The aristocracy hostage to itself

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By JOÃO SETTE WHITAKER FERREIRA*

The ineptitude of the reactions to Bolsonaro's delusions must be sought in the powerful and discreet aristocracy that decides the country's destinies

Nothing exempts the genocidal captain. He has been anti-democratic since he was a child, and for thirty years he has been shouting it from the rooftops, to anyone who will listen. But he was just seen as a braggart lunatic. Even the little groups that went to Avenida Paulista with banners calling for the dictatorship to return were seen as eccentric. How did we end up here? With a President of the Republic who threatens the STF and democracy in a rally, without anything more serious happening to him?

Well, after the cowardly reactions of the mayors and the STF, we have to ask ourselves. Is it really just looseness? Fear of Bolsonaro? Is it really that they are dwarfed because they believe that the captain would be able to gather support for an uprising against democracy? When all those who circulate in the circles of power indicate that he has no support for this? Could it be that, as some maintain, are we underestimating the strength of the coup that Bolsonaro is surreptitiously preparing? I believe that the answer is not exactly in Bolsonaro.

There is an issue that is always worth remembering: who started this story of destroying democracy was not Bolsonaro. Anyone who doubted the result of the penultimate presidential election, implied fraud, launched threats to the government that had just won, was not Bolsonaro. It was Aécio Neves. Whoever started to climb, week in week out, one more step in the dismantling of democracy, it was not Bolsonaro, but a judge who decided, in broad daylight and with no reaction from anyone, to become a vigilante and break the law. It was not Bolsonaro who initiated an impeachment without crime, it was the MDB associated with the PSDB.

Well then, there is a powerful and discreet aristocracy that decides the destinies of this country. The folkloric image, although there is testimony from people who witnessed it, is that they gather from time to time in velvety halls to discuss the situation and the country's directions. They are big bankers, industry giants, media owners, former presidents, big businessmen, and some politicians, but not all (I wrote this article before the video of Temer's dinner at Naji Nahas' house, with all the barons gathered. There could not be a better illustration than this.) Because I suspect that much of the ineptitude of the reactions to Bolsonaro's delusions must be sought in the midst of this group, and not in the midst of the family of demented people that they allowed, for a lapse, to come to power. The explanation is elsewhere. It's at the impasse these people got themselves into.

The question is the following: the ruling aristocracy yielded to the democratic force by agreeing to swallow Lula, convinced by the “Letter to Brazilians”. It even worked out better than they thought, but when the pot started to spill, because Dilma showed herself to be more to the left than desired, because she unsuccessfully faced an economic crisis that was no longer just a “ripple” (as she had promised Lula), when Dilma decided to get tough with the banks, and when they saw that the democratic joke could perpetuate the PT in power for decades, they decided that the joke was no longer funny. They prepared with everything – with the media and all their economic power – to remove Dilma from power in the elections, but they did not succeed. All that was left for them to do was question the election and start a gradual, but sure, process of erosion of democracy.

What they did not expect is that their potential political representatives would split and, with more than one candidate, all without any charisma, would sink electorally. Alkmin, Meirelles, Amoedo and, to a certain extent, Marina, divided the votes of the “enlightened center”, a euphemism for an aristocratic right wing built on its privileges, but which wants to be progressive, and they sank in the polls. His enemy at that moment was not Bolsonaro, it is worth remembering. It was the PT, which they feared would return to power and stay there.

That's why they didn't mind betting on the one who had shouted “Viva Ustra” a few months before. Neither Ciro, nor FHC, nobody. Everyone agreed to match two incomparable candidates, and helped to give birth to the monster, to wake up not a giant, but a mass of coarse, individualistic, racist, xenophobic, sexist, selfish, intolerant, violent Brazilians, who suddenly saw that they had been given space to express themselves without shame. Worse, with pride.

With Bolsonaro in power, they entered – or thought they entered – the clubhouse of powerful new figures who were actually not accepted. Retail trade entrepreneurs, cowboys from the agribusiness, more narrow-minded people, focused on their immediate profit, used to scams and scams, tax evasion, bags of money. Pastors of deceitful churches, shearers of the poorest money. These people started talking loudly. Oh, and also, of course, the militias.

Jair Bolsonaro lives, or rather survives, on his popularity with these sectors. And that's all. No senior military officer with a brain (and it would be an oversimplification to think that they don't have any brains) would get involved in a coup adventure with a braggart in the lead. The PMs may even support it, but it would take a lot of coordination between disconnected state forces for them to constitute an armed force capable of sustaining a militarist adventure. No businessman, banker, industrialist is interested in seeing the country turn into a western dominated by militiamen and nouveau riche adventurers. They know it would be the worst case scenario for their profits. Incidentally, not even the centrão seems willing, as it knows that this would be the end of its source of clientelism, they would be quickly replaced by other, much worse forces, militiamen and the like.

But oh what to do? That's the problem. In this whole dynamic, this aristocratic elite lost the hand of politics. It is, at heart, deeply undemocratic. Perhaps even more than Bolsonaro himself, as he is in a more sophisticated way. Their strategy is to legitimately win elections, as long as whoever they want wins. Only, this time, they have a bully in front of them who has the power, and on the other side, stronger than ever, the possibility of the PT's return. They can say what they want, but Lula is what he is, like it or not. She loads truckloads of legitimate supporters. And the most complete expression of the undemocratic way of being of these people comes when some journalist or politician suggests that Lula should resign his candidacy, “in the name of the country”. Let's put it in other words: Lula should give up because he prevents Bolsonaro from being removed to replace someone they want, "in the name and for the good of the country".

They really tried: Moro, Huck, Mandetta and even an idiot like that comedian were tested for the task. But that's where the problem lies, no one "gets it". Not even Ciro, who is willing to do anything, even assume himself as a representative of this aristocracy. They could all remove Bolsonaro, but that's not the problem: they don't remove Lula. And so they are desperately looking for a “third way”, a euphemism for saying that they do not accept the democratic will if it confirms that the popular choice will be Lula.

So, for now, accept the bravado. As in the elections, Bolsonaro, a professional opportunist, takes advantage of the space. And the tone rises. If he doesn't land a hit, he'll at least come out shooting with a 25% base intact, just like Donald Trump. Would the STF and Artur Lira sustain a reaction at the height that Bolsonaro's provocations deserve? But to give what? In an impeachment that will put Mourão waiting for an election that has apparently already been decided? The solution doesn't work. The upstairs must be boiling hot. It is urgent to find a way out, before they lose track of the Bolsonarist adventure for good.

We have to understand that the anti-democratic DNA is not exclusive to a madman who left the country adrift and dying in the name of his narrow-minded personal projects, and who has been calling for a coup since he existed. The DNA is in those who let him act with impunity because, from the top of the democratic institutions that should serve, they do not take the necessary attitudes.

Let us remember that Dias Toffoli, when president of the STF, placed a military officer to advise him, in a gesture to reconcile with Bolsonaro. He said that the dictatorship had been a movement. The high court was silent when a general immured it if they followed the law and released Lula. Why such condescension? Because they are lost, without finding a path that takes the braggart out of where it shouldn't be, but guarantees them power. If they wanted, they have money to put the centrão in their pocket. The issue is that being democratic today in Brazil means accepting elections. And they don't want it the way it is. So they keep pushing the captain until something new comes along. Don't be surprised if this "something new" doesn't turn out to be Moro again: as Folha has already shown, Lula's acquittal and the conviction of the former judge in the STF mean nothing, for them they are just arrangements. The problem is that, in this game, the braggart can end up giving them an olé again, and getting what he wants: a real hit.

*João Sette Whitaker Ferreira is a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at USP (FAU-USP).

 

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