Brazilians elect demagogue mirroring Trump in landslide

Jacob Feuerstein, Staff Writer

Yet another country has fallen to the far-right scourge of populism that has been marked by the British exit from the European Union, the election of President Donald Trump, and the adoption of far-right policies in Poland. A majority of Brazilians voted in favor of Jair Bolsonaro, their newest president, defeating his center-left opponent, ex-mayor of São Paulo Fernando Haddad, with Bolsonaro winning 55 percent of the vote. The campaign has not been an easy one for Bolsonaro, who was stabbed in the stomach at a political rally and spent several weeks campaigning from his hospital bed. Nevertheless, his ultra-conservative message and promise of change after the leaders of Brazil’s Workers Party were charged in a multi-yearlong corruption investigation, proved to be extremely persuasive.

Bolsonaro has not been a unifying candidate by any definition of the word. He has, by and large, emulated the divisive rhetoric of Trump. In fact, Bolsonaro has even been reported to have said to a congresswoman that she did not deserve to be raped because she was “very ugly” and that he would prefer to see his son “die in an accident” than have him be a homosexual. These statements are not too far off from those of the American President, who has called several women, including his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman and the wife of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Heidi Cruz, ugly and fat, even comparing them to dogs. This rhetoric has sparked anger among the Brazilian population, with many reporting to have noticed an uptick in homophobia and threats of physical violence. Bolsonaro’s ability to candidly reveal this previously latent homophobia is reminiscent of what Trump has done in America. According to the American Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents saw a 60 percent rise from 2016 to 2017, corresponding directly with Trump’s rise to power. Of course, it is impossible to say that this uptick is a result of his election, but many well-known hate groups have seen a resurgence since his election, and his rhetoric has been nothing short of inflammatory.

We should be outraged by the election of Bolsonaro, but Trump, who is deemed to be the “leader of the free world” does, shockingly, not share these feelings. Instead of denouncing the divisive rhetoric of the candidate, Trump called to congratulate him on his victory and promised to work closely with him on issues of trade and the military.

This dismissal of the core American values of inclusion and acceptance signal yet another reason why the 2020 presidential election will be a referendum on American morals. However, for now, we must watch the new president of Brazil carefully and be prepared to take action to protect minority groups in that country. If the world condones this hateful rhetoric, then the ubiquity of this ultra-nationalism will go unchecked and could continue to spill into countries previously thought to be immune to this type of conservatism. It is up to all of us to prevent any further proliferation of this rhetoric.

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