The hard right wins again, this time in Brazil

The Woolwich Observer - - COMMENT - GWYNNE DYER

A MAN WHO MAKES Don­ald Trump look like a bleed­ing-heart lib­eral will al­most cer­tainly be Brazil’s next pres­i­dent. Jair Bol­sonaro won 46 per cent of the vote in Sun­day’s first round of the Brazil­ian pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, with 12 other can­di­dates run­ning. Fer­nando Had­dad, who will face him alone in the runoff in three weeks’ time, got only 29 per cent.

Had­dad, who leads the so­cial­ist Work­ers’ Party, will pick up most of the vot­ers whose first-choice can­di­dates have fallen by the way­side, but Bol­sonaro needs only one in six of those votes to win the se­cond round. Game over, in more ways than one.

Trump and Bol­sonaro are pop­ulists cut from the same cloth. They both de­pend heav­ily on so­cial me­dia and on the sup­port of evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians. They both op­pose same­sex mar­riage, abor­tion, af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion for mi­nori­ties, and drug lib­er­ali- sa­tion. But Trump’s views shift when it is to his po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage – he once sup­ported most of those poli­cies – whereas Bol­sonaro has al­ways be­longed to the hard right.

Trump is an in­stinc­tive au­thor­i­tar­ian who chafes at the re­stric­tions of the U.S. con­sti­tu­tion, but does not at­tack it di­rectly. Bol­sonaro praises the “glo­ri­ous” pe­riod of the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship (1964-1985), which he served as an army of­fi­cer, and claims that its only er­ror was that “it tor­tured, but did not kill.” (It did, ac­tu­ally – at least 434 left­ists were killed af­ter be­ing tor­tured.)

Trump is a racist, but he talks to his over­whelm­ingly white ‘base’ in dog-whis­tle code. Last year Bol­sonaro said that the mem­bers of black ru­ral set­tle­ments founded by the de­scen­dants of slaves “don’t do any­thing. I don’t think they’re even good for pro­cre­ation any­more.” No dog whis­tle there.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the cli­mate change treaty, and Bol­sonaro wants Brazil to do the same. But Bol­sonaro also wants to pri­va­tise and ‘de­velop’ the en­tire Ama­zon: “Not one cen­time­tre will be de­mar­cated for indige­nous re­serves.”

Trump, like Bol­sonaro, backs loose gun own­er­ship laws. Both men want to bring the death penalty back (it never went away in some U.S. states). Both men con­sider tor­ture to be, as Bol­sonaro puts it, a “le­git­i­mate prac­tice.” But Bol­sonaro also says that “a policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a policeman.”

Trump is a sex­ist who was once caught boast­ing on tape about “grab­bing pussy,” but mostly avoids such lan­guage in pub­lic. Bol­sonaro told a woman mem­ber of Congress that “I’m not go­ing to rape you, be­cause you’re very ugly.” He be­lieves that women should not get the same salaries as men be­cause they get preg­nant, and said that he had a daugh­ter in “a mo­ment of weak­ness” af­ter fa­ther­ing four sons.

Trump is an undis­ci­plined nar­cis­sist who claims to be a tough ne­go­tia­tor, but will gen­er­ally roll over if you throw him a few con­ces­sions and let him de­clare a ‘vic­tory.’ (Con­sider the new North Amer­i­can free trade agree­ment, for ex­am­ple.) His fa­mously short at­ten­tion span dis­qual­i­fies him as an as­pir­ing dic­ta­tor even if he were that way in­clined.

Bol­sonaro, how­ever, is a se­ri­ous man. He has made a for­mer gen­eral, Hamil­ton Mourão, his run­ning mate, and prom­ises to fill his cab­i­net with other gen­er­als. In a re­cent video pro­duced by Had­dad, he can be seen ar­gu­ing: “You won’t change any­thing in this coun­try through vot­ing . ... You’ll only change things by hav­ing a civil war and do­ing the work the mil­i­tary regime didn’t do. Killing 30,000 . ... If a few in­no­cent peo­ple die, that’s al­right.”

Bol­sonaro doesn’t talk like that now, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, but there is no rea­son to be­lieve that he has changed his mind. Brazil’s 200 mil­lion peo­ple may be in for some nasty sur­prises – and be­yond the coun­try’s borders Bol­sonaro’s pres­i­dency will en­cour­age neo-fas­cists and would-be mil­i­tary dic­ta­tors in other Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries.

That’s the real con­cern, and it extends to other

con­ti­nents too. The wave of non-vi­o­lent rev­o­lu­tions that spread democ­racy to ev­ery part of the world (in­clud­ing Brazil) in the past few decades seems to have gone into re­verse.

In some coun­tries, like Thai­land and Egypt, the gen­er­als are openly back in power. In oth­ers, like Turkey, Hun­gary, and the Philip­pines, ‘il­lib­eral democ­ra­cies’ run by strong­men have re­placed the gen­uine ar­ti­cle. Even in long es­tab­lished democ­ra­cies like the United States, the United King­dom and Italy the na­tion­al­ists and pop­ulists dom­i­nate the po­lit­i­cal scene.

There are some counter-cur­rents, of course. Mex­ico, the other Latin Amer­i­can gi­ant, is get­ting its first ever left-wing gov­ern­ment this year. Hard right chal­lenges to the es­tab­lished demo­cratic or­der have been fended off in France, Ger­many and the Nether­lands. But the tide is run­ning strongly in the other di­rec­tion.

How bad will it get, and how long will it stay bad? Quite bad and for quite a while, one sus­pects. The world is not yet head­ing back to­wards big great­power war, but we are en­ter­ing the last crit­i­cal decade be­fore cli­mate change over­whelms us with a grow­ing num­ber of govern­ments that are not only po­ten­tially vi­o­lent but mil­i­tantly ig­no­rant.

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