The movement that propelled Donald Trump into the White House is not isolated to the United States. It is a global phenomenon. All over the West, a populist backlash is brewing against the elites of society. And that backlash all too often takes the shape of authoritarianism and ethnonationalism.
If so much weren’t at stake in this matchup between these two warring factions, I’d be tempted to reprise Henry Kissinger’s infamous phrase about the Iran-Iraq War: “It’s a pity both sides can’t lose.” The global elite has been on an extended vision quest up its own derrière. It has been responsible for countless dramatic failures, and still seems unable to question itself and its own failed paradigms. At the same time, the special mix of fear mongering, incompetence, and corruption that the Trumps and and Nigel Farages and Marine Le Pens of the world promote is just as bad, if not worse.
Which is why we desperately need a world leader who can articulate a vision of what’s true, good, and beautiful, and can serve as an alternative to Trumpism. And there’s a man who’s made for the role: Pope Francis.
In many ways, these two men are perfect foils for each other; if Trump is a right-wing populist, I don’t think it would be an insult to call Pope Francis a left-wing populist. He has little time for elites, is constantly berating “clericalism” in the church, likes to skewer ideological opponents with bon mots, and fancies himself an advocate of the little guy. While Francis dutifully restates the complex social theology of the church, the issues he has chosen to champion are associated with the progressive left: greater acceptance of divorce, solidarity with migrants, business-bashing, and environmental protection.
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