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Ben Pollara: Draft the Pope, my wild ride

Steve Schale’s recent Context Florida piece on his whirlwind experience with the Draft Biden movement inspired me to write my own, similar piece. This is obviously satire, and I expect my colleague Steve to take it with his usual good sense of humor. – Ben 

For me, it started when I first saw the plumes of white smoke rise from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

I’m not a religious guy, but I come from Italian Catholic stock and so there’s a little bit of the Holy Spirit inside me. I felt it that day that Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis.

This was my kind of Pope. A liberal! A man of true modesty, humility and generosity! A Black Sabbath fan!

This Pope is legit, I thought. John Paul seemed like a nice guy, I guess; Benedict, a mean old man; but Francis – Francis! – He was the real deal.

Now I’ve never met the man, mind you. The closest I’ve gotten to him was when Air Pope flew from Cuba to the U.S., passing (I have to assume) near Miami. I’m also still technically not a Catholic. I have attended one Catholic wedding and one funeral in the past five years, for whatever that’s worth, but I’m pretty sure the president of Planned Parenthood would get a communion wafer before they’d give me one.

But there was just something about the man. This guy, this Pope, he was my guy. I could feel it in my bones, like an intravenous injection of pure, Grade A, Holy Spirit, coursing through me.

So when nobody was talking about his potential candidacy for president of the United States, I knew what my calling was. This man had to be my president, our president. Forget that Francis meets only the constitutional requirement to be over 35 years of age, and none of the others. Forget that he’s already the titular head of a foreign government. Forget my near-decade of undying fealty to Hillary Clinton: I wanted this Pope to be POTUS, and I wanted it in a bad way.

Thus began my commitment to the deeply personal (so much so that literally no one even knew about it) odyssey that was “Run Francis, Run: 2016.”

The roller-coaster ride that ensued was nothing short of life altering. I didn’t give at least 100 interviews to national (and international!) media. At one point, I didn’t give an interview live on MSNBC while I took a shower! I’ll never forget the day when there simultaneously weren’t interviews with me on nytimes.com, drudgereport.com and huffingtonpost.com – all in one day!

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I knew in the back of my head the likelihood of his candidacy was so slim as to be nonexistent (being, in fact, completely nonexistent outside my own mind). But if the Pope has taught me nothing, it’s that you must – must! – have faith. And I did, despite the fact that no one was talking about this, or thinking about it, and would have laughed me out of the room if I even breathed a word about it, I kept my faith in Francis. I knew that he, not The Donald, would “make America great again.” I felt it in the deepest pits of my heart, my immortal soul.

As I continued to not give interviews, and not work with others who shared my same, unspoken, unrealistic, borderline-delusional hopes and dreams of a President Pope, I hoped that somewhere out there, Pope F. was hearing my pleas, my advocacy, the expression of my faith in him, and that I was doing him proud.

It ended just as it began, which is to say, not at all. After weeks of not being on cable news pushing the “Francis for America” cause, I realized my beautiful dream would remain as such, a dream alone. My heart sank and I wept silently. I felt like what I imagined Michael Stipe felt when he wrote, “Losing My Religion.”

Life now marches forward, just a little bit less hopeful than before. I didn’t appear on cable news yesterday, or the day before, but it just wasn’t the same without my papal dreams running on high.

I find comfort and solace in the words of the man himself, “Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

My hope springs eternal. There’s always 2020.

Ben Pollara is a Democratic political consultant, a partner at LSN Communications, and a secular humanist and (occasional) humorist. 

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