Let’s go back to the governors of São Paulo, and this time let’s go straight to the New Republic, which will be of more interest to column readers. The complete chronology will appear in an ebook in this newspaper after being revised and rearranged.
What motivated this series is the exceptionality of Tarcísio de Freitas. For the first time in history, São Paulo is about to elect a nominee from Brasília. Other states have elected Brasilia nominees before. Bahia, for example, elected in the first round an inexpressive PT party in local politics after Lula was consolidated in power. Bahia, as well as other states in the Northeast, is pro-government. Where Brazil goes, the governing states follow – with greater or lesser delay. The tradition of São Paulo is different. The state not only does not submit to the federal government, but its governors see themselves as candidates for the presidency of the Republic, either as an opposition or a situation. Non ducor, duco, is the motto of its capital.
However, in this election São Paulo repeated a pattern: the capital voted against state. The state of São Paulo wants Bolsonaro and Tarcísio; the city of São Paulo wants Lula and Haddad – even though it gave Haddad a derisory vote in his bid for re-election to the mayor. This pattern is not peculiar to you. When Bahia was Carlist (ie, partisan of ACM), Salvador was opposition. When Bahia became PT, Salvador became Carlist. However, the similarities cannot be carried too far in this regard. After all, the current clash between the interior and the capital of Bahia expresses a fight between autonomous Bahian forces and those who put themselves at the service of a national summit. Above ACM there is no one; above the Bahia PTs is Lula. What’s more, these external forces never managed to make a mayor in the capital; Salvador never had a PT mayor, the local elites were always sent there.
In São Paulo, the opposite occurs. The opposing forces, PT and PSDB, are both gestated in São Paulo — more precisely, at the University of São Paulo. Both forces proved capable of reaching the presidency of the Republic. But, even so, the state remained an impregnable fortress of anti-PTism. We have the curious case in which a party from the capital managed to ascend to the presidency, and, even so, it did not get the state government.
The Republic of Coffee Without Milk
In 2018, Brazil elects a peripheral figure to the presidency, a member of the lower clergy elected several times by Rio de Janeiro. In the history of the Republic, elected presidents used to be sponsored by either the political elite of São Paulo or Minas Gerais. The exceptions were Vargas (former dictator), Dutra (nominated by Vargas) and Fernando Collor (from Alagoas). In the New Republic, Minas Gerais only elected one president: Tancredo Neves, who died before taking office. Tarcísio’s originality came shortly after this rupture at the federal level. Rio de Janeiro has never elected president in the history of the Republic. (He even hit the beam, with Nilo Peçanha.)
It is well known that the Old Republic used to rotate between São Paulo and Minas. This was visible to the naked eye because the political elites were all rural, well located in their proper states and very outspoken about government interests. With urbanization, ideology begins to enter the picture to persuade the common citizen. However, this does not make regional elites disappear – on the contrary, it multiplies them, as new economic powers emerge. Thus, political analysis in urban Brazil has been paying too much attention to ideology and forgetting the regional dimension of politics. So much so that the other phases of the Republic that had direct elections for president kept the café au lait scheme until it was just coffee, and yet everything happens, in political analysis, as if it were only, or above all, an ideological dispute.
The governors of the New Republic
During the New Republic, São Paulo elected six governors: Quércia (86), Fleury (90), Graves (94 and 98, first toucan elected), Alckmin (2002, 2010 and 2014), Serra (2008) and Doria (2018). Interestingly, there is no president’s name there. Even so, almost all New Republic elections had one of these names among the presidential candidates: 89, Covas by PSDB; 89, Quércia for the PMDB; 98, Serra by the PSDB; 2006, Alckmin; 2010, Mountain range; 2010, Alckmin. From the list of governors, it is worth mentioning that Doria even left the governorship to run for president. And as for the missing years, they are only 2000 and 2014. In 2014, the PSDB for the first time allowed a candidate from Minas to run (Aécio Neves, grandson of Tancredo Neves). On the other hand, 98 was a very atypical year, as it was the first year in which the reelection amendment proposed by FHC was valid.
FHC himself has an atypical profile among São Paulo presidents. He is the first president of São Paulo in history to be elected president of Brazil without having been governor of São Paulo before. He was a university professor without any electoral experience who had occupied, somewhat on the fly, the Ministry of Economy in the Itamar government (Collor’s deputy from Minas Gerais). The establishment of FHC in the presidency coincided with the election of Covas for two terms in the state.
After FHC came the PT, but the state remained Tucano and tried, without success, to take its governors to the presidency . On the other hand, the capital of São Paulo was selective towards the PSDB: since redemocratization, it only accepted the toucans Serra (2004), Dória (2006) and Bruno Covas (2020). On the other hand, the candidate Geraldo Alckmin was rejected by the capital twice (2000 and 2004 ), after having been governor. Perhaps we have a pattern here: Alckmin made a political career in Pindamonhangaba, while everyone else had their life in the capital. If the capital rejects the interior, the state, on the other hand, rejects the politicians without ballast in the interior – which is the case of the PT.
Interior versus capital – precedents
Looking at the Old Republic, we see that, in order to have weight in democracy, a state needs to have a large number of voters and be politically cohesive. Rio Grande do Sul became important when Getúlio Vargas unified the gauchos, who until then lived between civil wars. Meanwhile, São Paulo was divided between the countryside and the capital, with the capital wanting to get out of Café com Leite and the countryside wanting to keep it. At that time, the one who came to the aid of the state of São Paulo was Bahia, a large college with easy votes to be sold by the local colonel. Júlio Prestes, from São Paulo, ran for president against Getúlio Vargas, with former Bahia governor Vital Soares as his vice. Bahia remains the same to this day: it is a force to maintain the status quo. Getúlio’s deputy was João Pessoa, nephew of ex-president Epitácio Pessoa, from Paraíba, and he was then busy pursuing the hinterland, with abusive interstate taxes, in order to strengthen the port on the coast. There, sertanejo commerce, which crossed the states by land, should be diverted to the port. That was the internal fight versus capital.
In the economic field, Getúlio Vargas had pacified Rio Grande do Sul by sacrificing the bankers. The ranchers wanted cheap credit; bankers wanted high credit. Public banks please the ranchers and displease bankers. With the Coffee Valorization Plan, São Paulo da República Velha made coffee in kind an article of financial speculation. Thus, there was no conflict of interest between bankers and coffee growers: coffee was stored in order to create highs, manipulating the market. Politics ends, it is natural that the crisis will come within the state: bankers on one side, ruralists on the other.
Today’s fight is Faria Lima versus agro
Looking back, it is reasonable to see the New Republic as the nationalization of a domestic struggle in São Paulo, in which the capital had been winning until now. Don’t people from São Paulo have a quorum at home? They then go to the Northeast and set foot in its most populous state, Bahia. One of Lula’s first measures is to “liberate” Brazil from the IMF… How? Taking out high-interest loans from private banks to pay off the IMF’s low-interest (4% per annum) debt. That’s why Lula is loved by bankers and by Faria Lima.
The natural rival of private bankers is BNDES, created to give low interest rates and foster the national economy. Much of the risk that the BNDES offered was neutralized by diverting the bank’s loans to defaulting countries, which could not get a loan anywhere. Indirectly, this gave a lot of money to part of the Bahian elite, which saw its public works market expand to Africa and its Hispanic neighbors. ACM only offered Bahia; São Paulo’s politicians offered continents.
In this election, Lula adheres to Faria Lima’s ESG agenda. This agenda wants to regulate the fart of the cow and save the giraffes of the Amazon: in a word, to disrupt Brazilian agriculture and produce hunger in the world. They are neo-Malthusian environmentalists and liars.
On the other hand, agriculture is growing more and more, and has become the main economic power in Brazil. The focus is the Midwest, which has a lot of money and few people. However, the interior of São Paulo joined the movement. Thus, Bolsonaro, who did not reach the presidency as a chief of Rio de Janeiro or anything like that, was adopted by the agro as its president. And Tarcísio came in the package, as the party elites in São Paulo did not renew themselves along with the state’s economy.