On the surface both America and Brazil would not seem to have much in common. However, when one takes the time to dig below the surface, you’ll see that both countries have distinct similarities. Both countries have historically used their abundance of natural resources to create a dominant economy. Brazil and America are also home to very diverse nations both economically and ethnically. While in the past both countries have enjoyed a certain amount of prosperity, over the last few years each country has seen a rise in far-right leadership. This week American President Donald Trump met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and it was apparent the two leaders were kindred spirits. The purpose of this post is not to be critical of the two leaders, but simply to explore why each country chose a far-right leader, at this point in their histories.
Starting with America, it is easy to see one of the reasons America elected Donald Trump is because he was an “outsider.” In this sense “outsider” means someone from outside the political realm. Trump was able to speak to the parts of the country that his opponent spent no time in. In these parts of America, he found a large number of citizens who felt neglected by the current administration and longed for a return to the old days. This is how Trump wisely came up with his slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Trump saw that a large number of voters felt special interests had taken over and he made his voters believe that he was here to return things to normal. Trump also spoke strongly against elitism and corruption. Many voters viewed the Clinton email scandal to be nothing short of illegal and the fact that no one seemed to be holding her accountable incensed the voters. Although it may be hard to remember due to the current status of his Presidency, an anti-corruption platform was one Trump ran on. Finally, comes Trump’s attitude toward media. Many credit President Donald Trump with popularizing the phrase, “fake news.” Fake news is often used by the President to describe mainstream media or any media that does not agree with him. President Donald Trump found that the majority of voters felt the media was constantly reporting one side of the news. Whether that is true or not is up to the viewer, but the message, “it’s rigged” seemed to connect with his viewers. So, looking back one could say Americans elected Trump because he spoke to a base that felt neglected, called out corruption, and called out bias in the media.
Now let’s take a look at Brazil and the one of the main reasons they elected Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro had a very meteoric rise partially because he spoke to a part of the country that felt neglected. Brazil has always been a country of great economic disparity with many rich citizens living in upper-class neighborhoods and skyscrapers, which are often right next favelas or shantytowns (Moran, Abramson, & Moran, 2014). Add to this the fact that Brazil is currently facing its worst economic recession in 100 years and you can see why the majority of people felt neglected. This economic disparity played right into Bolsonaro’s hand, as he was running on a platform to return Brazil to its former glory days (Child, 2019.) The next reason Brazil elected Bolsonaro is possibly the one that links him most closely to Trump, anti-corruption. Over the past few years Brazil has been embroiled in a corruption scandal named “Operation Car Wash.” The scandal had to do with money laundering and the bribing of elected officials. The scandal saw the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff and the arrest of her VP and former Acting President Michel Temer. Bolsonaro was able to rally citizens around the fact that this corruption was the root cause of their countries current economic peril. Finally, the third reason Bolsonaro was able to get elected is because of his views on the media. Much like America’s President, Bolsonaro uses social media and the term “fake news” to his advantage. When accused of receiving illegal donations from several corporations to help finance a smear campaign against his opponent, Bolsonaro simply called it “fake news.” (Demori, 2018.) Bolsonaro has used both his social media prowess and his attacks on mainstream media to find several supporters who find Brazils news to be one sided. So, to sum up Brazil elected Bolsonaro because of his stand for a neglected base, his anti-corruption platform, and his views on mainstream media.
Both America and Brazil currently find their countries in uncharted territory. For the first time in decades the economy of Brazil is in shambles and a substantial portion of American feel their government has neglected them. After sifting through various articles, it is easy to see that America and Brazil elected two leaders who stand for those who feel neglected, will fight corruption, and will push back against mainstream media. For the first time in decades many Americans feel their country is no longer what it once was, as do Brazilians. Both candidates have made promises to return their countries to their former glory. Since the election of these leaders, a lot has changed. Many Americans don’t feel as they did two years ago, and many Brazilians are seeing more of the same old politics from Bolsonaro. America and Brazil elected two leaders that are so similar because the countries are changing and not everybody wants change. People in both countries long for the past glory days and saw a leader who was willing to buck the status quo to give them what they want. Whether or not any of that happens remains to be seen.
- Moran, Robert, Abramson, N., & Moran, S. Managing Cultural Differences. Ninth Edition. Routledge Publishing. New York, New York. 2014
- Child, D. (2019, January 01). Who is Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new far-right president? Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-presidential-candidate-181007020716337.html
- Demori, L. (2018, October 27). Jair Bolsonaro and the future of Brazil’s media. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2018/10/jair-bolsonaro-future-brazil-media-181027123537118.html
- (2019, March 21). Michel Temer: Brazil ex-president arrested in corruption probe. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47657159
- Lopes, M., & Miroff, N. (2017, June 19). A corruption scandal wrecked Brazil’s economy. Now, workers face the consequences. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/a-corruption-scandal-wrecked-brazils-economy-now-workers-face-the-consequences/2017/06/16/a2be0faa-505b-11e7-b74e-0d2785d3083d_story.html?utm_term=.ae43b27c8287
Shear, M., & Haberman, M. (2019, March 19). For Trump, Brazil’s President Is Like Looking in the Mirror. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/19/us/politics/bolsonaro-trump.html