Far-right Congressman Jair Bolsonaro
far-right jair bolsonaro roda viva

Far-right Congressman Jair Bolsonaro

On Monday night, TV Cultura – a public television network owned by the state of São Paulo – broadcasts Roda Viva, one of Brazil’s most traditional talk shows. While the 32-year-old panel debate has relatively low ratings, it still helps set the political agenda. According to the Directory for Public Policy Analysis of think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas, voter interest in presidential candidates peaked during their Roda Viva appearances.

The numbers for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (who, from jail, is unlikely to be featured on the show) and far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro (who was the guest on Monday night) have yet to be analyzed, but those of their competitors have.

On July 23, center-right candidate Geraldo Alckmin sat in the Roda Viva hot seat. Google searches about him and his candidacy skyrocketed to their highest levels of the year. The same thing happened to left-wing candidates Guilherme Boulos (who appeared on May 7), Ciro Gomes (May 28), and Manuela D’Ávila (June 25), libertarian João Amoêdo (May 21), and center-right Álvaro Dias (June 4). 

far-right candidate jair bolsonaro 2018 election brazil donald trump

Only two candidates didn&#8217;t experience a peak of Google activity after their </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Roda Viva </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">appearances: Marina Silva, around whom <a href="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2018/07/03/marina-silva-brazil-president-2018/">interest rises when polls are published</a>, and former Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, who is polling at 1 percent and is the candidate who represents the most-hated administration in Brazilian democratic history.</span></p> <h2>Jair Bolsonaro on <i>Roda Viva</i></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Visibly nervous at the center of the stage, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro used last night&#8217;s 80-minute interview to double down on his stance on race, gender, and democracy. The candidate consistently attacked the left-wing while praising the military dictatorship. From time to time, he also <a href="https://blogs.oglobo.globo.com/lauro-jardim/post/o-treinamento-do-bolsonaro.html">tried</a> to send positive signals to financial markets, by defending privatizations and cuts on public spending.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bolsonaro went to </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Roda Viva </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">not to appeal to the average voter, as his counterparts did, but rather to consolidate his support among Brazil&#8217;s most conservative &#8211; and reactionary &#8211; sectors. And he did so by playing on home turf. The pool of interviewers insisted on talking about his <a href="https://www.em.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2018/07/31/interna_politica,976795/bolsonaro-ignora-escravidao-e-golpe.shtml">favorite subjects</a>: his defense of the dictatorship&#8217;s torturers, his denial of racism and gender inequality in Brazil, and his caricatural anti-establishment antics.</span></p> <p>Out of the 38 questions, only three concerned economic issues, arguably Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s Achilles&#8217; heel.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make no mistake: the journalists on </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Roda Viva</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> did help the far-right candidate make a fool of himself, by leading him into absurd comments such as saying that the election could be defrauded due to the (absolutely unproven) fragility of the electronic voting system. But the more he is presented as the personification of evil, the stronger he gets among his defenders. Political analyst Oliver Stuenkel&#8217;s take on the interview is a worthwhile read:</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Brazil: Right-wing presidential candidate Bolsonaro successfully outmaneuvered his uninspiring interviewers on TV tonight, not really answering any questions. Just like w/ Trump in 2016, elites are laughing at his stupidity, unaware that stigmatization is what Bolsonaro desires.</p> <p>— Oliver Stuenkel (@OliverStuenkel) <a href="https://twitter.com/OliverStuenkel/status/1024132814168621056?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 31, 2018</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <h2>Brazilian far-right &#8220;basket of deplorables&#8221;?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bolsonaro likes to compare himself to U.S. President Donald Trump. While the two characters are very different from one another, the Brazilian presidential hopeful plays by some of the rules established by the former reality TV star-turned-president.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Brazilian left ridicules Mr. Bolsonaro for his outrageous remarks &#8211; at the same time he makes rape jokes, he also defends chemical castration for rapists &#8211; and apparent stupidity. But the more he&#8217;s painted as evil incarnate by leftists, the more he becomes he becomes a symbol of good for those who have grown to loathe the Brazilian left.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is also by no means productive to paint all of <a href="https://brazilian.report/2017/10/31/2018-election-brazil-extreme-right/">Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s voters</a> with the same broad brush. While he may be a bigot, the reasons that lead people to vote for him are varied &#8211; from those who share his set of values to others who are in complete despair and are looking for a quick fix to Brazil&#8217;s institutional deadlock.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Brazilian elites shouldn&#8217;t put him nor his supporters in a &#8220;basket of deplorables.&#8221; Hillary Clinton <a href="https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/sep/11/context-hillary-clinton-basket-deplorables/">did</a> that &#8211; and we all know how that turned out.

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