The American election system has justifiably been characterized as a zoo and a circus, a tribute, I suppose, to its abundant supply of shit and clowns. But in Brazil, world famous for its annual Carnival, they’ve pushed on past to pure fantasy:
Brazil has nurtured one of the world’s most vibrant democracies since its military dictatorship ended in 1985. As campaigning for municipal elections in October intensifies, this vitality is evident on the ballots, which reflect Brazil’s remarkably loose restrictions on what candidates can call themselves.
Ballots are filled with superhero names (five Batmans are running this year), mangled versions of American television characters (like the Macgaiver running in Espírito Santo State, inspired by the “MacGyver“ secret-agent series), and an array of raunchy nicknames….. Not one but two James Bonds are seeking city council seats, in Ponta Grossa and Birigui. Elsewhere in Brazil, voters are being urged to cast ballots for candidates with names like Daniel the Cuckold and Elvis Didn’t Die. — NYTimes
This strikes me as admirable and healthy. Consider that in this country, one of the two major political parties has been taken over by a cult that distrusts basic science such as evolution, climate change, and the capacity to impregnate a rape victim, and simultaneously clamors for freedom from government while advocating compulsive birth and forced prayer in public places. If you’re going to be this banana-whacko, you might as well be funny about it.
(Has anybody accused the ‘Pubs of being funny? Committing humor? See the problem?)
Then there are the hat tips to overseas personages, reflected in the 16 Obamas running in Brazil this year. Popular culture and religion also inspire: Ladi Gaga (sic) is running in Santo André, in the São Paulo area, while Christ of Jerusalem (a k a Omedino Pantoja da Silva) lost a municipal election in Porto Velho, an Amazonian city, in 2008.
I would like to see “Dagwood Bumstead” run for office. There’s a decent family guy, one who renounced his family wealth to marry a hot piece of ass ‘way below his class, and went on to live the classic mid-century suburban lifestyle, complete with dogs and an exciting commute to the office. Bow tie and bad hair, too. Bumstead for Commissioner! Dagwood for Congress!
Geraldo Custódio, 38, a teacher of driver’s education…is running for city council with the name Geraldo Wolverine in Piracicaba……. Mr. Custódio said he had gotten the nickname of Wolverine, after the Marvel comics character, when he tried out for the reality television show “Big Brother Brazil.” He did not make it on the show, but the sideburns he adopted, along with his big build, made the nickname stick. He now campaigns with long metal talons. One of his ads says, “Vote for the guy who has claws!”
I would vote for a guy who has claws. Or horns. And a beak. I would also vote for anybody who can play music out of his ass. That’s preferable to blowing smoke up mine.
Israel Soares, a candidate in São Paulo State, is running as National Institute of Social Security’s Defender of the People….. Jimmi Carter Santarém Barroso is running in Amazonas State; John Kennedy Abreu Sousa is running in Maranhão, in Brazil’s northeast; and Chiang Kai Xeque Braga Barroso — whose first name evokes Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese rival in the mid-20th century to Mao Zedong — is seeking to be elected in Tocantins State.
HL Mencken famously opined that selecting the first 15 names off a randomly-selected page from the Baltimore telephone book would produce at least as intelligent and competent body of governing citizens as the elaborate election process produces:
“I incline to believe that it would be best to choose members of the Legislature quite at random. No matter how stupid they were, they could not be more stupid than the average legislator under the present system. Certainly, they’d be measurably more honest, taking one with another. Finally, there would be the great advantage that all of them had got their jobs unwillingly, and were eager, not to spin out their sessions endlessly, but to get home as soon as possible.” [via]
You could argue that the distinction between the American and Brazilian systems isn’t all that pronounced. While the Brazilians make their public personas obviously contrived and laughable, American candidates tend to preen, pretend, and prance with the idea that they should be taken seriously. In the current contest, none of the four fully grasp how ridiculous they look and sound, particularly when they’re explicitly attempting to be taken seriously. Just read their statements. No commentary required.
Funny, though — no face-painted, big shoed, joker-nosed Brazilian has challenged any other candidate’s birth credentials. Unlike their counterparts in the USA, even a clown has some dignity.