Europeans by and large wanted Barack Obama to win the election. There is little or no genuine elation, however, as for some time now the man has lost the power to inspire that once made him seem so singular. In 2008, he was seen as the incarnation of American energy and renewal. People admired that, but anyone listening to public discourse could also catch some of the usual resentment that America would soon be throwing its weight about once again. By 2012, Obama has proved himself the kind of politician Europeans are familiar with, someone incapable of dealing with the problems he faces, and without the character to come to terms with his own limitations. Europeans are in crisis; they have no understanding of how or why this has happened to them nor what should be done about it.
I cannot prove it, but I am confident that many if not most Europeans welcome Obama out of a sense that he is bringing the United States down to their level of helplessness and confusion. What they are expressing is really schadenfreude, that untranslatable word for taking pleasure in the misfortune of others.