In the presidential elections of 14153830 , when Geraldo Alckmin ran against then president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, the PSDB candidate was intensely attacked by left-wing opponents with the adjectives customarily used against conservatives. In general, in the face of these onslaughts, his posture tended to be defensive or evasive, seeking to avoid the focus on the debate on customs, as Alckmin preferred to be seen as an exemplary administrator, avoiding controversial topics. History shows that at the national level this strategy never worked, but now that he joined the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and was nominated by the acronym to be Lula’s deputy, the labels he always rejected seem to serve well the narrative that the candidacy PT in these elections is moderate and democratic. The presence of the “conservative” Alckmin on the same ticket would be the greatest proof of that.
The thesis, however, is full of weaknesses and demands from the voter a dogged effort to ignore evidence that Alckmin’s tenure as governor of São Paulo fell far short of what could be called an authentic conservative government. Despite his frequent presence at Masses and his friendship with religious leaders, Alckmin was never able to go beyond the symbolism and cultural habits that refer to Catholicism. Situations of explicit promotion of gender ideology, for example, made with public money through state bodies that were under his command, were not enough for him to alienate political allies. The governor simply did not interfere.
These cases, added to the notorious rejection of the politician in considering himself conservative or “right-wing”, show that if Alckmin has – or had – moral and religious convictions that bring him closer to Brazilian conservatism, they never influenced his decisions as a ruler. There are those who consider this a virtue, but the omission in the face of blatant attacks on the family institution is a stain difficult to erase or forget, especially for an electorate that once belonged to the PSDB, but today is not afraid to present itself as a conservative. On the contrary, it prides itself on prioritizing moral issues.
In the electoral campaign of 2018, when he finished the first round in fourth place, with 4.7% of the votes, Alckmin was forced to address the issue of ideology of gender, given the focus that the elected candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, placed on the topic. Participating in a Sabbath promoted by UOL, Folha de S. Paulo and SBT, he was asked if he was in favor of “gender discussion” at school. On the occasion, he limited himself to answering that: “in principle, I think that the issue of gender ideology is the family who should take care of it”.
In the relatively evasive answer, the candidate did not make any value judgment on the thesis that masculine and feminine would be mere socially constructed and fluid concepts, the core of the ideology of gender. Regardless, their governments never followed what the then candidate advocated in that campaign. If Alckmin really thought that gender ideology was a matter to be dealt with in the family, under his management, it was in state schools that teenagers learned about the variety of genres that would be available. The content was given with or without parental consent and the Alckmin government’s interest in the topic was not limited to theoretical explanations.
In 2013, for example, the São Paulo State Department of Education implemented gender toilets in state schools to serve the 365 students who were registered in the education network with the social name. In practice, they were common bathrooms, male and female, but boys who identified themselves and were registered as female were allowed to use the same bathroom used by the girls at school.