The 2016 election proved that America was primed for a populist uprising. When Donald Trump, the consummate “outsider,” announced his candidacy, many among the working class finally found someone that understood could give a voice back to the “silent majority.” It was as much a victory of populism as it was for Donald Trump.
In a recent interview with El País, Pope Francis warned that the growing trend of “savior” populism throughout Europe could mirror that of 1930s Germany.
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In his interview with El País, the Pope pointed out that he has no problem with populism when the people are the “protagonists,” but he warned of another form of populism that occurs when a “savior” comes along, saying this is what happened with Hitler’s rise in Germany.
…[A]fter the crisis of 1930, Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, it needs a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says: “I can, I can.” And Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn’t steal power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.
That is the risk. In times of crisis we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me. Let’s look for a savior who gives us back our identity and let us defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other people who may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing.
When the subject of Donald Trump was raised, the Pope was careful to keep an open mind.
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I think that we must wait and see. I don’t like to get ahead of myself, nor to judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will form an opinion. But being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise.
The Pope makes a good case for why we cannot expect to find solutions to today’s problems if we live irrationally. In this case, it’s irrational to assume the worst, and it’s also irrational to allow a “savior” to get a free pass just because they say the things we want to hear. The entire interview is worth a read.