelenting "shrill" that finally got to me.  And, may he blow most of his fortune trying to buy Hispanic votes! 
James Lindsay
9 years 1 month ago
The schadenfreude is not about Dobbs running for office, but in how rallying his base will stoke the rather toxic flames which will consume the Republican Party. I'm not sure its schadensfreude so much as delighting in the justice of God, considering how the party has concentrated its electoral strategy on aggressive war, opposition to reforming immigration (which borders on anti-Catholicism), the anti-Gospel economics of the Club for Growth and a fetish for non-relevant positions on Roe v. Wade. The sad thing is that certain Bishops are abetting them in this path.
9 years 1 month ago
Far more likely he will run for US senate in NJ. Not so sure he is automatically only taking republican votes however Michael Sean and Michael B.
Sure his anti illegal immigration rants find more sympathy in some conservative circles. He has been equally aggressive for years opposing free trade agreements - hand in glove with most of your card check, 'union yes' crowd. The latter is hardly a winner with most Republicans or the majority of voters in any event.
You are correct that he is at best a 20% impact due to his name recognition - even in bluer then blue New Jersey. Chris Christy just proved that an R who is pro life, opposed to legalizing gay marriage but will leave in place the State's strong civil union law, is catholic and sends his kids to Catholic schools can win even in a three way race in NJ. 
What I find ironic is he won with these positions by not making social issues the center piece of his campaign. He demurred and did not invite in the usual social issue suspects like Sara Palin. He ran on fiscal responsibility and fighting political corruption. The irony is he took a page out of the D playbook of focusing on issues that matter to people like jobs and state spending / corruption out of control and avoiding divisive social issues.
Christy inherits a functionally bankrupt state with a combination of over promised benefit giveaways  / over regulation and taxes already so high that even the most liberal tax and spenders dare not propose any higher state taxes so its hard to predict his future.
Still I think the chattering class is missing the mark by focusing on Sara Palin or Lou Dobbs and thus dismissing the Republican party overall while they at the same time minimize / rationalize why VA and NJ actually elected socially conservative leaning governors who focused on issues that really matter to voters. 
Happy thanksgiving also to you and your family Michael Sean.
Brendan McGrath
9 years 1 month ago
"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." - Actually, back in the 19th century, we Irish and people of some other ethnicities weren't considered white; we were considered to be another race.  So perhaps nativism had a racial component back then as well.


The latest from america

Women served as deacons in Europe for about a millennium in a variety of ministerial and sacramental roles.
Brandon SanchezJanuary 15, 2019
In preparation for the gathering in Abu Dhabi, I find myself asking why my conversations with the future Pope Francis so powerfully affected both of us.
Abraham SkorkaJanuary 15, 2019
Photo: iStock
Included on the list is John T. Ryan, S.J., who from 1989 to 1994 was an associate editor for development at America.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 15, 2019
Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? What sins did Jesus have to repent of? Nothing.
James Martin, S.J.January 14, 2019