A look to the future and the future of the center

. Jan 06, 2020
brazil politics center Protesters standing behind barricades along Rio's main avenue, Rio Branco. Photo: Antonio Scorza

Technological development has trampled everything humanity was once used to. Knowledge multiplies at an astounding pace and breaks paradigms in the economy and in society. This time, the reallocation of labor is not the question, commerce and services have simply been reinvented into a quick sequence of clicks straight from one’s living room sofa. Obsolescence is on the horizon, and even Uber—the last resort of the desperate worker—will eventually replace their labor force with self-driving cars. The precarity of employment takes away people’s income and their pride, and this fear and resentment have overflowed into politics.

In 2019, the election of the year before needed to be decanted, as the country recovered from the jarring victory of Jair Bolsonaro. But time waits for no one and the delay in presenting answers and alternatives to what is on show has contributed to the accentuation of Brazil’s polarization. Standing on opposite sides, Mr. Bolsonaro and former President Lula are on the stump, nothing has changed in Brazil’s electoral outlook.

</p> <p>The fact is that the so-called &#8220;center&#8221; in Brazilian politics has not established itself. It still lacks meaning, discourse, and a face. Unable to answer vital questions, it will soon be crushed by the country&#8217;s anxiety.</p> <h2>The Brazilian center&#8217;s identity crisis</h2> <p>As we see it today, the center suffers from a lack of definition. Instead, it is defined by what it is not, incapable of expressing what it actually intends to be. It is a blurred line, situated in an imprecise place between Jair Bolsonaro and the Workers&#8217; Party. It is fixated with refuting the arguments of the Workers&#8217; Party and emphasizing its errors—which, despite being real, are already very well known. </p> <p>However, it abstains when the topic is the <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/01/06/brazilian-congress-2020-main-votes/">failures</a> of the Jair Bolsonaro government, tied to what appears to be the trap of mechanical adherence to the fiscal agenda. Without addressing more substantial issues, the center will, once again, not get very far.</p> <p>This is not to say that fiscal balance is unimportant—it certainly is important—but it is impossible for the center to present itself as an alternative by only rallying under the banner of sacrifice, without revealing the challenges posed by history and proposing how to overcome them. If the situation of the country, its states, and its municipalities are drastic, and the medicine has a foul taste, what is the patient&#8217;s prognosis? Beyond prescribing treatment, how long will it survive? </p> <p>Without <a href="https://opiniao.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,os-efeitos-da-demagogia,70001746618">demagogy</a> or irresponsibility, expressing some hope is necessary.</p> <p>People see the country as being at a crossroads. The reform of the pension system was barely challenged in the streets as many professional classes were spared from cuts, but also because—showing more wisdom than those who intend to govern them—the people pragmatically absorbed the inevitability of the pension reform changes; if the solution is to work harder and longer, they will go ahead and do it.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Cuts: what are they good for?</h2> <p>It is necessary to move forward, to return to the fundamental question: even if the present requires cuts, politics is made with the future, not the past. To look forward to tomorrow, to show that the way out of the mud is not by going back to the Middle Ages or restarting the Cold War; that hopelessness is pernicious ground for populism and authoritarianism.</p> <p>The effects of this transformation require us to prepare for the future of our young people, the education of tomorrow. To combat the crime that is organized and permeates and threatens our institutions; to depoliticize the justice system which is losing its crucial role of arbitrating conflicts; to save the environment, which should already have been a priority long ago, and, without losing the general sense of politics, to assimilate new identity profiles that arise with unprecedented force. What should be done?</p> <p>Clearly, resources do not grow on trees, nor is it merely a question of &#8220;political will,&#8221; but the continuous rhetoric of reform and cuts hinders desire and hope. Making cuts is easy; uniting society around a utopia of a better world is difficult.&nbsp;</p> <p>Solutions demand efforts of which leading political actors have proved incapable of making. It is unnecessary to repeat that nothing gets done without making cuts, but this is no longer the core of the discourse. It is necessary to signal why and what these cuts are for, and what the people should expect for the future. Pressed by large blocks that emulate emotion, to limit oneself to technocracy—the infantile disease of this uncoordinated political center—will spell doom. Adjustments are inevitable, but the pursuit of happiness is the true test.

 
Carlos Melo

Political scientist and sociologist, professor at São Paulo's Insper Business School. Follow his blog

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