Who are Jair Bolsonaro's voters?

Carla Barchini, Self-portrait VIIII, 2019, Cement tiles, 20 cm3


Most are conservatives who have introjected the values ​​of patriarchal society, ignored for a long time by the left as a secondary issue.

For a long time, a good part of the left rejected any theme that moved away from what was then understood as class struggle, seen only in an economistic key. Thus, feminist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic struggles were rejected as “identity agendas” that weakened the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. And the indigenous issue was not perceived as a social problem, but as a purely environmental issue. The Indian was seen as nature.

This mistaken view distanced left-wing political parties and organizations from social sectors that fought for their rights against the oppression of which they were victims. But the traditional left did not see social and cultural oppression, it only saw the economic exploitation of workers. With that, it moved away from a critical agenda of the patriarchal society and did not face conservative values ​​in the political struggle.

I remembered this to explain, from another angle, the 51 million votes received by Jair Bolsonaro in the first round. Among these votes, we have the neoliberals who consider the spending cap as a matter of principle, the reactionary military – the vast majority – the right-wing evangelicals and Catholics, and those who are ideologically fascist. But this contingent is far from being the majority.

The vast majority of B.'s voters are conservatives who fearfully reject the empowerment of women who no longer accept their traditional role as mothers and housewives. Nostalgic for Casa Grande and Senzala, they are intimidated by the struggle of blacks for equality and truly scandalized by the struggle of gays (LGBTQIA+) for the recognition of their rights. For example, same-sex marriage is seen as shameful. In addition, they associate deforestation with progress.

In B.'s electorate there are not only economic interests of capitalist business, corporate interests of the military, or interests of a large mass of evangelicals deceived in their good faith by corrupt pastors. The vast majority is made up of conservatives who have introjected the values ​​of patriarchal society, ignored for a long time by the left as a secondary issue, outside the focus of the class struggle.

This large contingent of conservative voters cannot be classified as fascist. But it should not be ignored that they would support a fascist dictatorship that raised the motto "God, Fatherland and Family" very high. They are, above all, conservatives who identify with the rulers who, even in a hypocritical way, announce their retrograde values ​​as official policy. For example, they defend life from conception, but they do not defend children who die of hunger or victims of “stray bullets” in the favelas.

This conservative electorate transforms its leader into a myth and would support a dictatorship of a fascist nature. He wants a strong government to prevent social changes, especially in the behavioral sphere. Italian Fascism and German Nazism serve as a model, with due regard for differences and necessary adaptations. But the watchwords, such as “Brazil Above All”, “God, Fatherland and Family”, “O Trabalho Libertas”, “One Nation, One People, One Leader” and others, the gestures, the motorcycle rides, many thing is directly copied from European nazi-fascism.

Conservatives hate freedom. They need an authoritative boss to give orders, they are eager to obey. They fight change, especially with regard to moral values. This substratum of Bolsonarism will have to be permanently attacked, even at the risk of later breaking up the current anti-fascist democratic front supporting Lula. The struggles of the despised “identity issues” will have to be waged in articulation with the economic struggles of the working class and with the struggle for the reduction of social inequality.

What is at issue today is not a “normal” electoral dispute between two candidates, as the press likes to present it. There is a confrontation between democracy and dictatorship within the institutions themselves, as the surrealist episode of Roberto Jefferson demonstrated. We are already living with measures of a State of exception. The president committed dozens of crimes and was not even prosecuted, such was the criminal complicity of the control institutions. What is at stake is the survival of democracy in the struggle against dictatorship which, with the support of conservatives, would certainly be implemented with the victory of the candidate currently in power.

After Lula's probable victory, by a narrower margin than we imagined, the fight against the conservative values ​​of the patriarchal society will be urgent. We will have to articulate these “identity” struggles with the economic struggles of the workers. In the language of the American philosopher Nancy Fraser, it is a question of articulating “recognition” with “redistribution”, which can no longer be separated.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was deputy (PT-RJ) and Coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond).

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