Pope Francis, Politics, and Trump: Why We Must Vote Trump Out

Pope Francis, Politics, and Trump: Why We Must Vote Trump Out October 29, 2020

Geralt: Trump and Kim / pixabay

Pope Francis, in his newest encyclical, explains how good politicians are concerned about the common good, not about their own private interests. They seek to help society, to make it better. Thus, they ask themselves questions, trying to determine if what they do is only for themselves or if it is for others:

At times, in thinking of the future, we do well to ask ourselves, “Why I am doing this?”, “What is my real aim?” For as time goes on, reflecting on the past, the questions will not be: “How many people endorsed me?”, “How many voted for me?”, “How many had a positive image of me?” The real, and potentially painful, questions will be, “How much love did I put into my work?” “What did I do for the progress of our people?” “What mark did I leave on the life of society?” “What real bonds did I create?” “What positive forces did I unleash?” “How much social peace did I sow?” “What good did I achieve in the position that was entrusted to me?” [1]

Good politicians will ask themselves these questions because they are truly concerned about others. That is why they got into politics. They saw needs which were not being met and went about the way they thought they could best have them fulfilled. And, once in office, they understood that they need to continually examine themselves and what they are doing, to do an examination of conscience and see if they have been corrupted by power. If they see themselves answering such questions poorly, that is, if they see that they have started to promote their own interests over the good of the people, they will correct themselves, or realize it is time to get out of politics. Bad politicians, on the other hand, will mock such questions, Not only are they so self-assured that they see no need to question themselves and what they do, they also do not care about the common good, but rather, their own private interests and desires. Joseph Biden, for all his faults, is willing to ask these questions about himself; on the other hand, Donald Trump, with all his bluster, has never shown any willingness for critical self-examination, and so Trump will never be able to allow others question him or suggest anything which he does not want.

Trump loves to be adored. He likes to think he is adored, even if he is not. He likes to make it seem like he is. He is not interested in the common good, but rather, in an embrace of personal power. He thinks this is what good government is about, which is why he has consistently given accolades to those who seize power and use it to enforce their will. This, to him, is a sign of intelligence. Putin. Duterte. Kim Jong-un. Each have received Trump’s praise, and Trump in turn, has shown himself wanting to follow in their footsteps. How else can we understand many of Trump’s actions, such as how he implied that he sent US Marshalls after Michael Reinoehl without any attempt to take him in alive? Justice is denied when police are encouraged to become judge, jury, and executioner, but this is exactly what happens under brutal dictatorships and strong-arm politicians who lean towards such dictatorships. The police help enforce the rule of the dictator, and the dictator in turn has their back; is this not why Trump has told the police that he will help protect them against charges of brutality?

Corruption, likewise, is common under tyrannical regimes. Those with power will use it to get what they want. After all, they have power with little to no accountability. Once the regime is overturned, those who profited by such corruption are arrested, tried, and convicted of the crimes they committed. Trump, however, suggests he cannot be held accountable for what he does while president. He has also tried to suggest those who work for him likewise are protected from prosecution. The Attorney General, Bill Barr, likewise promotes this vision of executive privilege. It should not be surprising, therefore, that many of Trump’s personal advisors are corrupt. They have tried to claim executive privilege, because they work for Trump. When that fails them, they rely upon Trump to pardon them, which he has often done.

Pope Francis, likewise, warns us that demagogues hide behind “populism” in order to endanger the common good:

Lack of concern for the vulnerable can hide behind a populism that exploits them demagogically for its own purposes, or a liberalism that serves the economic interests of the powerful. In both cases, it becomes difficult to envisage an open world that makes room for everyone, including the most vulnerable, and shows respect for different cultures. [2]

Trump, far from being self-conscious, far from being what a politician should be, someone who works for the benefit of all the people, has shown them contempt. Such contempt is not had only for those who refused to vote for him. He has shown no care or concern even for those who follow him, which is why at Trump rally in Omaha several people ended up needing medical attention because of the way they were treated by Trump and his campaign team. Of course, his COVID19 response shows the same lack of concern, for he is willing to push for a strategy, so-called “herd immunity,” which will result in countless deaths, and countless lives destroyed. It seems that dealing with COVID19, treating it seriously, gets in the way of Trump’s personal interests: why else did he ignore it when he was warned about it? The same can be said with the social safety net which protects many vulnerable people in the United States: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA, Food Stamps, all of them are threatened by Trump because they get in the way of his own private interests. Likewise, it should be of no surprise that Trump, following his private interests, shows contempt for multiculturalism, which is why he is willing to work with and be advised by those like Stephen Miller, who promotes racist ideologies.

The United States cannot last much longer if Trump is re-elected. Enemies of the United States, like the Taliban, understand this, which is why they support Trump. We have before us the chance to say no more. To repudiate Trump and the slouch towards tyranny which he has brought with him. The time to resist is now. Vote him out. Vote out all his enablers. There might not be any perfect candidates, but we must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The United States (and with it, the world) stands at a point of existential crisis. Pope Francis understands this, which his why he warns the world of the dangerous forms of populism running rampant around the world today:

At a time when various forms of fundamentalist intolerance are damaging relationships between individuals, groups and peoples, let us be committed to living and teaching the value of respect for others, a love capable of welcoming differences, and the priority of the dignity of every human being over his or her ideas, opinions, practices and even sins. Even as forms of fanaticism, closedmindedness and social and cultural fragmentation proliferate in present-day society, a good politician will take the first step and insist that different voices be heard. Disagreements may well give rise to conflicts, but uniformity proves stifling and leads to cultural decay. May we not be content with being enclosed in one fragment of reality. [3]

We must understand this. We cannot let things continue as they are going.

[1] Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti. Vatican translation. ¶ 197.

[2] Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, ¶ 155.

[3] Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, ¶ 191.

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