Bolsonaro Soars - How Jair achieved Victory Through Conservative Populism
So, 2018 was the year of the convergence. A new political Elite of conservatives to compete for power. The will of the common folk to keep their way of life against a global progressive culture, or perhaps more so an ideology that takes one space at the time, forced itself onto them. One could call it the failure of the “Latin American” Social Project. Since the world saw Venezuela’s very public downfall while Brazil received teeming hordes of their refugees fleeing just from hunger. Since we dealt most with the refugees and actually got into fights with them some months ago for resources, or the lack thereof, due to that, the Brazilian people united.
With that said, the eternal conflict between the men of the coast - an urban elite that has colonial roots and represents the “heroes” of the New Republic (most of them members of MDB and ARENA, parties that acted during the dictatorship as “opposition”, but fashioned themselves more as friends of the king) – with the core in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and the countrymen - descendants of colonials, natives and Africans that live in the continental area of the country and hold deep religious roots – those that doesn’t have the time to think about the little problems of the city folk, has reached an end.
The townsmen were the ones that suffered most with the crisis, principally those from Rio de Janeiro, and had to migrate to little cities, like I did, because the money that kept the state afloat has dried up. Engineers and Lawyers became Uber drivers. People from the Petroleum sector lost their jobs. Factories and stores closed. Projects stopped and the economy imploded. Their necessities became simpler: security and employment. The same fate met their countrymen, because when you have to survive, instead of enjoy life – a word game in Portuguese (Viver e Sobreviver), you don’t have the luxury to care about the low rate of acceptance of gypsies at public universities (An actual project passed in Bahia where they will offer affirmative action plans for gypsies and trans people next year) or the fact that the “people living in the streets” are called Homeless. Just like that, Rio de Janeiro, a left-leaning State – the only one that refused to participate in “March of the Family with God for Freedom" back in 1964 – that served as legitimacy for the Military Coup d'état, has started tending towards the right (based in the last poll result, Bolsonaro won in every electoral district reaching 59% of the valid votes of the State).
Since 2013 things started changing as people became distrusting of the old political guard, eroding the idea of their “re-democratization hero status" because many of them are being denounced by corruption scandals and subsequently jailed; Jose Dirceu, Michel Temer, Jose Sarney, Paulo Maluf, Aecio Neves, Dilma Rousseff, Jose Serra, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula, Fernando Collor, Eduardo Cunha, Renan Calheiros and others. Media, one of the great friends of the king, has had much to say about this public performance as it plays out. As they face their death, from people no longer buying newspapers nor being forced into using them as their only source of information thanks to the internet, they have had to craft a narrative to prove their value. Brazilian’s struggle against the media isn’t new; for at least a decade we’ve been facing the death of real journalism and the rise of an ideologically motivated, polemic machine of misinformation, one that prioritizes money over an impartial description of facts.
Yet, the media has paid the price for their actions. When people got access to the Internet, hundreds of independent media outlets rose up and started competing for the market. While the old media started shielding their content with paywalls and restricted their own distribution, the people were creating a spontaneous underground network of news, through the messaging app Whatsapp, sent and received by family members; the core of legitimacy in a country with deep catholic roots, the messenger is often far more important than the message itself. Now, these institutions seem to be claiming that Baby Boomers are some great threat to democracy, since they share news without any checking. However, freedom is always chaotic, and just like what happened in America regarding Facebook, some left leaning organizations have taken note of the impact of the messaging service and are looking to remove legitimacy from discussions on these services, perhaps attempting to limit the range such messages can be spread. It seems that losing control of the narrative is a hard pill to swallow.
In regards to the current election, things seem to be changing, though perhaps not as fast as some would want. These things take time in the third world, as we are removing the old hegemony and replacing it with new people in most of the states and both of the Chambers. Some managed to secure their survival, as Renan Calheiros and Aecio Neves. Once elected they are shielded by their status, and can only be judged by the Supreme Court, not by ordinary courts, but the aftermath remains one of positivity. Some parties that never had representation on the Senate, like Rede and Podemos, secured their position there for the first time, meaning that new demands will appear.
Perhaps the best news, all the seats from the Communist parties and PSOL(Socialism and Freedom party) were lost, which makes me particularly glad. They are the folks that always manage to change the subject from people’s real demands to another “straw that needs to be banished”. Not only that, non-state funded parties and campaigns entered the Chamber of the Deputies like NOVO and PSL, which is good for tax payers and brings a different look into how things can be done. In less than a week the NOVO deputee Vinicius Poit already denounced a possible project to increase the wages of public officials by 16% next year. This coming from a Brasil that usually lacks Liberal and Libertarian representation, and those whom wouldn't be interested in rising public spending. In Rio de Janeiro, an outsider – former Marine and Judge Wilson Witzel, is heading the polls against Eduardo Paes, the old prefect involved in various schemes and drowned in corruption like Eduardo Cunha, and our former governor Sergio Cabral. Cabral’s secretary of public Security(Beltrame) was caught paying off criminals to ensure public safety during the World Cup and the Olympic Games. In Santa Catarina the same happened; Commander Moises against Gerson Merisio, an old politician. Minas Gerais is in the same situation with Romeu Zema against Anastasia.
And this repeats itself throughout the country, with every contest sharing one resounding link: all the military personnel and outsiders are being supported by Jair Bolsonaro. In 30 years, the image of soldiers have changed a lot. What once was considered a paragon of evil, became instead a symbol of Hope. This happened because our founding Myth is dying as it wasn't strong enough to hold the backbone of the Republic, since it's not fully true; As are all founding myths, it was written by the champions – the difference is that we don’t like ours and the winners prove with each passing day that they are far from being decent human beings. This has ignited a revisionist view of the past, and nostalgia from the dictatorship period for a minority, and the desire for a New Constitution. Both Jair Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad talked about this during the election but dropped the idea when confronted about it.
That brings us to the 2018 presidential election, where we have decided between the retired Captain Jair Bolsonaro, running for the Social Liberal Party and bringing an Economist from Boston School as his right arm, and the lawyer Fernando Haddad, former president Lula and Labor Party chosen Champion, and his vice president Manuela D'avila from the Communist Party of Brazil(PCdoB). Jair, a classical Christian Conservative that is trying to flirt with liberalism and represents the rising populist zeitgeist of recent elections in Europe and America in South America. A candidate who was made into a Fascist Strawman by the left, since he usually speaks way more than he should about polemic subjects – but never took any actions to enforce and just speaks his mind sharing some controversial opinions. (By Brazilian standards. He'd be a regular Republican in America) This because Brazil has never had a serious conservative running for office and the old elite can’t stand that, since it represents our people’s reality – that virtue signaling is a first world issue, as survivors of the endless corruption in Rio have far more simple problems to deal with day to day, and more, that it shatters the narrative created that the common man is nothing more than Rousseau's Good Savage.
Suffering mostly attacks to his character - with plenty of “ad hominem" curses from racist to fascist, this while he intends to make the gun rights of citizens more dynamic and to never use the law to censor his opposition (while those in power certainly cannot say the same) - it wasn’t long before one was made to his very flesh as well though, as he was stabbed by an extremist. This is largely viewed as a product of the artificial hysteria fermented by media and political pressure groups. Those who most speak about tolerance and empathy keep demonizing the other side without hearing them. While many seem happy to close their eyes and ears to those who disagree, or raise weapons against them, it seems that they view solving the problems they’ve made as boring and taking too much energy. After all, the Welfare System doesn’t have a problem if we cannot hear anyone complaining.
On the Left, Haddad made it to the second round of elections, though one questions if this was because of his merit. He certainly has a powerful Godfather watching over him. He represents that old Latin American tradition of Welfare that warms the heart each time one looks behind to the memory of the Soviet Union. All I can say about him is that he made it to the election because of people demanding Bolsonaro's rejection, or the rejection of right leaning politics in general, as he brings absolutely nothing new to the conversation. His statements before the election were mostly about saving Lula from his sentence and to reform Brazilian institutions to serve as instruments for the party. Other than that he talked about regulating the media and about how to change the command of the military forces, and yet despite the political control of speech and the military, no one calls him a fascist.
During the election he changed his statements several times looking for more votes as his party’s future depends on it. Abandoned is the idea that he’s Lula’s little wooden puppet, Haddad has gone on and adventure and come back a real boy. During the entire time all he said, loud and clear for all to hear, is that he loves all minorities, while trying to paint his adversary as a Nazi – his campaign literally tried to create the idea that there are lots of Brazilian Nazis supporting Jair, and some of his supporters drew swastikas and faked assaults in order to demonize half of the population. Haddad also claims that he will make their lives better, which his parties could have done many times in their 16 years of holding power, and yet we have inherited 13 million unemployed and plenty who have gone bankrupt as an heirloom of that time. Of course, he also rides his bike and take the bus to the work. So he must be a good option, even though he has been involved in groups that have suffered from corruption schemes. He also couldn't get reelected as mayor of his own city because people hated his way of doing things.
If the left had an opportunity to win this election, it was by voting Labor. Instead, they voted for Ciro Gomes, who posed as a contemporary third option candidate but is essentially a just left-wing version of Bolsonaro, so of course, they forgive everything that he says because only the Right-wing is homophobic, racist and sexist. It seems once again that Labor has proven that they are here just for power, to hold their position, just like the Social Democrats and the centrists that they oppose so vigorously. It’s funny, those who constantly speak about threats to democracy seem to be the ones that prove their constant disregard for it through their actions. Putting aside the most noble and permanent interests of the people, ignoring their dignity - a commodity sold some times for a doctor appointment or a stack of bricks or 50 reais.
It is sad that, for me, someone who has never voted in his life because I didn’t believe it would help, in a system I consider inherently corrupt and rigid, that we have reached this point. That we were forced to choose between an old failure that has proven itself bad for everyone, but is comfortable since we’re used to the abuse, or the new, and a future that is chaos and always strange and probably won’t be easy to deal with; One which doesn’t mean that we will like what comes from it, or even that it will be good, but a future that has proven itself necessary, as with it, we may be freed from our long tradition of servitude. That being the price we paid for progress and security, our good lords would take care of us providing safety and giving order to our lives, so long as we kept our heads down and mouths shut while working on their plantation. We were servants of an anachronistic oligarchy that concentrated power in the hands of the elite since the birth of this nation, but as Ben Franklin once remarked, those who sacrifice their freedom for security’s sake, deserve neither. All we got from this trade was a rusted, broken machine, corrupt to the core, whose death was postponed only by successive emergency actions of improvisation. And so, a chance was given to us: to let someone new make the mistakes. In the best case scenario he may accomplish what he promised and bring us forward to the 21 century - reduced government spending and size is always welcome; Or else, he may well keep financing the idealistic dreams of an old and dying elite.
As Fernando Pessoa, a famous Portuguese writer, said in his poem “Sea of Portugal”, “Whoever would go beyond the Cape Must go beyond sorrow, God placed danger and the abyss in the sea, But he also made it heaven's mirror".