The Justifications for Liberal Schadenfreude

Katherine Goldstein writes at Slate magazine that “Liberal schadenfreude is out of control.” Citing a handful of juvenile tweets of people telling Republicans to “suck it,” she says it’s downright unseemly for liberals to react with glee to last week’s election results, and that it only serves to divide us.

But I began to notice, both in media coverage and in social media networks, that Obama supporters were not just thrilled that our guy won—folks were insanely, morbidly happy that all Republicans were miserable. And they weren’t just picking on easy and legitimate punching bags like Karl Rove and Donald Trump. Lindy West of Jezebel wrote a blog post entitled “My Ten Favorite Kinds of Right Wing Temper Tantrums” in which she proudly declared, “I am just 99 percent completely fucking delighted by every single weepy right-wing temper tantrum. I can’t stop hate-reading. I can’t stop.” A blogger for The Daily Koswrote, “So please know, my fervid conservative friends, that I am temporarily suspending the empathic sensibility that generally informs most of us on the left. I am not laughing with you, in other words, since you seem capable of neither doubt nor self-deprecation. I am laughing at you. You are welcome to join me.” Someone created a Tumblr called White People Mourning Romney. It isn’t particularly interesting or clever, unless you just like photos of your fellow Americans crying or looking disappointed, but people sent in dozens of submissions. Judging by the number of delighted notes on each post, these photos fill many liberal hearts with glee. Mary Elizabeth Williams from Salon concludes it’s OK to meanly gloat because we New Yorkers need a reason to be happy after having such a tough time with Sandy.

But I think she’s missing the point, at least for the gloating I’ve done. First of all, the glee has little to do with Obama winning; I didn’t vote for him in 2008, I didn’t vote for him this time, and I’ve been a vocal critic of many of his policies from the start (and I’m certainly not going to stop). I’m not thrilled that Obama was elected president again. In fact, I’m appalled that the lesser of two evils is really the best we can do.

But I was, and remain, positively giddy that Romney lost. That’s partly because I have no doubt that he would have been far worse than Obama, wrong in all the same ways Obama is and a lot more wrong in most other areas. But it’s also because the right wing absolutely deserves our derisive laughter because, with all the legitimate criticisms that can and must be aimed at Obama’s worst policies, the right has offered little but the most idiotic and delusional criticisms instead.

Yes, Obama was born here. No, he isn’t going to take away your guns. No, he isn’t a Marxist, a communist or a socialist (and if you had any clue at all what those terms mean, you’d know that). No, he isn’t a Muslim. And he didn’t go on an “apology tour.” And health care reform is not going to lead to the Fourth Reich (believe it or not, Hitler did not kick off the final solution by first making sure the Jews had access to health care). And he isn’t going to give the UN control of all local zoning decisions. And he isn’t moving 100 million Muslims to the United States, or plotting to enforce Sharia law in America. Those things aren’t just wrong, they’re insane. They’re utterly delusional.

Add to that the absurd narrative that Fox News and right wing pundits, big and small, have pushed for the last few months, that the polling companies and the “liberal media” were conspiring to make it look like Obama was likely to win the election when, in reality, Romney was going to win a landslide. This isn’t just schadenfreude, though it’s partly that. It’s also glee that the right lost despite making some of the most deranged claims imaginable over the last few years, which they’ve only doubled down on since last Tuesday.

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