Opinion by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The results of the U.S. midterm elections, which created a small stir in the world, has given pundits an opportunity to consider what happened in the Brazilian elections – which caused no stir at all. A curmudgeonly compilation of contrasts follows.
“He’s (not) the man!” Before the 2010 elections, President Lula enjoyed a positive approval rating of over 80 percent, well-nigh unheard-of in true democracies. President Obama, on the other hand, had fallen from similarly dizzy heights to a 46 percent approval rating. Lula’s support was instrumental in electing his selected candidates. Obama’s lack of support was instrumental in the defeats of his selected candidates.
“Yes, we can!” Lula took Dilma on the campaign trail, held her hand 25 hours a day, usually raised overhead together with those of other candidates. He baptized her the “mother of PAC” which everybody knows is his growth stimulus program, not hers. Lula and Dilma said “Yes, we can!” meaning now, and voters believed them. Obama went on late night talk shows and said “Yes, we can, but not right now!” The voters, who wanted something now if not sooner, believed him.
“It’s the economy, stupid!” The Brazilian economy, for perhaps the wrong reasons, escaped the worst of the 2008 global crash engendered by the failure of the U.S. financial system, and has come out of it faster than most countries, while continuing popular programs in housing and education. Voters here like that, they want more of that.
The U.S. economy, for all the right reasons, fell heavily and is recovering at a snail’s pace, if at all, while instituting unpopular programs such as bank bail outs and mandatory health insurance. Voters there hate that, they want no more of that.
Illiteracy. Brazilians (especially Paulistas) gave millions of votes to Tiririca and other quasi-literate candidates, perhaps because great chunks of the electorate are only marginally literate. The political elite here have learned that literacy and stupidity are not functional equivalents, and so did not go down that road.
Americans gave millions of votes to Tea Party candidates whose views show a complete inability to read and write. The traditional political party elite never learned that the average U.S. voter is turned off by “literate” people looking down from IQ Heights and calling them stupid if they vote for Tea Party “ignoramuses”.
Third party politics. The U.S. has occasionally had serious third party candidates; Brazil never had them because of its multi-party system. Marina’s winning 19 percent of the votes in the first round prevented Dilma from an early victory, but in the second round her supporters split about 50/50, causing no real impact. In the U.S., third party candidates popped up all over the map, from Alaska to Maine, Colorado to Florida, and many of these had a huge impact on candidates from the two traditional parties.
Centralized Government. In the U.S., “Washington DC” is just three four-letter words strung together. In Brazil, “Brasília” is where people go for help. Both Obama and Lula promised more federal programs. Obama got shellacked, Lula won, because federal programs are anathema there, and desiderata here.
The 2016 Olympic Games. Chicago finished last; Rio de Janeiro finished first. Obama won’t be President in 2016; Lula will be. You read it here first.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)