About the result of the first round

Image: Vanessa Winship


Lula goes to the second round in a more comfortable position than Gustavo Petrus and Gabriel Boric, winners in Colombia and Chile

So-called 'positive thinking' has always seemed to me an echo of magical-religious thinking. That's why I didn't let myself be carried away by the 'Lula wins in the first round' wave of optimism. I knew that Jair Bolsonaro was not an extraterrestrial; and that it is the product and expression of a large part of Brazilian society. That part which is reactionary, conservative, racist, and highly uneducated; despite the university degrees that some may have.

I expected a difficult election with an unpredictable result. Basically, Bolsonarism is an expression of three things: the interests of a high bourgeoisie that does not want a government that can arbitrate in favor of the workers in the distributive puja; the aspirations of an upper middle class that wants to defend its (often meager) privileges and advantages in relation to the poorest sectors of society; and the recalcitrant conservatism of some of these poorer sectors.

This conservatism, which is also very important in the middle sectors, can override any rational calculation regarding the threat and the setback that Bolsonarism entails for the interests and rights of the low and middle sectors of society. Therefore, Lula's victory was not an easy thing. On the other hand, anyone who was irrational enough to vote for Jair Bolsonaro once shows a cognitive indigence that does not allow one to be very optimistic about their ability to correct a mistake. The method of fixing the belief that prevails in irrational thinking is the method of tenacity (empty Charles Sanders Peirce).

However, despite this deplorable context, the result that Lula actually obtained was very good. It was an important and significant electoral victory. He won by more than five points, coming within two points of winning the election in the first round. The unpleasant 'surprise', however, was the 'unforeseen' amount of fascist votes. And that leads to moderating the optimism that certainly must be had in relation to the second round.

Although, one might also think that Jair Bolsonaro is closer to his electoral ceiling than Lula. Furthermore, the percentage of “undefined” votes that Bolsonaro needs to win in order to impose himself is much higher than what Lula has to win. It is unfortunately clear that the irrationality that seems to motivate the choices of most of the Brazilian electorate may even generate concern that a part of Lula's votes will turn in favor of Jair Bolsonaro. But I think that, if that happens, it will be a marginal phenomenon.

What you can't do is let yourself be carried away by the wave of despondency resulting from the disappointment of those who let themselves be carried away by 'positive thinking'. This optimism, contrary to the celebrated and more commonly ignored 'intelligence pessimism', was the product of magical thinking; and it does not have to be considered when assessing what happened. In fact, Lula leaves the first round in a far more comfortable position than that in which two progressive candidates emerged from the second round, who recently also claimed, and won, the presidency in the face of largely reactionary and conservative electorates.

I'm talking about Gustavo Petrus in Colombia, and Gabriel Boric in Chile. Gustavo Petrus entered the second round in first place with forty percent of the votes; which were not very promising with regard to the fifty-something percent of the votes that the two main (though not the only) right-wing candidates had combined. Gabriel Boric arrived at balloting having achieved only a dismal second place in the first round. Taking in that first stage only twenty-six percent of the votes, and having to go out and make a difference by appealing to an electorate that, for the most part, had been scattered among 'centre-right' alternatives.

However, and fortunately, Petrus, Boric and Lula are real politicians. Race politicians who, in order to fight with the optimism of the will, do not need to contradict the always healthy pessimism of the intelligence. If it weren't for that, the lathe operator would never have become the most important president in all of Latin American history; and it is because he is as he really is that he will know how to lead the electoral puja of this month that we have ahead of us. To overcome an important challenge, it is not necessary to think that it is an 'easy thing'; nor is it necessary to have 'faith' in one's own strength. On the contrary: it's better not to be fooled by such nonsense.

To face a battle, one has to take into account the difficulties and one's own weaknesses. And you have to know how to use whatever strength you have, little or a lot, to ruthlessly and astutely hit your opponent's weaknesses; which, in this case, we all know are many.

*Gustavo Caponi Professor of Philosophy at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC).


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