The art of seeming consistent

After all, without power, policies are irrelevant.

Gwynne Dyer

You mustn’t expect politicians in a democratic system to come up with ideologically pure, intellectually consistent policies. Their job is to put together a winning coalition of voters who have different and even conflicting interests, and if that requires compromises and even contradictions, so be it. But they must APPEAR to be consistent, and Marina Silva has mastered the art.

Until last month Silva was the vice-presidential candidate of the smallest of Brazil’s three main parties, a woman with a national reputation as an environmental activist but little prospect of high political office. President Dilma Rousseff was cruising serenely towards re-election in the first round of the elections on 5 October, despite the fact the Brazil’s once-booming economy is in a recession. And then a small plane crashed.

Marina Silva was supposed to be on that plane, but changed her plans at the last moment. All seven people who were on board died, including the presidential candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), Eduardo Campos. With the election campaign already underway, the PSB had no choice but to promote Silva in his place, and suddenly the election became a real race.

She is bright Green: her own party, which she took into coalition with the PSB, is called the Sustainability Network. Even more importantly in a country where half the population is non-white, Silva is a “caboclo”, the mixed-race combination of native Indian, black and white that is common in the Amazon. On census returns, she calls herself “black”. There has never been a serious presidential contender who was black before.

Only two weeks after Silva was chosen to replace the late Eduardo Campos, she has tripled the PSB’s support in the opinion polls. There is now almost no chance that Dilma Rousseff will win outright in the first round of the elections. The polls predict that Silva will come second to Rousseff in that round – and then beat the incumbent by 47 percent to 43 percent of the votes in the run-off three weeks later.

All very well, but what would Marina Silva actually do as the president of Brazil? It’s an important question, because Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country (200 million people), is going through difficult times. Over the past 12 years the governing Workers’ Party has lifted 40 million Brazilians out of poverty, but economic growth has now stalled. Many people blame the government’s highly protectionist policies.

Silva is a plain-speaking woman with no allegations of corruption trailing her around (as they do so many other Brazilian politicians), but she has been remarkably unforthcoming on what she would do about the economy. This is because she now heads a political coalition whose major member, the PSB, is actually “business-friendly”, as they say.

Silva’s plans for the environment are equally obscure, beyond the well-known fact that she disapproves of giant hydroelectric dams in the Amazon (and she hasn’t even cancelled any of them). She still talks like a Green, but her vice-presidential running mate, Beto Albuquerque, was responsible for pushing a law legalising the use of genetically modified soybeans through Congress.

She is, in other words, a “typical politician” who is trimming her sails to the prevailing wind. She accepted Albuquerque as a running mate because she needs to appeal to the agribusiness sector, which accounts for almost half of Brazil’s exports and a quarter of the economy.

Indeed, Silva’s economic platform is practically identical to that of the centre-right candidate, Aecio Neves: she would end price controls and energy subsidies, strengthen the autonomy of the central banks, and “streamline” (i.e. cut) the federal budget. On the other hand, despite her pursuit of business support she is still strong on environmental issues in general and an end to the deforestation of the Amazon in particular.

This is not consistent, and ideologically pure Brazilian environmentalists are already disappointed in her, but she has nothing to apologise for. She has put together a set of policies and a coalition of supporters that are inconsistent and sometimes downright contradictory, but they may deliver her into the presidency. And that is the point of the exercise, after all: without power, policies are irrelevant.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Kimberley residents were treated to the first Farmers' Market of the season, and the feeling of a return to normalcy. Paul Rodgers photos.
WATCH: Kimberley’s first Farmers’ Market of the season

Kimberley residents enjoyed the first Farmers’ Market of the year on Thursday,… Continue reading

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Most Read