Rethinking America

Pope Francis: USA, Get Ready for a Leftist Revolution

Why have US political pundits been so off the mark during this presidential election cycle? Just look to Pope Francis.

Credit: Pawel Szczepanski Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • We may see not only a retreat from right-wing ideology, but the makings of a left-of-center counterrevolution.
  • Pope Francis has earned praise for his warnings about climate change and criticism of capitalism.
  • There are striking parallels between John Paul II and Pope Francis.
  • Why have US political pundits been so off the mark during this election cycle? Just ask the Pope.
  • Extraordinarily, this is the first pope named Francis – a Catholic saint known for fighting poverty.

Political pundits don’t have a great record when it comes to elections, but they have been particularly off the mark during this United States presidential cycle.

On the Republican side, early universal favorites were Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, one current and one former governor with impeccable anti-union, tax cutting, soak-the-poor credentials.

The result? One is already out of the race, while Bush, for all his high-profile endorsements and cash raised, is trailing hopelessly in the polls.

Other true-blue conservatives in the race are not getting any traction with their proven supply-side, trickle-down, anti-Big Government mantra that seemed to work as recently as the midterm congressional election in 2014.

There has been a similar mess-up on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton, who had had the nomination sewn up well before the primary season even started, is losing support.

Her husband had taken the Democratic Party way to the center, where it remains to this day, but the greatest enthusiasm has been generated by Bernie Sanders, who’s taking it back to its roots on the left.

Why is this happening?

The answer may come as a surprise: Pope Francis.

Since his election, the modest Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has earned praise for his warnings about climate change and criticism of unbridled capitalism that causes the enrichment of the few and the impoverishment of many.

Extraordinarily, he became the first heir to St. Peter to take the name of Francis – an extremely popular Catholic saint known for his vow of poverty and love of all living things – not virtues that are held dear by modern capitalists.

Pope Francis has been more open than any of his predecessors to same sex couples and has called on Europe’s Catholics to host refugees in their homes. Crowds that come to greet him seem to believe that he’s on the right side of every issue.

His influence has spread far beyond the Catholic Church. During his visit to the United States, he is bravely stepping into a slew of ideological controversies.

Some Republicans are boycotting his visit because, as someone put it on social media, he has chosen the teachings of Jesus over the capitalist mantra.

Conservative Revolution

His remarkable popularity can only be compared to the love people felt for John Paul II, the Polish pope who made Bergoglio cardinal in 2001. Of course John Paul was very different from Francis in so many ways – but there are some striking parallels between them, too.

Karol Jozef Wojtyla became pope in October 1978. He was very charismatic but also quite conservative, inflexible and, by virtue of his native country being under Soviet domination, a staunch anti-communist.

His election was followed in quick succession by the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK in May 1979 and of Ronald Reagan in the United States in November 1980. The conservative revolution was under way.

The results of this revolution were very impressive. Communism was defeated. The Soviet Empire disappeared and China changed beyond recognition.

Deregulation, entrepreneurship and the rise of financial markets created vast fortunes, brought to life new technologies and built a plethora of new global brands, from Apple and Google to Facebook and Twitter.

But by 2008, exactly three decades after John Paul II became Pope, the conservative revolution had run its course. The economic downturn that followed was the worst since the Great Depression and, seven years on, the world has not yet recovered from it fully.

Worse, the traditional conservative prescriptions for a recovery have failed. Voters around the world are looking for new solutions.

A leftist revolution in the making

A political earthquake in many countries has followed the election of Francis on March 13, 2013, just as after John Paul’s election in 1978. In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, an old-school leftist, has been elected to head the opposition Labour Party.

In the United States, Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist and one of only two Independents in the Senate, has been filling stadiums with young, enthusiastic supporters.

Even Donald Trump’s campaign has been getting a lot of mileage not only from his hate speech about “Mexican rapists,” but from his attacks on those in his own party who want to cut Social Security and Medicaid, his promises to bring outsourced jobs back to America and criticism of high interest rates on student loans.

Only two years ago, the Republicans would have labeled such ideas dangerous communism.

For now, both Corbyn and Sanders are considered unelectable. Just as Thatcher once was, after she had abolished free milk for elementary school kids in 1970.

Ronnie Reagan had also been thought of as an amiable doddering fool with a penchant for telling old jokes and treating people to stale jelly beans. The two elderly socialists on both sides of the Atlantic may put pundits to shame yet again.

The Pope factor

In any case, we may be seeing not only a retreat from the right-wing ideology and free-market dogmas that have dominated political discourse in the West over the past three decades, but the makings of a left-of-center counterrevolution.

What is completely remarkable about the swing to the right that began in 1978 as well as the current swing to the left is that both began with a pope. And, the two pontiffs who started them burst onto the scene seemingly by accident.

John Paul was elected after his predecessor died suddenly after just 33 days in office. He became the first non-Italian to rise to the papacy since the Dutchman Adrian VI, who ruled for a short time early in the 16th century.

Francis I was equally a surprising choice. Unprecedentedly, his predecessor Benedict XVI retired voluntarily, a decision that put him into a unique position to hand-pick a conservative successor.

As to Bergoglio, he was not only a totally unknown compromise candidate, but he was a liberal elected by a Conclave composed of conservative appointees of the two previous popes.

This is the kind of stuff that would make you believe in Divine Providence.

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About Alexei Bayer

Alexei Bayer is the Eastern Europe Editor of The Globalist. [United States]

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