Powered by progressive, neoconservative capital and soft power techniques Green Party candidate Marina Silva sent shock waves through Brazil's male dominated political culture by winning 19 million votes in Sunday's presidential election. She didn't make the cut for the runoff presidential vote but she could become a power broker now that the influential Folha is reporting that her party is supporting neoconservative former Sao Paulo governor Jose Serra over president Lula's former chief-of-staff, Dilma Rousseff.
A staunch anti-abortion advocate and self proclaimed Afro-Brazilian, Marina was environment minister and a member of the Workers Party before leaving her post and defecting to the Greens in 2008. With help from evangelical anti-abortion groups- some of which, like the Assemblies of God, are headquartered in the United States- and others on Brazil's religious right she took away enough votes from Dilma- who supports a woman's right to choose- to keep her old nemesis under the 50 percent required for a first round victory.
The finesse of Marina's photogenic, feminine image, enhanced by her use of natural cosmetics and natural fiber fashions, appealed to Brazilian female voters who are looking for the face of the future Brazil. And in a society where women have a tough time gaining equal rights, they want it to be a woman. Marina's vice presidential running mate- and major Green Party financial backer- is the former head of a globalist natural cosmetics firm based in Brazil.
The political reality, however, is that the equity of Marina's personal brand was created over time by the media assets of president Lula's Workers Party. Her defection in 2008 has driven more votes and more money to the Greens than anyone in the party's checkered 24-year old history. It was a natural fit for the often divisive, bourgeois Greens, who argue over doctrine like french intellectuals. They welcomed the land reform activist from the Amazon as a populist voice and anointed her as their a rockstar presidential candidate, even putting her on the cover of the Rolling Stone.
More important to the future of Brazil, however, is the Green Party's ambiguous position on whether their concept of direct democracy supports the constitutionally guaranteed social contract featuring obligatory voting, or if the popular vote should be devolved into being just a matter of personal choice, a globalist idea du jour often bandied about at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Because Brazil's political landscape is so male dominated womens issues like abortion and prosecution of dead beat dads don't make it into the tightly controlled format of presidential debates. And Dilma, who was tortured and imprisoned for three years by Brazil's US-backed military junta, was too focused campaigning on hard power issues like the economy and fending off the negative campaign tactics of Marina and Serra to raise the soft power question of whether the Greens want to make the popular vote a optional matter of personal choice instead of the constitutional obligation that it is. And this question needs to be addressed now.
With new presidential debates in the offing and the media ratcheting up the intensity of its campaign coverage Dilma has an opportunity to soften her image and project the female political voice Brazilian women want to elect. But in a nation that is addicted to the drama of daily telenovelas Marina is staying in the spotlight, holding off her personal endorsement of Serra for at least two weeks, creating tension and raising questions about her own political opportunism. Having been burned by Marina's defection after investing so much political capital in her, Lula is about as much inclined to meet with her as he was to meet with Bill Gates in Davos, a sit down that never took place. Considering that Serra's campaign leadership was unable to craft a winning strategy in league with former Obama consultant Ravi Singh it remains to be seen whether they can mobilize Marina's scattershot Green coalition of 19 million environmentalists, landless workers and anti-abortion activists in their effort to defeat Dilma. And with the Greens endorsing Serra and carrying all this political baggage the question how long the party's new crop of financiers- who like to package their neoconservative values in a sustainable green wrapper- stay on board could become problematic, leaving Marina with the classic Andy Warhol celebrity half-life.
What is perfectly clear though is that all these male dominated political forces seek to untrack the successful economic program of president Lula, which has made Brazil a net creditor economy and uses strong government institutions to maintain the social contract and regulate the same free market behaviors that triggered the economic crisis in the United States.
Brazil is poised to provide women with financial assistance and educational opportunities to grow beyond their traditional role and play a more vital role in the nation building process. With the nation's social and economic model hanging in the balance voters will decide whether its trick or treat on October 31st, the dia das Bruxas.