'Free and fair': How Joe Biden 'rebuked' Trumpism by congratulating Brazil’s president-elect: journalist
On Sunday, October 30, left-wing candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva narrowly defeated far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s 2022 presidential election. The race turned out to be much closer than polls were showing earlier in the year, but after the votes were counted, Lula, according to Reuters, had a lead of about 1.8 percent — and U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated him on his victory.
“I send my congratulations to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on his election to be the next president of Brazil following free, fair and credible elections,” Biden said in an official White House statement. “I look forward to working together to continue the cooperation between our two countries in the months and years ahead.”
Ordinarily, a U.S. president congratulating a Brazilian president-elect would be a routine event. The U.S. has long had diplomatic relations with Brazil, which is the largest economy in South America and the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world. But journalist John Nichols, in an article published by The Nation on November 1, argues that when Biden congratulated Brazil, it was about a lot more than an American president addressing Brazilian politics — it was a statement in favor of democracy in general at a time when democracy is under attack in many parts of the world.
“Trumpism is a domestic phenomenon, but it is aligned with a global movement,” Nichols explains. “The cult of personality that has developed around Donald Trump and transformed the Republican Party into an anti-democratic cabal that rejects election results and embraces conspiracy theories is closely linked with neo-fascist, nationalist, and extreme right-wing movements in Europe and Latin America. And nowhere has that linkage been more pronounced than in Republican enthusiasm for the authoritarian strongman Jair Messias Bolsonaro, whose viciously bigoted, conspiratorial, and destructive tenure as president of Brazil has echoed the worst of Trump’s tenure as president of the United States.”
Nichols continues, “But Bolsonaro lost his reelection bid on Sunday, in voting that saw a clear majority win for leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. If Trump were still in the White House — and taking advice from Steve Bannon, his counselor on international right-wing movements — the reaction of the United States to Bolsonaro’s defeat would undoubtedly have been ugly, and very probably encouraging to anti-democratic forces in Brazil and globally. But Trump’s not the president anymore. Joe Biden is. And Biden immediately recognized Brazil’s new president as the victor in a ‘free, fair and credible’ election.”
As of Tuesday, November 1, Bolsonaro was — in Trump-like fashion — refusing to concede to Lula, and some of Bolsonaro’s supporters were blocking roads to protest the election results. But when Biden congratulated Lulu, Nichols writes, it was “a clear rebuke to Bolsonaro” as well as “a rebuke to the authoritarian worldview that has been embraced by Trump, Bolsonaro, and right-wing heroes of the American right such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has been warning that if Bolsonaro lost to Lula, he might attempt a coup d’état not unlike the one that Trump and his allies attempted after the United States’ 2020 presidential election. And when Sanders congratulated Lula, Nichols notes, he made an “even more robust statement” than Biden.
“Today, the people of Brazil have voted for democracy, workers’ rights and environmental sanity,” Sanders declared in his statement. “I congratulate Lula on his hard-fought victory and look forward to a strong and prosperous relationship between the United States and Brazil.”
Politically, Brazil is a bitterly divided country, not unlike the United States — and Nichols stresses that it is important for leading U.S. officials to stand up for Brazilians who want their country to remain democratic.
“Statements from the president of the United States and key members of Congress will not ease all the tensions in Brazil,” Nichols writes. “But they do put the United States on the right side of the global struggle against the threats to democracy — and to the planet — that come from Trump and his autocratic allies.”
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