Feelings, moods and wills of the people

Image: Cyrus Saurius
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By MANUEL DOMINGOS NETO*

Party acronyms and electoral rules are instruments for the exercise of a facade democratic system, erected to deny the principle of popular sovereignty

I stopped reading analyzes of tables and graphs showing election “results”. In all, I found inconsistencies; none answered crucial questions. How many reactionaries were elected by parties considered “left”? How many religious fundamentalists and old-fashioned clientelists wrap themselves up in these captions?

How many women, obedient to their husbands and averse to fighting to defend gender, were elected? How many people angry about their color won terms? How many voted in exchange for tiles, gas cylinders, promises of jobs, important positions or forgiveness of millionaire debts? How many voted to pay for packets of cocaine, crack pebbles or, simply, peace in their places of residence? How many PhD professors voted dreaming of budget amendments for their laboratories, regardless of the sinking of the country?

Who guarantees that people sensitive to popular causes have not obtained mandates using grouped acronyms such as “center-right” and “centrão”?

Charts do not show citizens who reject Bolsonaro and admire Lula by voting for parties that support the government. They give rise to conclusions as varied as the visual arrangements of a kaleidoscope because the parties do not reflect the diverse feelings, moods and wills of the people.

Party acronyms and electoral rules are instruments for the exercise of a façade democratic system, erected to deny the principle of popular sovereignty, that is, to deny that power emanates from the people and is exercised in their name.

Parties organized to contest elections reflect projects of elites that dispute hegemony. They often derive from the will and strength of influential personalities. They comprise networks of cronyism, localized domination schemes and family oligarchic arrangements.

In small and medium-sized cities, where the majority of Brazilian voters are located, many voted for the “friend” who “protects” them or who can benefit them. The same happens on the outskirts of Brazilian megalopolises where the homeless crowd.

As Florestan Fernandes argued, the representative system consecrated by modern democracies is incompatible with large underprivileged masses who survived colonial rule. Democracy molded in dominant countries does not rhyme with extreme penury. Political representativeness is distorted by clientelism, a practice incompatible with the distinction between public and private interests.

Among the urban middle classes, usually seen as more literate and “enlightened”, corporate voting – a form of clientelism – conceals political proclivities. This was even the vote that guaranteed Bolsonaro's political career, as well as that of many politicians with a unionist history.

Colonel Pedro Freitas, patriarch of a family that had been in a commanding position in Piauí since the Old Republic, told me that the secret ballot had not shaken electoral domains, it had only made the elections more expensive.

The representation of family oligarchies did not really change after the 1930 rupture, the Estado Novo and the dictatorship of 1964. I used the conversations I had with this oligarch to question the concept of “coronelismo” formulated by Victor Nunes Leal based on the observation of the world southeastern countryside. This classic said that “coronelismo” was the falsification of the vote. I considered that the “colonels” were a real expression of the established power system.

I rejected the notion that “coronelismo” was an eminently rural practice and of “backward” elites. There were and are “colonels” for all tastes, erudite and illiterate, coarse and refined, rich and well off, in the city and in the countryside, in all Brazilian regions.

The term “coronel” became a political insult, being particularly used to stigmatize the poorest regions. Oligarchic power spreads throughout the country, but southeastern intellectuals insist on characterizing it as northeastern, as Fernando Haddad did today in his column in Folha de São Paulo. It turned out badly for Political Science at USP. For a potential presidential candidate, don't even talk!

In these elections, I remembered a lot of Pedro Freitas and Victor Nunes Leal. The clientelistic systems they described were not scratched by the news.

Today there are clienteles consolidated by union representatives, pastors, militiamen, police, military, agricultural entrepreneurs, activists from stigmatized social segments... .

Programs that encompass the set of impasses of society and the State have given way to propositions with a restricted scope. I call this backward political culture.

It is true that hate speech denies politics. It is molten lead over the dream of a democratic, just and sovereign country.

But the good-natured, multifaceted clientelism practiced by the right and the left also fuels the crazy wave.

* Manuel Domingos Neto is a retired UFC professor. He was president of the Brazilian Defense Studies Association (ABED) and vice president of CNPq.

 

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