The Southeast and South have a large middle class, the middle class is typically ideologized, and that’s why we see a lot of crappy analysis that wants to reduce everything to the right and left, or to communism and conservatism. The most constant example of this is to say that the Northeast is left-wing, as if it were minimally feasible for illiterate peasants to espouse a radical ideology of literate people. Furthermore, going back in time, it is very easy to see that the Northeast during the military regime was “right-wing”. He was not on the right, nor is he on the left today. To understand the Northeast, it is necessary to understand local politics. Understanding local politics, in the case of the Northeast, involves understanding coronelismo.
However, this same mistake that is made with the Northeast – of considering everything under an ideological key and ignoring local politics – is widespread. It is not because São Paulo has a lot of middle class that São Paulo voters vote for ideology. Understanding the role of the tucanato in São Paulo politics is something completely different from picking up a manual on social democracy. Politics is not just about ideology; who likes ideology is the urban middle class. As almost all political commentators are from the middle and upper classes of the richest urban centers…
This is the only way to understand that they have not mentioned the elephant in the room of this election, which is São Paulo. The ideological commentator will look at Tarcísio and say: “Nothing new, because São Paulo, the state, never elected the left!” Well, for the first time in the history of the Republic, the state of São Paulo is in the process of electing an outsider indicated by Brasília. Think about the last elections. What was the relevance of the governors of São Paulo and the mayors of the capital, and what happened to all of them in this election?
To measure the change that São Paulo is undergoing, let us go back in the history of the Republic.
The Republic is established by São Paulo
The weight of São Paulo’s elite in national politics is confused with the overthrow of the Empire, headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, and the establishment of the Republic.
The presidency of the Republic began with two Alagoas military personnel, Deodoro da Fonseca (1889 – 1891) and the bloodthirsty Floriano Peixoto (1891 – 1894). Neither of them was elected. The first president elected was from Brazil was Prudente de Morais (1894 – 1894), a civilian, who was in the interior of São Paulo since the time of the Empire. When Marshal Deodoro gave the coup, governing boards were appointed to replace the governors of the “provinces” of the Empire, which came to be called “states”, as they are today. Well then: Prudente de Morais, the first elected president of Brazil, was the first republican governor of São Paulo, appointed by Marshal Deodoro. As it is a little disputed fact that the São Paulo coffee and slaveholding elite was the main economic force against the Empire, we can have an idea of the political dimension that the political group of Prudente de Morais had at the founding of the Republic.
Thus, we have that the first elected president of Brazil was already a former governor of São Paulo. Prudente de Morais followed (I list the elected presidents in chronological order): Campos Sales, from São Paulo, Rodrigues Alves, from São Paulo, and Afonso Pena, from Minas Gerais, who died in office. All these paulistas belonged to the PRP, Partido Republicano Paulista, and the Minas Gerais man belonged to the Partido Republicano Mineiro. All were former governors of their states. Rodrigues Alves was even a former governor of the times of the Empire. For contemporaries, it must have been easy to see the Republic as the seizure of power by the São Paulo elite.
Other politicians the period
As in the time of Jânio/Jango, the elections for president and vice president were separate. It is worth noting that the first elected vice-presidents were a Bahian and a Pernambucan. The Bahian, Manuel Vitorino was an opponent of Prudente de Morais who took opposite measures when he held the presidency. With the Iron Marshal, he sent the same soldier to Canudos who had earned the nickname Earth-Tree in Florianópolis, due to the shootings. He bought the Palácio do Catete and decided that it would be the seat of the presidency. When Prudente de Morais was attacked – another man surnamed Bispo had tried to stab him -, Manuel Vitorino’s career sank.
Vitorino’s figure is interesting for being an example of a certain civilian from iron fist that supported the military. This was the real opposition to the Café com Leite policy led by São Paulo. Other runners-up in these presidential elections were Lauro Sodré, a military officer from Pará who took second place twice (against Campos Sales and Afonso Pena), and Quintino Bocaiuva, a civilian from Rio de Janeiro who was very close to the military. The only exception to this profile among the runners-up so far is Afonso Pena: the first election in Brazil was between him and Prudente. In the end, both became allies.
In addition to being second in 1894, Afonso Pena was elected vice president along with the veteran Rodrigues Alves in 1902. At the end of his term, Afonso himself was finally elected in 1906. But he dies – and then the order centered in São Paulo is shaken, as his deputy was a politician from Rio de Janeiro.
A first shake-up
Rodrigues Alves, from Minas Gerais, dies, the first president of Rio enters. Nilo Peçanha, from the Fluminense Republican Party, a mulatto lawyer born in Campos, ran a very popular government and supported a military man for his succession: Hermes da Fonseca, Deodoro’s nephew, born in Rio Grande do Sul (his father from Alagoas had gone there because of the Paraguayan War). His party was the PRC, the Conservative Republican Party. Unlike the PRP or the PRM, it was a party with national pretensions. It had expression in Rio Grande do Sul and Pernambuco. Hermes himself had studied at Praia Vermelha, in Rio.
Hermes da Fonseca had broad support, but was opposed by São Paulo. This time, the oligarchy had not tried to elect its own member. He had teamed up with Ruy Barbosa from Bahia and tried to pit the civil intellectual against the marshal. The election of 1910 was the first with a real contest. Amidst many accusations of fraud, and against the will of Café com Leite, Hermes da Fonseca was elected.
The presidency of Hermes da Fonseca (1910 – 1914) was very centralized and came into conflict with the state oligarchies (in Bahia, Fort São Marcelo even bombed the Government Palace, where the Public Library was located, and the Ruy Barbosa’s ally transferred the capital to Jequié, in the sertão).
After Hermes da Fonseca, however, Brazil returned to the Café com Leite policy. It elected, in this order: one president of the PRM (Venceslau Brás), one of the PRP (Rodrigues Alves, who died before taking office), two of the PRM (Epitácio Pessoa and Arthur Bernardes) and two of the PRP (Washington Luís and Júlio Prestes). All were former governors of São Paulo or Minas, except Epitácio Pessoa, who was from Paraíba and had good relations with both oligarchies. His previous political career included the leadership of the Brazilian delegation in the Treaty of Versailles.
Júlio Prestes, as is known, did not take over because Getúlio Vargas left Rio Grande do Sul and carried out a coup d’état. . Between the end of Hermes’ presidency and Getúlio’s coup 26 years passed. These were troubled years, with the military revolts of Tenentismo (the most famous being the Revolta dos Dezoito do Forte de Copacabana and Coluna Prestes), as well as much bloodshed by the Cangaço and much fear of a communist revolution. Even so, it was a period when São Paulo was at the heart of power in Brazil.
Next time, we continue with the chronology.