Almost unknown outside of Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named the fourth “Most Powerful Person in the World/People Who Rule the World” by Forbes seven months after his election as pope. Five months later, another business publication, Fortune, named him the “World’s Greatest Leader.” Three of the four other top “rulers of the word” have already been to the Vatican to pay him homage: Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. Only Xi Jinping has not yet made the pilgrimage but literally dozens of other heads-of-state have done so and have strengthened their diplomatic ties to the Holy See.
This leap from obscurity to global power was accomplished by the same corporate media complicit in shifting the wealth of the world’s richest nation into the pockets of the 1%. They selectively reported when Bergoglio looked and talked like a moderate populist. They did not tell us about Bergoglio’s compliance with Argentina’s military junta, his disgraceful history on child sex abuse nor his advocacy of right-wing politics. (Also here, here and here.)
And even though progressives know that the Religious Right was created by the neocons to facilitate this takeover, that the Catholic episcopate is an enthusiastic adjunct of the plutocracy, and that the men who elected Bergoglio were appointed by the same popes as the Obama-bashing, misogynist and homophobic U.S. bishops, we were as taken in by the “incense-smoke and mirrors” as the rest of the populace. We not only accepted without question the corporate media’s careful reporting but also showed no interest in Bergoglio’s papal appointments of men with backgrounds and worldviews at polar opposites to his constructed image. (Also, here and here.)
While the U.N. Committee on Torture questioned the Vatican this week over its role in aiding and abetting the global sexual assaults against children four months after the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child charged the Vatican with “systematic” responsibility for these crimes, Bergoglio lectured the U.N. Secretary General. He told Ban Ki-Moon to promote the “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state as well as indispensible cooperation between the private sector and civil society….to give back generously whatever we may have unjustly refused to others.” In January, Paul Ryan said: “People need to get involved in their own communities’ [solutions to poverty] and government needs to remove the barriers that allow that to happen.” Government can do some things such as: “Income support” that “needs to encourage upward mobility and work.”
The Republican Party rejoices at the success of their post-2012 strategy. As we know, in March 2013 after months of preparation, the Republican National Committee issued a frank “autopsy report” with a “plan to change the public perception that the GOP doesn’t care about people.” Along with strategies for outreach to women, Hispanics and other minorities, the plutocrats concluded: “Our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case….We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare….When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.”
Catholic hierarchs had also become so ineffective that I was surprised that the plutocracy still had enough confidence in the Church’s influence to install another pope. I had also misjudged the ability of any pope to catapult to superstardom surpassing even Pope John Paul II.
The most important issue for Democrats now is how to defeat Republican candidates who have been coached to look and talk like moderate populists. (See also here, here and here.) According to the latest polls (May 5), USA Today/Pew Research shows Republicans leading in a generic ballot heading into the midterm elections. CNN/ORC International, NBC/Wall Street Journal and ABC/Washington Post have us virtually tied.
I hope that our strategists will find a way before November to defeat these sham candidates. They may want to examine the popular response to Pope Francis for some insights.
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))
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