by Brent Budowsky
American liberalism is at the peak of its power during presidential elections, and nothing better dramatizes the resurgent liberal answer to the conservative challenge than the words and teachings of Pope Francis, the most admired public figure in America and throughout the world.
Last week Francis called for equal pay for women and said the lack of equal pay is scandalous. When Hillary Clinton saluted the pope’s call by saying “Amen!” she was speaking for women everywhere.
Last week, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted a summit of religious, scientific and economic leaders that concluded with a powerful declaration that human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, one that will bring devastating ravages to the earth that is humanity’s moral duty to prevent.
The magnificent vision of this summit will almost certainly be followed by a historically transcendent papal encyclical on protecting the earth that the pope will issue before he addresses the United Nations and a joint session of Congress in September, as the presidential campaign shifts into high gear.
When Francis addresses Congress, he will be greeted by thunderous applause and standing ovations from members of Congress, led by liberals, which will echo across the nation and around the world.
It is impossible to overstate the spiritual, moral and political lift the teachings and good works of Francis are giving to progressives and liberals who champion many of his causes, as he champions many of ours.
When Francis condemns “trickle-down economics,” champions a financial system that is more just, calls for incomes that are more equal and prays for wealth that is more fairly shared, he repeats the teachings of Jesus and warms the hearts of liberals who battle for these causes across the borders of nations and generations of time.
When Francis calls for helping the poor and feeding the hungry, he gives voice to a decency and faith as old as the Sermon on the Mount and as new as those legislative battles seen on the floor of Congress; he lifts the spirit and strength of liberals as John Kennedy did when he said that “here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”
When Francis calls for humane and decent treatment of immigrants, he champions a cause dear to liberals who honor the spirit of America that is embodied by Lady Liberty, whose sight Francis will behold when he visits New York this fall.
When Francis praises the talks that aim to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons through diplomacy rather than war, when he calls for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he brings to mind the liberal Democrat who remains the most popular president in more than five decades, who said we should never negotiate out of fear but that we should never fear to negotiate.
Conservatives will respond to this column by stating — and on this they will be right — that the pope also champions values dear to them, such as the right to life over the right to choice.
I do not suggest here that Francis takes the side of any liberal or any Democrat in any election. But I do suggest, and the facts do prove, that on almost all of the great issues that will define the elections in 2016 — finance, economics, equal pay, the environment, immigration, poverty and a preference for diplomacy over war when possible — it is unmistakably liberals who most often champion the causes that Francis challenges us to confront.
In the sweeping vision of his uplifting faith, Francis follows in the footsteps of popes who came before him and calls for a renaissance of the spirit that is common to the great religions of the world and, as his towering popularity suggests, embodies the aspirations of voters that transcend the petty politics that demean our national discourse today.
It is time for a renaissance of the liberal spirit, a reawakening of the liberal movement and a revival of liberal leadership for the nation that gave the world presidents named Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Clinton.