Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The second round in the presidential election will occur this Sunday, October 28th. Notwithstanding recent trends in polls, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Jair Bolsonaro will be elected President of Brazil.
Bolsonaro’s fan base often refer to him as “Mito”, which most English publications properly render as “legend” rather than “myth”; compare “a legend in his own time” with “the myth of Prometheus”.
The Curmudgeon respectively dissents from the moniker. Heroes become legends, failed heroes become myths. The Curmudgeon submits that Bolsonaro is a myth.
Consider first his military background. He twice encouraged strikes in favor of higher pay for the lower ranks, and was almost cashiered as a result. His final rank was only captain; without the insubordination he would surely have been at least a colonel.
Consider next his political career. He was elected a federal deputy in 1990, and has been re-elected six times, with growing popularity. With all that experience, one would expect him to have a significant legislative record. That is decidedly not the case — he has remained an insignificant back-bencher for almost three decades.
Consider his political party affiliations. Typically, long-standing members of legislatures remain in one party for lengthy periods, so as to gain positions of importance in committees and commissions. Bolsonaro’s current party (PSL) is his 9th and until 2018 was a minnow with almost no representation in Congress.
Consider his economic programs and projects for Brazil. Or, rather, don’t bother, because he has admitted he does not have any economic projects or programs; he’ll leave those to his finance guru Paulo Guedes. Guedes is known to favor privatization of state enterprises, but Bolsonaro has voted against privatizations.
Consider his chief political program: more “security” in these trouble times. The Bolsonaro plan: (a) give people more guns; (b) throw 16-year olds in adult jails; and (c) prohibit prosecuting police who murder suspected criminals. This philosophy is nicely summarized as “the only good bandido is a dead bandido.”
Consider his religious pose. He claims to be “evangelical” but has been divorced twice. Worse yet, he is an acknowledged homophobe, misogynist, racist, and apologist for torture. The second great commandment — love thy neighbor as thyself — is not part of his religion.
Summing up, in the Curmudgeon’s view candidate Bolsonaro is a myth, as shown by: (1) his tainted military background; (2) his insipid political career and myriad party affiliations; (3) his non-existent economic and violent political programs; and (4) his hypocritical religious stance.
Given all these factors, which are widely published and well known to voters, the Curmudgeon’s readers should ask: Why will Brazilians elect Bolsonaro their next President?
The answer is simple: Bolsonaro is the antithesis of former President Lula, who thought of himself as a legend in his own time, but ended up as a failed hero: an incarcerated myth.
In 2014, Lula’s hubris led him to permit Dilma’s re-election; in 2018 it led him to believe in his own re-election. Hubris undid Lula, as it undid the mythical Sisyphus and Prometheus.
To his credit, Bolsonaro has not himself ascribed to the “Mito” sobriquet, so there is hope yet for Brazil’s future.