From 1994 to 2014 the presidential elections were polarized between PSDB and PT. This polarization was political-electoral and not political-ideological. Strictly, neither PSDB was rightnot PT era left.
The PSDB was situated between center and center-left. Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Mário Covas, two of its exponents, were among the most active leaders in the Constituent Assembly, so that we had the current Constitution of social democratic inspiration.
The PT, a version of social democracy based on unions, therefore center-left, did not create governments that were fundamentally different from the PSDB. Without so many budgetary restrictions in the context of the beginning of the Real Plan, PT governments were able to expand Tucano initiatives, such as Bolsa Escola and Fundef, in addition to strengthening the SUS, implemented by Itamar Franco, then MBD, with a center profile. left. In terms of the economy, they maintained the so-called macroeconomic tripod of the toucans, with a floating exchange rate, primary surplus and inflation targets, only circumvented by Dilma’s government, mainly for electoral reasons. The PT governments also did not reverse privatizations or the end of the Petrobras monopoly, demands of the left, then not very representative in the National Congress.
While the PSDB defended the regulatory state, the PT proposed the inducing state of the economy, but did not nationalize companies. Instead, it favored several private companies in the controversial “national champions” policy. Even in the pre-salt layer, with greater participation by Petrobras, the private sector was not excluded.
But neither PSDB nor PT promoted progressive tax reform, essential to finance justice and social welfare. The support base of both governments in Congress was mostly conservative. Sociologist Luiz Werneck Vianna wrote that the PT exchanged social democracy for Getulist populism. Even considering this analysis, it does not remove the PT from the center-left.
Both Marina Silva in the PV, in 2010, and Eduardo Campos, in the PSB, in 2014, were critical of this electoral polarization, which they considered negative for the country. They proposed a new alliance in which it was possible to join the PSDB and PT, in addition to other political associations.
Since 2018, we have another electoral polarization. At one pole, Jair Bolsonaro, close to the extreme right. In the other, the PT, in the center-left, moving to the center. But the party does not hold the center-left monopoly. Ciro Gomes, from PDT, runs on the outside. And not all the center closed with Lula. Simone Tebet, from the MDB-PSDB-Cidadania-Podemos coalition, tries to put herself as an alternative.
In an eventual second round, a polarization that leaves the merely electoral field towards the ideological terrain is possible: on the one hand, political forces attached to authoritarianism, on the other, those who defend the democratic regime. Even having voted against the current Constitution and weakened the representative system with the purchase of parliamentarians – not exclusive to it –, the PT is in the democratic field.
However, the polarization is not restricted to the democratic question. The current manifestos for democracy show an important movement in civil society. Since 2013, as in many other moments, Brazilian society has desired social justice, quality public services, environmental responsibility, in addition to institutional improvements conducive to a public power far from the old patrimonialism and corruption. In my view, it is this force of society that can trigger positive changes in Brazil.
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