WSJ Brazil’s Trumpian Candidate
lunes, 8 de octubre de 2018


By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Donald Trump’s candidacy was “the empty gin bottle” that voters had “chosen to toss through the window,” David Gelernter wrote in an October 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed. As Brazilians go to the polls Oct. 7 to elect a new president, they’re tossing their own empty bottle, perhaps one that once held the potent sugar distillate called cachaça.

The Trumplike candidate is Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party, a 63-year-old, thrice-married former army captain. Although he has been in Brazil’s Congress since 1990 he is widely viewed as an outsider and wears his political incorrectness as a badge of honor. He’s also leading in the polls, much to the consternation of “experts” in places like New York and London.

Mr. Gelernter’s America was more than simply frustrated with an anemic economy. President Obama and Hillary Clinton had “emasculated” voters, he wrote. Their rebellion was against progressive snobs who belittled conservatives and their traditional values.

Yet the Trump base alone couldn’t have elected the president. It took voters like Mr. Gelernter, whose profile as a professor of computer science at Yale puts him squarely in the category of the “elite,” to produce the unforeseen victory. Confessing no admiration for the real-estate developer, Mr. Gelernter said he would vote for him “grimly.” Why? Because the alternative was too awful to contemplate.

With 28% support, according to a Datafolha poll released Friday, a Bolsonaro victory is far from certain. Electoral rules require a candidate to earn 50% plus one of valid votes cast to win in the first round. If necessary, a runoff election will be held Oct. 28.

In a runoff Mr. Bolsonaro would likely face one-term former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. Mr. Haddad was chosen as candidate of the left-wing Workers’ Party, or PT, after former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, convicted of bribery, was barred from running. Mr. Haddad is polling in second place with 22% of the vote, according to Datafolha.

In a second round, Datafolha has Mr. Haddad with 45% and Mr. Bolsonaro with 38%. The PT machine has a strong ground game and masterful use of the media. But Mr. Bolsonaro could still surprise, which explains why a would-be assassin stabbed him in early September.

People vote their pocketbooks and while the economy has recovered from a nearly three-year recession, the central bank forecasts growth at a mere 1.4% this year and only 2.4% next year. The PT has tried to blame President Michel Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, who was PT President Dilma Rousseff’s vice president and took over when she was impeached in 2016. But many Brazilians don’t buy that. They know that 13 years of PT governance made the mess.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s economics are shaky. He has moderated his longstanding views as an economic nationalist, but on specific issues-from privatization to protectionism-he has been difficult to pin down. The best guess is that his government would strive for greater fiscal restraint and deregulation.

Mr. Bolsanaro is one of few in Congress not tainted by the corruption scandals of recent years. Last week allegations arose that he has hidden assets from tax authorities. Even if true, that pales in comparison to the PT’s arrogance.
The PT governments specialized in graft and bribery. The federal investigation known as Operation Carwash discovered systemic corruption inside the Brazilian development bank and the state-owned oil company Petrobras . Mr. da Silva, who was caught red-handed taking a bribe, still believes he ought to be above the law.

Putting the PT back in power, where it is more than likely to try to bend the judiciary toward its left-wing ideology, is a risk many Brazilians say they aren’t willing to take.

Mr. Bolsonaro has support among evangelical Christians and farmers. He does better than Mr. Haddad among middle-income voters and especially well among the college-educated, who fear a return of the corrupt PT.
He talks tough on security and wants to restore the presence of the state in places taken over by organized crime. He speaks bluntly against PT land redistribution that has favored special interest groups. His critics call him racist for this, but trampling property rights is no way to raise living standards.

Mr. Bolsonaro supports agricultural development, whereas the PT treats farmers as an environmental menace. He also defends traditional views on sexuality, challenging the use of public schools to teach otherwise. He is labeled a homophobe by his critics, but in socially conservative Brazil his objections have been welcomed.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s broadest appeal is that he speaks vigorously against the PT. In a nation where soaring hopes were dashed by PT recklessness and entitlement, that message sells.


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