Sociologist Esther Solano was tired of hearing left-wing militants calling Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters “stupid.” A professor at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) and at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, she believed ignorance, racism, or anti-democratic views were not the only motivating factors behind supporters of the former Army captain. Ms. Solano knew, of course, that the far-right candidate and frontrunner in the presidential race (when Lula is not on the ballot) rose to prominence despite (or maybe because of) his outrageous comments about LGBTQ people, blacks, and other minorities.
But she decided to investigate what leads some Brazilians to get behind such an extreme character.
In a research financed by the Friederich Ebert Foundation, Ms. Solano interviewed 25 Bolsonaro voters from different social backgrounds, kinds of employment, and age groups, over 2017. Her findings became the article Democracy’s crisis and right-wing extremisms, released earlier this year. In an interview with The Brazilian Report, Ms. Solano explained some of her findings.
According to her, Bolsonaro is only a symptom of a general dissatisfaction Brazilian citizens feel towards the political system. Even if he fails to get elected, his presence has already damaged public debate.
What motivated you to research this topic?
Since 2014, I have been researching the pro-impeachment demonstrations. Apparently, everyone there was against the Workers’ Party. But one thing that appeared early on in the interviews was that there was a very strong anti-political sentiment. They said: “I vote for the Social Democracy Party, but I do not trust them, everybody is corrupt.” We began to realize that Mr. Bolsonaro’s name was emerging as the only one they perceived as honest, ethical, and an outsider politician.