Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon majored in Politics at his university, and had many heated political debates with his two roommates. One of them, after reading the Curmudgeon’s latest column, asked a very pertinent question:
“I assume [the Curmudgeon] is not authorized to vote in any election in Brazil. But does he, ideologically or philosophically, self-identify with the platform of any particular political party in Brazil; if so, which?”
The short answer is “not any more.”
Until recently, I used to identify with PSDB, formed in 1988. [From 1964 to 1985 there were only two permissible political parties in Brazil, both dominated by the military dictators.] The initials SD stand for “Social Democracy” which, around the world, usually places a party on the “center left” part of the political spectrum.
PSDB began as an offshoot of PMDB, which began life as the continuation of MDB, the official “opposition” party under the military, which was a grab-bag of ideologically inconsistent leaders. PSDB dissidents generally favored a parliamentary system of government, and a cautiously leftist approach to social policies.
PSDB came into its own in the 1994 election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who had finally managed to conquer three decades of runaway inflation by implementing the Plano Real. During FHC’s two terms in office, PSDB successfully privatized substantial chunks of the Brazilian economy, previously under government monopoly, and freed up trade.
Since his university days, the Curmudgeon regards himself as a “classical” liberal, defined by Wikipedia as “a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom.” John Locke and Adam Smith are his philosophical gurus. Both of them hated monopoly and mercantilism—as did PSDB.
So, you may ask, why the “not any more” in the short answer?
The reason is that PSDB has, since the impeachment of Dilma, become all too similar to the other 30+ political parties that now infest Brazilian politics. It lost its way ideologically when it voted against a Temer proposal on much-needed social security reform that was almost identical to the proposal it had sponsored when FHC was president of Brazil.
Further, many of its current leaders appear to be just as corrupt as any politician in any of the other parties — for example, Aécio Neves, defeated candidate for president against Dilma, who ought to be in jail.
PSDB has largely abandoned its position as a third way between the left-wing PT and the right-wing DEM. It joined the PMDB-led coalition and has curried favor with various minnow parties who hire themselves out to vote for whatever legislative proposal those with the most influence can hand them. It’s become a clone of PMDB, the quintessential party without a principle.
To sum up, the Curmudgeon can no longer identify with PSDB, nor with leftist PT and centrist PMDB, nor with any of the single issue parties that are only collections of lobbyists having pet projects — agrobusiness, evangelicalism, gun decontrol.
The Curmudgeon will discourse more generally on political parties in a subsequent column.