It's always magical when they swear in a new pope. Everyone watches his style and demeanor and all the scandals are forgotten during the honeymoon, if that isn't a wholly inappropriate term. Francis I is a rock star, wading into crowds to kiss babies, holding press conferences, working the rope line, and basically acting as if he needs to be re-elected. (He doesn't, does he? If popes can quit whenever they like, maybe the rules have changed.) He has the knack for making people feel good while budging not a centimeter from the church's centuries-old traditions of misogyny and homophobia.
John Boehner was invited to accompany Vice-President Biden to Rome but declined. This was probably a mistake, as he and his party need to study Francis closely. Having decided during last week's ComiConservative '13 that their basic philosophy is perfectly sound, they now must learn how to sell it better in order to avoid another debacle like last November. In other words, they have to "reach out" to the objects of their hate -- women, gays, naturalized Americans and the non-white. With Republican-controlled state legislatures vying to enact the most rigid restrictions on voting rights, collective bargaining, abortion and even contraception, this is going to take more than the snark of prop comic Sarah Palin and the artful deployment of a few brown faces like Bobby Jindal's. With the Mad Tea Party in Congress bent on ending government as we know it, it's going to take mass hypnosis.
Part of the GOP's "image problem" stems from its willingness, for more than a decade, to use hate radio, Fox "News" and the rightmost extremes of Blogenheim as a free source of propaganda. Now they need its operatives to bank down their incendiary ravings. Why should they? Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Coulter et al. are not in politics, or even in journalism. They are in show business. Their fat paychecks depend upon their ability to corral the largest possible number of mouth-breathers and deliver them to the sponsors; this is how commercial media work. Jabba the Rush is not going to stop calling women sluts just because the RNC has decided it needs the slut vote. Glenn Beck doesn't care who wins elections as long as he frightens the foolish and walks off with their money, and he can't do that by comparing Mitt Romney with Hitler. Right-wing media need Obama the way Oceania needed Emanuel Goldstein. If I were given to wild conspiracy theories...
Pope Francis has one advantage over the Republican Party -- his edicts are optional. It has been many years since the pope's word had the force of law outside Vatican City. Millions of people call themselves Catholics, raise their children as Catholics, financially support the Catholic Church, and yet ignore its doctrines concerning contraception and abortion. From time to time the Church tries to make an example of a politician who refuses to denounce Roe v. Wade -- John Kerry, for instance -- but short of Stalinist-style purges, nothing will detach those sub rosa "sinners" from their religion, and I can't believe anyone wants to. When the inevitable encyclical "Non usare pillum" is read from the pulpits, the people in the pews will listen in silence, line up for the sacrament, and drive home, stopping at the pharmacy to pick up their birth-control pills. Assuming they live in a state where the Republicans haven't made that illegal. The people in the pews had no voice in picking the pope. Picking the next governor is another story. There isn't enough high fructose corn syrup in this country to mask the arsenic the Republicans want to feed us.
Labels: politics and religion