Everyone agrees that the history of the demonstration by extremist sectors on September 7th is closely linked to the invasion of the US Capitol on January 6th, at the turn of the lights of Donald Trump’s presidency. Bolsonarists managed to perfectly replicate the first two acts of the trumpist plot: the controversy over the printed vote cast doubt on the reliability of the electoral system, and the countless attacks on institutions radicalized the demonstrations.
The third act is the most unpredictable. Bolsonarists describe the assault on the Capitol as a popular insurrection aimed at taking power in Washington — proof of this, the Brazilian government was one of the last to recognize Biden’s victory. A reading of events denied by American authorities. According to the latest FBI report, published a week ago and submitted to the Congressional Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry, only 40 of the 600 offenders indicted for the more than 1,000 criminal acts were involved in any level of planning prior to the event. Those involved did not intend to make a coup. But the founding violence of his actions assured Donald Trump the indispensable cathartic moment to perpetuate his movement beyond a four-year term marked by two impeachments and hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths in the pandemic, not counting the five victims in the attack on Capitol Hill.
And it worked. More than a year later, every potential candidate for the 2024 Republican primaries must publicly kneel before the former president. To the dismay of moderates, the Capitol episode made the party’s radicalization irreversible. But Trump’s aura is not synonymous with eternal power for him and his family. In the absence of a political alternative, trumpism is perpetuated by fanatics and pragmatists, allies and traitors. His legacy, however, is disputed by leaders such as Florida governor and professional disseminator of the delta variant, Ronald DeSantis, and former United States ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. For this new generation, Trump is far from being a gray eminence. It is a symbolic reference and, at best, a campaign platform. From the Capitol, trumpism ceased to be an individual project and started to function as a competitive and heterogeneous movement.
This realization forces us to look at another dimension of September 7th beyond the dichotomy between coup and election: the struggle for power among extremists. Without a party or other sort of organized political structure other than the Latin American folk Cpac gathered this weekend, Bolsonaro’s electoral capital can quickly be pulverized among different self-proclaimed heirs at the state and national level. This helps to understand why the September 7 rally has aroused great interest among would-be guardians of post-2022 pocketnarism. This week’s events will undoubtedly be important for the future of democracy. But they promise to be even more decisive for the future of Brazil’s new extreme right.
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