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Monday, November 06, 2006

What's so bad about feeling good?

This election season, I've noticed a particular feeling of schadenfreude developing that I'm not sure I'm comfortable with. It probably started around the time that the tide in public opinion began shifting on the war in Iraq. I've never been a fan of the war, and it made me glad to see that people were beginning to notice its lack of direction. The unconscious idea there was, I think, that the quicker things go bad there, the quicker people notice, and the quicker a new strategy will be implemented.1

I also recall a particular pleasure after the Jack Abrhamoff scandal came to light, crossing my fingers each day that a new Republican official would be indicted. This peaked when Tom DeLay retired after being removed from his post as majority leader.

Next, of course, came the Mark Foley scandal. By the time the affect of it became clear, I'm sure it was all most Democrats could do to not cheer and giggle when making their public statements denouncing Foley's behavior. I was just crossing my fingers that the story would stay hot until election day. Ultimately, political schadenfreude comes because one party's ruin is the other party's opportunity.

I feel a strong amount of pleasure at watching the consistent Republican gaffes, but I also feel kind of depressed about all of it. Depressed at the catastrophe that continues in Iraq, the embarrassing torture bill that President Bush recently signed into law, the inactivity of Congress as a whole, and the dozens of other events over the last six years that have put the United States in near universal disfavor. Each bad decision does more than just hurt the party.

If I had to make up a new German word to describe my deeper feelings, I suppose it would be something like schadenfreudenschuld, indicating the guilt I feel at feeling pleasure at others' misfortune. In other words, I feel bad that bad things have to happen for people to figure out that the party they elected never really knew what they were doing in the first place--they'd only taken advantage of the disorganization and disunity of the Democrats last time. I guess this is the nature of politics--partisans want the opposition to fail so they can get their own agenda accomplished; the result of this is that half of working in politics is doing your best to make the other guys look bad.

My current fear is that the potential wave of Democratic victories will be based purely on Republican mistakes, which could leave the Dems open to a similar, opposing wave the next time it's time for us to cast our ballots. I guess if you can't get anything done, the best you can hope for is to make the other guy look less competent. At least we're winning that race.

1The Bush administration's blind stubbornness regarding the war is particularly infuriating, but some say that the administration will reveal an altered approach to winning this war after the elections.


Blogger Ben said...

"This election season, I've noticed a particular feeling of schadenfreude developing that I'm not sure I'm comfortable with."

This schadenfreude seems to have been around for quite some time. In fact, it often seems like the left engages in pre-emptive schadenfreude, the feeling of glee at the predicted future failure of others. (I saw a bumper sticker yesterday with a peace sign and the slogan "WE TOLD YOU SO." Extremely helpful, no?)

While I can at least partly understand your desire to see things fail quickly so they can be fixed quickly, I think that the left (well, the thinking left anyway) needs to understand that their attitude is pretty damn hard to distinguish from a hope that America loses, or that radical Islamist insurgents win.

Frankly, I am beginning to hope that a Democrat wins in 2008. Not because I think he(she?) will do any better in Iraq, but at least then our best writers, artists and cultural elites will shut the fuck up and stop advertizing our country as somehow being the Fourth Reich. They can go back to making movies wherein the president is a badass action hero/saint/family man.

6:36 PM  

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