First, it is not about two extremist positions: Bolsonaro’s on the right, Lula da Silva’s on the left. (Photo). There is no doubt that Bolsonaro represents far-right positions, which are here to stay in Brazil, even if they weaken today and even more so when Bolsonaro loses the presidential elections next year.
But Lula does not represent the opposite pole, that of the extreme left. Lula governed Brazil with democratic measures, within the framework of respect for the institutions, coexisting democratically with the other powers of the Republic, with the media – which attacked him, for the most part, all the time – and with his opponents. It drastically reduced inequalities, hunger and poverty in Brazil, within the framework of existing institutions.
It is true that his government and its current proposals have a strong anti-neoliberal tone, due to the awareness that neoliberalism is the basis of the increase in inequalities in Brazil, the intensification of income concentration, the favoring of speculative capital and not production, from the inability to generate employment and develop social policies. Lula knows that if he wants to govern for all, favoring the poorest, he has to promote policies to resume economic growth, prioritizing social policies, generating formal employment, as he says, and as he did in his previous governments. Aware that it will cost him a lot of work to rebuild the country because, if elected, he will inherit a Brazil in a much worse situation than the one he inherited in 2003 from Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Lula polarizes against Bolsonaro, because he is the only candidate who has the strength to defeat the current president and his allies of all kinds. Because although he lost a lot of support, Bolsonaro still has the support of big business, the military, the media, the militias and the evangelicals. So it is not just about defeating a bewildered president who no longer governs and only polemicizes, who does not know what to do with the country, who thinks more about how to face Lula in the elections than about facing economic stagnation, inflation, hunger and misery, which today dominate Brazil. It is also about defeating those who supported Bolsonaro, who brought him to the presidency and who still prefer him to Lula.
Lula knows that it will not be with a position on the extreme left that he will be able to continue adding support. He knows that he must privilege a position of reconstruction in Brazil, from the economic, political, social, cultural, moral and national aspects. He knows that to win, in the first or second round, he needs the broadest support of the population, to really channel the broad rejection of Bolsonaro and his government.
To govern, Lula must also have the support of broad sectors of the country, including sectors of the business community, without whose investments it will not be possible to recover the economy. It cannot depend solely on public investments, although these will play an important role as a lever for the country’s economic recovery.
Lula expresses anti-Bolsonarism, but not because he has extreme left positions, as Bolsonaro has extreme right positions. Lula represents the entire spectrum of two-thirds of the population, who are not willing to vote for Bolsonaro, who want him to be defeated to get out of the catastrophic crisis in which he has put the country.
The thesis of polarization as a two-sided opposition is therefore false, as is the thesis that a significant sector of the population does not want any of them and seeks third-way alternatives. The vast majority reject Bolsonaro and have Lula as a candidate. And the closer we get to the elections, the more people will migrate from third-way candidates to Lula, realizing that this is the only way to defeat Bolsonaro and rescue the country from the disastrous situation in which the vast majority of Brazilians.
Lula, more and more, appears to Brazilians as the anti-Bolsonaro, as the alternative to Bolsonaro’s catastrophic government. It polarizes Bolsonaro as a choice between democracy and dictatorship, between the policy of welfare for all and that of favoring speculative capital, it polarizes between governing for all and governing for a minority elite.
This is the polarization of the country today. Between Lula and Bolsonaro, between a government to rescue Brazil and one that only plunges it into misery and despair.