Professed socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said Democrats have an ally in Pope Francis in their plans for making income inequality their focus in the 2014 midterm elections, The New York Times reported.
Pope Francis celebrates a New Year's Eve vespers service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Before taking their holiday break, the newspaper reports that the Senate Democratic caucus gathered, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that inequality should be the party's focus.
That's when Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats despite being an independent, reportedly chimed in.
“You know, we have a strong ally on our side in this issue — and that is the pope,” Sanders told the Democratic senators.
Sanders describes his ideology as a democratic socialist, and is known for being outside the mainstream of even Democrats.
Sanders, who is Jewish, touting Pope Francis to the Mormon Reid, excited Catholic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who said, “Bernie! You quote my pope; this is good.”
Pope Francis issued a 51,000-word apostolic exhortation in November that called for greater compassion for the poor, and criticized an over-reliance on "trickle down" economic theories, saying "unfettered consumerism" often ignores – and can even hurt -- the poorest in society.” Democrats and liberal commentators have seized on the message as advocating for liberal government policies.
At a time when numerous Catholic-affiliated organizations are suing the Obama administration for requiring the coverage of abortifacients, contraception and sterilization for employees, the story quotes Democratic lawmakers as being happy that focus may be shifting.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, also of Vermont and a Catholic Democrat, said he felt “liberated” after speaking at a Catholic college and getting no questions about abortion. The Times said Leahy “credited Francis for changing the tone.”
“I felt such a relief,” Mr. Leahy said.
The Catholic vote is never certain, making up about 24 percent of American voters. Since 1972, only one presidential candidate – George W. Bush in 2000 – lost the Catholic vote but won the presidency. Despite the constant conflict, Obama won the Catholic vote by a slim margin in 2012, beating Romney 50 percent to 48 percent among Catholic voters.