In an exclusive interview with Zoe Martinez, commentator for Jovem Pan, President Jair Bolsonaro went to talk about the situation of Venezuelan refugees and came up with this one: “the red wave is growing in Brazil”. The phrase caught my attention because of the gerund and also because it serves as an expression of a collective fear that simply shouldn’t exist at this moment. After all, less than four years ago Brazil enshrined Bolsonaro’s intuitive anti-leftism at the polls and so many more governors, senators and deputies.
That’s why I saw in the president’s statement signs of, at worst, a political-electoral analysis that, despite the anti-research and pro-dataPovo discourse, predicts the resumption of power by the PT . It would not be an absurd analysis, although it is depressing. After all, look around us. Argentina and Chile have already succumbed to the red wave. Colombia may soon redden. And, in this context, what prevents Brazil from blushing too?
The answer to this rhetorical question should be “Jair Bolsonaro”. But it is not. And this is where the best case scenario comes in for the fact that the president has warned of the red wave that is gaining strength in Brazil. Perhaps the phrase was said because Bolsonaro realizes that he could have done more and better, despite opposition from the STF and persecution from the militant press. Perhaps the phrase is, therefore, a sign that Bolsonaro recognizes the failures of his battles. That is, the ones he chose to stop.
And now maybe it’s a good time for you who can’t stand to be contradicted running to curse me as a communist or PT. Because, in the following paragraphs, if the text goes as planned (it never does), I intend to cite some political failures that I see in the government of Jair Bolsonaro. A series of decisions and omissions that I think are wrong, but that many people consider right – and there is nothing wrong with that. After all, theoretically, very theoretically, we are among friends. Pull up a chair. There’s beer in the fridge if you want it.
I begin precisely with the battles that Bolsonaro chose to fight. And what you insist on. Freedom is important, of course. And I agree that the defense of freedom during the hard-line reign of governors and mayors who went around shutting down everything and even beating people in the public square was important. But how did the president react to the successive defeats imposed by the STF? With a rhetoric that only inflamed the conflict even more and that culminated in that declaration to the Brazilian people brokered by former president Michel Temer. That is, a lot of noise for nothing.
For at least a year Bolsonaro also insists on the Battle of Vaccines. Or Battle against Vaccines . Choose the preposition you think is most appropriate. This is an important but lost battle. The Brazilian, even complaining, even afraid, even confused and sometimes even engaged in the same cause as the president, goes to the health center and submits to the sting. Worse: Bolsonar’s stubbornness for this cause ends up alienating a conservative, liberal, right-wing (call it what you want) electorate that doesn’t look favorably on something that sounds just like… stubbornness.
Still on the battles that Bolsonaro decided to fight or not, the situation of a character stands out: Roberto Jefferson. Who, without mincing words and echoing a recent column by J.R. Guzzo, is a political prisoner summarily convicted of a crime of opinion. Why doesn’t the government of Jair Bolsonaro denounce Bob Jeff’s situation to international organizations, even if it’s just for the noise? Why doesn’t he personally, and as a matter of principle, commit himself to defending the freedom of an old lunatic who barely has the strength to raise weapons, let alone to overthrow democracy?
To close this part of the text (so far, everything went more or less as planned), it is worth not mentioning the battles themselves, but about how those battles are fought. In other words, the only weapon that Bolsonaro used to fight against lockdowns, against mandatory vaccination passports and for freedom of expression was rhetoric. The simple or crude chatter (the customer is the one who knows), but undeniably inefficient both in the symbolic and in the practical field. It is not by chance that, given the advance of the ômicron variant, there are already governors and mayors wanting to impose restrictive measures. The STF determines the mandatory vaccination of babies is a matter of time. And only a miracle gets Roberto Jefferson out of prison.
There are also many things the government could have done over all these years, especially before the Covid pandemic 19, but inexplicably did not. I know I know. There is a noisy militant press that makes a histrionic opposition not only to the president, but also to anything that smacks of “conservatism”. If screaming is guaranteed, however, why bother with it? Why not act on principles and even campaign promises, shrugging off what William Bonner reads in the teleprompter?
Take the case of abortion, for example. Bolsonaro was elected by a mass that is against the murder of fetuses. And yet, what kind of action has been seen in this regard? What kind of publicity was given to the pro-life cause? Another glaring example is public safety. As much as issues such as lowering the age of criminal responsibility for heinous crimes come up against the opposition of the STF, why not put the issue in permanent evidence – which would force the left to assume a position that would at least earn it a lot of antipathy?
In the symbolic field, ah, how much could have been done, or rather, can still be done. Would it be too much to dream of an ENEM that proposed the horrors of the Holodomor or the disastrous consequences of the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China as a writing topic? The militant press would complain. The STF might give 01 hours for the Minister of Education to explain himself. But so what? Again echoing the words of J. R. Guzzo, what would actually happen if the president or ministers turned their backs on the STF when the court acts like this politically? Nothing.
“The red wave is growing in Brazil”, acknowledged President Jair Bolsonaro. The explanations are many and varied, to the taste of the sociologist or political scientist of the time: statist culture, paternalism, sebastianism, ignorance about the functioning of the State itself, the militancy of the STF, intellectual dishonesty in public debate, incessant press campaign. And as many more et ceteras the reader wants.
It cannot be ignored, however , that the government of Jair Bolsonaro had three years to do a little thing just to change at least a little people’s perception of what is actually at stake in the conflict between conservatives and progressives, right and left. But what the government has done so far, if anything, has been insufficient and/or inefficient. I hope there is still time to build a dam against this wave. Before it turns into a tsunami.