30 Comments

  1. Or maybe he sounds like that because the Overton window in US politics has been stretched so far to the right that a disproportionate chunk of the rest of the world sounds like left-of-that.

    1. Or maybe we just have a very fuzzy definition of what ‘liberal’ means? It used to mean you favored free trade, an expanded electorate, and a devolved Irish parliament, you know.

      Can’t we just say he’s a good man who is willing to talk to people he disagrees with rationally and openly, and agrees with us on most of the things that really matter?

      He’s doing as much as anyone to push that Overton window to the left. When the Pope says global warming is real, gay people should be treated like everybody else, capitalism is a force for evil, and we have to stop fighting wars, and start fighting poverty–c’mon. How many people you know that far left?

      1. All of the issues you mention are perfectly acceptable to a lot of conservative parties throughout Europe (well, maybe depending on the definiton of capitalism). I’d wager most of Europe’s parties would fit comfortably into the Democratic party, even if they are part of the political right in their home countries.

        1. I hear this a lot, and I never hear any specifics.

          Europe and Canada are idealized by the American Left in a way that simply does not match up very well to present-day reality.

          Point is, people with differing opinions manage to work together there. There’s been less polarization, because there’s a large political CENTER that most parties can meet in, and that’s what’s missing here. Not radical left politics, which tends to abhor the sane center and reasoned dialogue as much as the right.

          We’ve got plenty of radical leftists here, but they mainly suck at getting elected to anything, and they’ve mainly been a help to conservatives, by making ordinary people think that being left means they have to give up their values, and live like hippies.

          We don’t have a strong enough working class left here. A progressive Pope could do something to change that, in a way the Ralph Naders never could.

          And say this for Bernie Sanders, he’s loving this Pope. He knows a good thing when he sees it.

          1. A typical right-wing mainstream party in Europe today doesn’t have climate change denial on its radar at all. Neither does it engage in warmongering – certainly there’s a fair amount of nationalist chest-thumping at election times, but not a lot in the way of actual wars. The anti-gay attitudes are expressed with considerably less vitriol, as three quarters of European countries have anti-discrimination laws, as opposed to RFRAs and whatnot.

          2. In Europe no one denies climate change. In Canada, Harper doesn’t deny it, just refuses to do anything about it. In a practical sense that amounts to the same thing,

          3. And you know why that is, right? Canada has a vested economic interest in selling its shale oil.

            Europe has no oil to sell. It has coal, and Germany (which has sworn off nuclear) just fired up the biggest coal-burning plant in recorded history. They swear it’s clean.

            A lot of what we think is enlightened political idealism is really just people doing what works for them, politically and economically.

            Which is fine. But see it for what it is.

          4. Neither does it do all that much about global warming. Germany has done the most to encourage renewables, but the French are happily selling nuclear power to the rest of Europe, from reactors that are quite honestly a bit dodgy.

            We went into Libya because Britain and France wanted to go, and they didn’t have the logistical capacities to go it alone.

            Only twelve European countries legally recognize gay marriage, according to Wikipedia, and would you believe one of them is Ireland?

            Look at what’s actually happening there–the right is getting stronger.

          5. The right in Europe is currently getting stronger mainly because of immigration, or rather the perception that Europe is being overrun and unable to cope with the sudden and dramatic increase in asylum seekers. There will be regional elections in Austria soon, for example, and their more extreme right wing parties stand a pretty good chance. Still, it remains to be seen how sustaining that will turn out to be; if either the refugee numbers go down again or the countries learn to cope with them, the issue might just vanish.

          6. I imagine the left said similar things back before WWII. And before WWI. And before the 19th century revolutions. And etc.

            :

          7. The gay rights issue is far more nuanced than that – had it not been for the recent SC decision, you could stake a similar position with regard to the United States. That’s a case where it was good to have such a central forum and authority. OTOH Trump is a case where that is bad – he got a nationwide (continent-wide) platform, as opposed to e.g. Berlusconi, whose rise (and fall) affected only one country (state). Perhaps that is the key difference – there’s no actual huge risk of everything coming apart just because a madman has power, because all power is ultimately diffused.

          8. True, but power isn’t as diffused as you think–Germany has most of it. And the other members of the EU resent that bitterly. The whole enterprise is in danger of fracturing, and without it, can all of them afford to go on paying for the social safety net? Greece sure can’t.

            You could argue we’re the ones who have diffused power, because of the states–most of the individual EU states don’t give their regional governments that kidn of power. So yes, it’s very nuanced, hard to give a yes or no answer to any question about the differences between us. But we still have gay marriage in all fifty states, and they have it in twelve countries. And it was passed in Massachusetts in 2004–less than a year after Belgium.

            Btw, women had the vote here a long time before they did in France, which I think is rather a more significant milestone. 😉

          9. I don’t quite understand this argument as it relates to what we were just talking about. There is no particular danger of fracture – for example, Germany isn’t forcing its gay-rights position on any other country, nor can it, really, because the legal framework is such that they can’t really do it (the power to legislate these issues has not been delegated to the central EU institutions, let alone other countries directly). Likewise, Poland can’t do it, either.

            And as for the safety net, each EU country has its own budget and its own safety net programs. I really doubt any of them depend on the money from the joint budget to finance their unemployment benefits and such. Each country has an obligation to contribute its share of the EU budget, and its agents (government agencies, organized citizens, businesses) then have a right to apply for various forms of EU funding. In the end, some countries end up with a net plus, some with a net minus with regard to the budget, but only the smallest of them get a substantial net plus, meaning most of them can’t actually finance any big safety net programs from that much money. You can look it up at e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_the_European_Union#Net_contributors_and_recipients

            What might affect an EU country’s ability to maintain its social safety net would be the general state of its economy. Granted, if EU were to fracture, and if they were to end the free trade area, reinstate tariffs and whatever else, that would probably negatively impact at least some of those economies. But that’s why nobody’s actually talking about such a thing happening. That is, nobody except people who regurgitate right-wing talking points? 😉

          10. Specifics: Right-wing parties in Europe and Canada are not interested in getting rid of single-payer health care. In part this is conservative, keep things as they are. I’m not sure how many of them would push single-payer if it hadn’t already been implemented by previous left-of-center governments,

            Taxes-I can’t speak for all of them. Harper certainly cut taxes in Canada a lot.

            War- They’re all over the place. Blair went into Iraq and he was Labour. France messes into former colonies in Africa, regardless of who is in power.

            There aren’t the crazy loons within the parties in Europe and Canada that you have in the US Republicans, because the leaders control who runs. You can’t just announce you want to be the candidate in X riding; the leader has to choose you.

          11. Are they not interested in it, or just not willing to pay the political price just yet? Maggie Thatcher did a hell of a lot of damage to the social safety net back in the day, but she knew how far she could go. I see a lot of talk about European conservatives wanting to change healthcare there.

            And single-payer does not work the way you think it does, as my friend in Germany keeps telling me. You don’t just walk into the doctor’s office and say “Here I am.” It’s a good system, but you do wait longer to see a doctor, and many of the best doctors aren’t in the system, as my friend found out when he had to have his son’s bone problems diagnosed.

            The Le Pens aren’t crazy loons? Berlusconi isn’t a crazy loon? We’re not seeing things fall apart because of controversy over the Muslim refugees?

            Grass is always greener, man. We can learn from them, no question. But frankly, I even bring up letting dogs on mass transit here, like they do in Europe, and everybody who isn’t a huge dog lover freaks–left and right. 🙂

          12. Some specifics… David Cameron, UK prime minister and leader of the (right-wing) Conservative party:
            (1) He thinks man-made climate change poses one of the greatest risks to the UK and the rest of the world (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/26/climate-change-serious-threat-david-cameron-prime-ministers-questions )
            (2) He wants to keep abortion legal up to 24 weeks (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-19857977 )
            (3) He describes legalizing same-sex marriage as one of his proudest achievements (http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/01/10/david-cameron-same-sex-marriage-was-one-of-my-proudest-achievements-in-2014/ )

            … all of which are considered left-wing positions in the USA.

          13. 1)Great–doesn’t stop him from selling all Scotland’s North Sea oil, does it now?

            2)Meaning he wants it illegal after that. If a big enough anti-abortion movement developed there (and it might), you’d see his position change pretty quick.

            3)Still only twelve European countries that legally recognize gay marriage. Which is now legally recognized in all fifty states of the U.S.

            Yes, the Republican Party is exceptionally right-wing by European standards, but is Europe as a whole that much to the left of us? Take off the rose-colored specs. Europe is not paradise, and the political trendlines there now are worrisome.

          14. (2) Err, no. If you read the link, he wants to keep the UK’s current rules. Which is basically no restrictions up to 24 weeks, and only life-of-the-mother thereafter. I was summarizing.

          15. And here, you know what a Republican President would do?

            Talk all the time about banning abortion, and never do it. Because he can’t. Because it’s a Supreme Court thing. And because he doesn’t really want to, because it’s a great fund-raiser. Kick it to the states–so that it’s easily available in blue states, and increasingly hard to get in red states.

            Britain is going to the right, and you act like it’s a great thing its conservative leader says moderate things–you know why? He wants to go on being its leader, and pushing his country to the right.

            Most Europeans think we’re nuts to spend so much time on issues like abortion.

            But look at some of the issues they’re talking about now.

            I see Europe going right. I see them being in worse shape than us in many ways. Too many cracks in that structure.

            I wish them good luck, and I hope they make good choices. But I don’t see them as being this vastly advanced society compared to us. I think we have to make our own choices, and not keep pointing to them–it doesn’t convince anybody who isn’t already convinced.

    2. short answer: yes

      for a much longer way of saying the exact same thing as if it is a different point while attempting to seem erudite, please so other reply

  2. Sheesh, I wish most Democrats were as progressive as him.

    I grew up in a staunchly Post-Vatican II parish, and the priests were far and away the most progressive people there.

    On every issue that didn’t involve reproduction, and they tended not to press that issue very strongly.

    Today, the priesthood in America can be very conservative–a lot of mediocrities have gotten in as vocations have lapsed, and the influence of three conservative popes in a row has certainly left a mark–but Jesuits are quite simply some of the best educated people on the planet, and well-educated people tend to be liberals on most issues.

    Nobody is a liberal on every issue, in my experience.

  3. Maybe it’s kinda silly to try and apply labels like “liberal” or “conservative” to a
    dude that’s upholding an institution that predates the modern definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” by about two thousand years.

    1. Agreed. Mind you, he grew up in the modern world, and has engaged with it more than the average person ever does. He’s hardly led a sheltered existence. I’d say liberal is a fair enough term to apply to him, but the institution he leads is not one that changes easily, or even willingly. There are limits not only to what he can do, but what he can say in public. In theory, the Pope has absolute power over the Church. In practice, not so much.

      Dorothy Day, who he name-checked yesterday, was no liberal–she was a radical left-wing pacifist. She was also rigorously opposed to abortion and birth control. But her main focus was always poverty and war and the rights of labor, and taking the gospel message at face value, instead of looking for ways to subvert or selectively ignore it. And she lived a life that was totally consistent with her values, which is more than most of us can say.

      So really, ‘liberal’ might be underrating Francis. In many respects, he’s probably further to the left than anyone on this thread.

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