The start of the election campaign

Image: Vinicius Vieira


This campaign will also be a battle of opposing passions

The interviews of the four main candidates for the National Journal – Jair Bolsonaro, Lula, Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet – represented the effective beginning of the electoral campaign. In part, it diluted the expectation regarding the start of free electoral hours. The interviews represented a public platform and a much more privileged space of time than radio and TV advertising.

None of the four candidates was disastrous. Attention, given the evidence of polarization, focused on Lula and Jair Bolsonaro. They were the most demanded by the interviewers, Bonner and Renata. The thorniest questions were addressed to both, perhaps more to Jair Bolsonaro than Lula. Thus, neither of them had time to speak more assertively about the main axes of their campaigns.

Due to the nature of the interviews, Ciro Gomes was the one who most managed to talk about what he intends to do and how to do it. Simone Tebet was concerned with presenting herself to the general public, emphasizing her uniqueness as a woman. She also had more space to talk about what she intends to do, but little said about how she intends to do it.

Simone Tebet's big challenge, in the coming weeks, will still be to become known. Ciro Gomes, in turn, if it is true that he is clear about what and how to do it, has another type of challenge: getting the political tactic right. So far he has been wrong. He attacks Jair Bolsonaro and Lula with the same intensity and radicalism.

Ciro Gomes does not realize that when dealing with a dispute against a candidate running for re-election, the center of the attack must be the government and this candidate, as it is this government that is being evaluated and disputed. Secondly, he does not consider that Lula is more consolidated than Jair Bolsonaro and that, therefore, he should seek to weaken and displace the president. Thirdly, he could criticize Lula and the PT governments, but without the degree of sectarianism that he has been adopting, not least because his electorate is also center-left. He will not be able to capture voters from this camp with sectarianism. He could get it if he tried to be more forceful and more effective than Lula in criticizing the government and in programmatic propositions.

Jair Bolsonaro, in turn, managed to survive the JN interview. He is the candidate who has the greatest liabilities, the most broken walls, but vulnerable to attacks. But Bolsonaro also showed that he has argumentative weapons to defend himself: his main tactic consists of distorting and lying, presenting a meta-reality in relation to the reality of his government, his speech and his actions. It is a difficult tactic to face, for two reasons: (1) it demands an additional effort from opponents to try to undo the fiction of Bolsonarista discourse; (2) as is well known, many people believe lies and fictions. And when the teller of lies believes his own lies he becomes more convincing. This is the case of Jair Bolsonaro. In this way, Jair Bolsonaro's electoral tactics are endowed with an effectiveness that needs to be considered by opponents.

If Jair Bolsonaro managed to avoid the disaster in JN, Lula managed to do very well. For the first time, he spoke to the general public about the issue that most affects him and his campaign: corruption. He admitted that it existed in his government, but to a large extent he managed to place himself outside of it by listing the combat measures he sponsored and by emphasizing that he never interfered in the investigation, inspection and control bodies. And this is being favored by the interference festival that Jair Bolsonaro has been sponsoring. He gave credibility by saying that corruption in his possible government will be punished.

Lula had little time to talk about his program. But it became clear that it will favor the recovery of the economy, the social, the fight against hunger and poverty. These will also be priorities for Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet. Lula's advantage is what he has already done. But Lula signaled a certain difficulty or a certain intentionality in not saying how he will do what he is saying he will do.

In the press pool debate, Jair Bolsonaro launched a direct attack against Lula and the PT. He played only for his flock, assaulted and did not enlarge. Lula had difficulties in responding to attacks involving corruption and emergency aid. It was good not to confront Ciro Gomes and to call him for dialogue. Lula bet on caution. He didn't enter the direct fight against Jair Bolonaro. It was a defensive tactic that, in politics, is not highly recommended. There was no clear winner, but Simone Tebet came out on top. She was assertive, courageous, occupied spaces well and was tough against Bolsonaro. She realized that there is space for anti-Bolsonaro, something that Ciro Gomes was not able to perceive.

Lula, Jair Bolsonaro and Ciro Gomes give emphatic and incisive speeches. Jair Bolsonaro's forcefulness expresses anger. Therefore, it is an exclusionary force, which does not add to those who are not in favor of it. The strength of Lula and Ciro Gomes, in general, is outrageous. But there is a difference between both. Ciro's indignation, like the indignation of most left-wing politicians, is a rational indignation, thought out, an intellectual expression resulting from the analysis they make about the iniquities of reality.

Lula's indignation merges reality and emotion, feelings and affections. It mobilizes affections, integrates the feelings of the audience, the listeners, to their feelings. Therefore, it is a welcoming indignation, capable of aligning listeners with its proposals and objectives. Only two types of leaders can do what Lula can. In one case, it is that leader who has experienced the reality that motivates indignation: suffering. This is the case with Lula. Even as a leader, Lula is the people, he is the incarnation of the people. In the other case, he is the leader who masters the performing arts, theatrical performance techniques and the art of rhetoric. He is the great actor who knows how to lead listeners to a favorable outcome.

The outcome of the speeches, the epilogue, aims to persuade the maximum number of listeners. After showing reality and facts, the leader must be able to generate emotions, as these are the ones, more than reason, that define engagement. Jair Bolsonaro is capable of generating feelings of enmity (rivalry), discord and hatred, which are powerful motivations in decision-making processes. Lula arouses anger, indignation and compassion, which are also very powerful affects in terms of decision-making. This campaign will also be a battle of opposing passions. It is not love, but compassion that must be able to overcome hatred.

*Aldo Fornazieri He is a professor at the School of Sociology and Politics. Author, among other books, of Leadership and Power (Countercurrent).



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