Tuesday In Vatican City, Pope Francis compared populist leaders to Adolf Hitler. The Pope spoke on the topic saying, “it is important that young people should know how populism is born. I think of Hitler last century,” ANSA reports. The Pope goes on to suggest that populism is inherently hateful. Francis said, “We know how populism starts: by sowing hate. You can’t live sowing hate.”
This is not the first time the Pope has spoke out against populism. It is also not the first time the Pope compared populists to Hitler. “In January last year, Pope Francis warned against a rise in populism and the dangers of allowing political crises to usher in dictators like Hitler,” Daily Mail reports.
“Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933,” Francis said at the time. “And all Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.”
Being popular with the people is thus to be thought of as uniquely Nazi style politics. Supposedly, by Francis’ assessment, a political candidate should aim to avoid being popular at all costs. That is, unless they want to be associated with the most evil man of the twentieth century. Ironically, in a democratic system, being popular with the people is an utmost necessity.
It is worth pointing out, Democracy is effectively a popularity contest. Democracy is perhaps the most clear example of a political structure that aims to place the most popular candidate in a place of leadership. Thus, when it comes to political structures, Democracy is perhaps the most populist in nature.
However, it likely goes without saying that the Pope is not condemning Democracy. Democracy is uniquely a cornerstone of the Western World and a core value to each of these nations. It thus is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the Pope condemns populists so heavily. The difficulty is in trying to explain the Pope’s comments as straightforward.
Really, the best interpretation of the Pope’s condemnation of populists is that those politicians that are are popular with the people today are right wing. Through this lens, it is not being popular that is the problem, but that a certain style of politics is growing in popularity.