“Brazil needs a modern statesman, either progressive or conservative, who’s capable of unifying the country.”
They’ve depicted Jair Bolsonaro in the United States as a “Brazilian Trump.” While that may well be true, this much should also be said: A Bolsonaro victory would be more dangerous for Brazil than Trump’s has been for the United States.
Politically speaking, as a candidate, Bolsonaro is far-right, although he’s held conflicting, contradictory stances on economic issues. One important difference in relation to Trump is that, despite the fact both Brazil and the U.S. bestow extreme power on the presidency, unlike in Brazil, the U.S. Constitution of 1787, which sought to protect against the possibility of a demagogue taking possession of the nation’s highest office, made the two other branches of government, the legislature and judiciary, into powerful counterweights to the presidency.
In Brazil, the other two branches have always been subordinate to the executive, in practice. The legislature has frequently found its hands tied, unable to carry out its true role, being relegated instead to rubberstamping measures proposed by the executive. The judicial branch is likewise much stronger and more independent in the United States than in Brazil. While it’s true that, just like in Brazil, the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president and then ratified by the Senate, the U.S. judiciary has greater genuine influence.
The fact that democracy and government institutions in Brazil are much younger and less insulated from the decisions of the executive makes having a president like Bolsonaro, given his volatile temperament and backward attitude with respect to human rights and customs, a much greater threat to Brazil than Trump poses to the United States.
In spite of the occasionally bizarre similarities they share – not the least of which is their personalities – one difference between the two is that Trump is a billionaire, who entered into politics almost as a sport and who can, whenever he wants or gets tired of his new role, go back to the business world from which he came. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, is merely a politician, like several of his children; without the world of politics, he’d be nothing. He’s been a representative for the past quarter century and has passed through six political parties; he could even run for president under a different party.
There are those who say Bolsonaro could never win an election because women, who make up the majority of the Brazilian electorate, would never vote for him due to his ideas about them, ideas that are not only conservative but dangerous and disrespectful, as well. Then again, the same thing was said about Trump, and, nevertheless, women still voted for him.
Bolsonaro’s machismo and ostensible contempt for women is well known, Bolsonaro having once said, “[Women] must earn less than men because they can get pregnant.” When talking about his own family, he said, “I have five children. Four are male. Once I chilled out, the woman came along.” His dangerous, reprehensible ideas about rape and gays and lesbians are even more widely known.
Despite the fact that the new U.S. president has always treated women in a vulgar manner, seeing them more as sexual objects than people, Bolsonaro has still outdone Trump in this arena. While Trump is perhaps cruder toward women, Bolsonaro is ideologically more dangerous on issues related to gender.
They say Trump is a lover of war and a violent person. Bolsonaro, if he were to become president, wouldn’t pose a military threat since Brazil doesn’t need to declare war against anyone. He could, however, represent a greater threat given his personal beliefs about violence: The ex-paratrooper defends both torture and executions. “I know how to kill,” he said only days ago while noting how, as an ex-soldier, he knows how to use weapons. While casting his vote in favor of impeaching Dilma, he even praised the soldier who tortured her in prison.*
While both Trump and Bolsonaro self-identify as “men of faith,” Bolsonaro, who is said to have recently become evangelical, is much more radical than Trump in defense of the confessional state. Bolsonaro is against state secularism and favors putting a religious power in place in Brazil. “God is above all. The secular state doesn’t exist in Brazil – it’s a Christian country and the minority that stands against [this view] should back down. The minority must submit to the majority,” he said in Congress.
Brazil is going through a critical and dangerous time, with a society that’s divided and in conflict. If the country needs anyone to preside over it, that person should be a calming force, not a fighter with violent pretensions and medieval ideas about customs and human rights.
Brazil needs a modern statesman, either progressive or conservative, who’s capable of reunifying the country, reconciling differences and bringing together the country’s best and brightest to facilitate a new political and moral renaissance that will rise from the ruins left behind by political and business sector corruption.
Brazil needs at its helm someone able to act as a force for good in the context of the global geopolitical chess game and a counterweight to the propagation of dangerously backward and violent ideas, which today threaten global stability.
*Editor’s note: Dilma is a reference to Dilma Rousseff, a Brazilian economist and politician who served as 36th president of Brazil until she was impeached and removed from office on Aug. 31, 2016.