View From Rome
25 January 2017
View from Rome
With his focus on poverty, inequality and climate change Pope Francis has become something of a standard bearer for progressives across the world – the sort of people who view the presidency of Donald Trump with a mixture of fear and horror. Dig a little deeper, however, and there is more in common between Francis and Trump than meets the eye.
To start with, both are leaders with grassroots, popular appeal. Trump speaks directly to the blue-collar rust belt of middle America, while Francis has been a firm supporter of populist movements in Latin America. Francis and Trump are both happy to bypass the centres of power in their respective organisations to get their message out; for the Pope, that’s the Roman Curia, for the President, it’s the Washington ruling elite.
The pair govern in a similar, person-centred style, relying on people they trust to carry out their orders and letting go of those who fail to perform: if they work for the Pope, that will mean a merciful sideways move, if they are in Trump’s team, they will be told, “You’re fired”. They are also both comfortable in the face of opposition, though the president could learn from Francis’s strategy of preferring to wear down opponents slowly.
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