How Trumpism poisons Brazilian election

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 3, 2022
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A demonstrator wearing a Brazilian flag stands in front of a burning barricade to protest against the results of the presidential election in Varginha, Brazil, on Oct. 31, 2022. [Photo/cfp.cn]

Former U.S. President Donald Trump's anti-democratic tactics are influencing foreign countries and exacerbating a global anti-democracy trend of right-wing populists trying to usurp power and violate individual rights. This is happening now in Brazil.

Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing extremist who courted and received Trump's endorsement, lost reelection to the progressive candidate Lula de Silva, but he has refused to concede. Bolsonaro, who copied much about his public image from Trump, won the presidency in 2018. Aided by the politically motivated arrest of his opponent Lula during the 2018 campaign, Bolsonaro won 55% of the vote. 

After his victory, he attacked the free press using language copied from Trump. He called newspapers that reported anything critical about him "fake news." He called for waging a campaign against the news media. But, hypocritically, his allies led a campaign to brainwash people with smears about Bolsonaro's opponent that, according to Brazilian media, was funded by over 150 large businesses.

To be sure, Bolsonaro has been in politics for 33 years, and he was a right-wing radical before Trump came along. He has often made racist comments disparaging indigenous people and immigrants. 

So, Bolsonaro didn't become a right-wing radical because of Trump, but he benefited from marketing his persona like Trump. It is one thing for an extreme right-wing politician to spew abuse and get elected locally. But to win the office of the presidency in a nation of 214 million people, a politician needs to be more than a loud, angry hatemonger. He needs to have some uncouth swagger. He needs to be a "populist." That's what Trump taught his fellow right-wing demagogues around the world.

Trump's hold over the global right-wing imagination is so strong that even after Trump was forced from office, South Korean right-wingers are often seen waving flags with Trump's likeness.

Anti-democracy right-wingers around the world look to and praise Trump. Trump's pals and advisors are working on political campaigns overseas. The Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), an activist group that promotes Trump and pro-Trump Republicans, hosted events in Hungary and Israel where they pushed their Trump-style anti-immigrant, pro-big business agenda on foreign countries. 

Steve Bannon, one of the managers of Trump's 2016 campaign, started a European Union political organization¬, "The Movement," as he grandiosely named it, intended to back various Trumpian right-wingers across Europe while also promoting nationalism instead of "globalism."

Right-wing populists worldwide adopt slogans like "America First" and "Brazil Above All." For example, Bolsonaro pulled out of a UN treaty on the human rights of migrants because he said each country should make its own rules and not be pressured by outside forces.

Nevertheless, calling oneself a nationalist while influenced by foreign political actors is ironic.

Now Steve Bannon and other Trump activists are encouraging Bolsonaro to refuse to concede as Trump did. One right-wing activist even called for Brazilians to "take to the streets" and for the military to stand by.

They are attempting a new kind of neo-colonialism whereby DC-funded political professionals try to enact their corporatist will on foreign countries.

Before the vote, Bolsonaro intentionally sewed doubt about the results when he was expected to lose. Now that he has lost, he is silent. It is concerning that he has refused to accept the results. This is the longest an ousted incumbent has gone in Brazil's democratic era without congratulating the incoming president.

Bolsonaro's actions aren't as bad as Trump's, who actively denied his defeat for months and months after 2020. However, Bolsonaro's refusal to admit defeat has allowed other voices to fill the vacuum. His radical supporters have blocked highways with trucks and piles of burning tires.

What will happen now hinges largely on what Bolsonaro does next. We have to wait and see. But whatever happens, it is already harmful how deeply he has allowed the forces that are undermining American democracy to penetrate his own country.

Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:

http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/MitchellBlatt.htm

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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