From a rumbling standstill to a roaring Winternationals peel off the line, the next election is suddenly full throttle.
And this past Monday, Chris Matthews opened “Hardball” with a breaking news analysis presuming that we will not see a woman in the top job, even though abortion, contraception and gender equality will continue to be hot-button issues for nearly one-third of Americans.
According to Matthews, the election will be won by a center-right male of Italian descent who is already very warmly regarded by the incumbent, who, as we know, will not be running.
Could it be Andrew Cuomo? Not conservative enough. Rudy Giuliani? Not warmly regarded. But what about Chris Christie, whose mother was Sicilian and whose “Bachelorette” moments on that Sandy shore have all but redefined the color of love for millions of us?
Matthews laughed that down as facetious, but E.J. Dionne wryly cautioned that the old Vatican adage might hold true: “after a thin pope a fat pope, after a fat pope a thin pope.”
Yes, folks, you heard it right.
The 2016 elections and the State of the Union address evidently weren’t enough to fill the voracious void of 24/7 cable news, so “The Race for the Papacy” is now front and center.
The “nearly one-third of Americans” I referenced are Roman Catholics who will, for the next few weeks, endure the indignity of seeing their religion reduced to a series of drag race heats, hosted by “progressive” Ivy League Catholics who, it’s easy to speculate, have no intention of being personally bound by any decision about anything by any pope or any conclave of cardinals or conference of bishops anywhere.
And to hear Chris Matthews tell it, that’s practically immaterial anyway, because the election of a pope “is a political enterprise. It’s a secular event. … My bet is that this pope wants a quick election because he wants that successor to be his guy: Scola from Milan.”
Harrumphing to E. J. Dionne about the slim chance of a liberal ending up as pontiff, he continued: “Seems to me we have two option plays here. One, we get a guy like Scola … who turns out to be more liberal than the pope thinks, and second, some outsider, some way-out candidate we never heard of … and we pull a big surprise because this guy Scola can’t put it together.”
Now, I’m no pollyanna, and like Chris Matthews, I was educated by the Jesuits, who stress critical thinking over sentimentality when judging a man’s ideas and motives, even the pope’s.
Still, this characterization of the papal election process as Machiavellian machinations in a smoke-filled room — albeit white smoke — strikes me as demeaning and even defiling, especially coming from one claiming the cloak of Catholicism. If you re-read the two quotes above and substitute “Hoffa” for “Scola” and “Trumka” for “the pope,” I think you’ll agree.