Everybody likes the pope.
Or at least nearly everybody. Time‘s newly minted Person of the Year is viewed favorably by 92 percent of American Catholics, according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll. The same poll found that 69 percent of all Americans view Francis favorably. And these numbers have been rising since Francis’s election in March. A new Wall Street Journal poll says that the pope’s popularity has nearly doubled since July. Francis is already at least as popular as Pope John Paul II was at his peak.
So when Pope Francis issued his World Day of Peace message on Thursday attacking the “widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs,” Americans listened. This is the same pope who in September criticized the global economic system for worshipping “a god called money” and said that “we want a just system that helps everyone.” It’s the same pope who denounced “trickle-down” economics and warned that the “idolatry of money” would lead to a “new tyranny.”
While the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in 2011 deserves credit for bringing income inequality to the political front-and-center, it’s Pope Francis who can actually keep it there.
A big part of the reason for that is his popularity. Occupy Wall Street never had anything like the pope’s approval numbers. A month after the movement began in fall 2011, more Americans approved of Occupy than disapproved by a slim margin, 39 percent to 35 percent.
But a vastly larger number of Americans supported the ideas behind the Occupy movement. A December 2011 Pew Research poll found that while Occupy at that point had just a 44 percent approval rating, 77 percent of Americans believed that “too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations,” and 61 percent believed that the U.S. economic system was unfair and favored the wealthy.
The ideas about inequality expressed by Occupy in 2011 and by Francis today are not uncommon among Americans. But the pope is an infinitely more powerful conduit to carry and champion them. And he can be that champion without suddenly ditching the papacy and accepting a policy gig at the White House. The pope, with his infallibility and his U.S. base of over 75 million American Catholics, is already standing atop one of history’s largest soapboxes.
It makes sense that, in a recent speech on economic fairness, President Obama quoted Francis, asking “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” It’s much more difficult to imagine the president quoting Occupy in that major speech on economic mobility — in no small part because it’d be kind of weird for Obama to just start waggling his fingers.
But as Obama tries to base the remainder of his presidency on mobility and inequality, he has few allies more powerful than the Vatican.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”