Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Photo: Renato Araujo/ABr)

Around 1980, Fernando Henrique Cardoso made an important decision. He had been elected an alternate senator in 1978, with votes going from left to center. A “popular party” was on the horizon at the time, which some wanted to be a grand coalition of progressive sectors, others wanted it to be more leftist – as it turned out to be, called the Workers' Party.

Part of those who supported FHC in 1978 was to create the PT. But FHC made another choice. I think his analysis was as follows: the Brazilian right is a coup. The best thing I can do for democracy is to convince the right that it can win and retain power within democratic rules. The opportunity was golden: the dictatorship, which the right established in 1964, was heading for bankruptcy. With the exhaustion of the regime of force, it was possible to civilize the right. It was a mission, a historic task – which FHC fulfilled years later. Because, when he was elected president, he submitted the traditional right, emanating from the dictatorship, to the leadership of those who fought the military regime and who formed the core of the PSDB.

Furthermore, it is clear that FHC and Lula would not fit in the same party. It was becoming clear that the trade unionist would be the preferred choice of the left. For FHC, it was better to lead a moderate camp, which would attract the right, while leaving it in a subordinate position.

The emergence of a shameless, aggressive, prejudiced right marks the difficulty of the toucans to continue leading the right, from the center.

The other option, around 1980, was to give a voice to the voiceless, to the new protagonists of the political scene, starting with the striking workers, led by the young Lula, and the members of the Basic Ecclesiastical Communities. This task, also a historic mission, was left to the PT. And so it happened that people who were on the same platform in 1978, who worked together for years, were divided. In the 1994 elections, when many wanted the PT and PSDB to form a ticket to change the country, the PT was left leading the small left, while the toucans headed a broad center-right coalition.

What good did this division do? The ever-repeated confrontation, sometimes through an intermediary, between FHC and Lula took away the space of any adventurer, in the case of the right, who wanted to run for the presidency. Collor was the last to occupy this space – by the way, carefully hiding his trajectory of support for the dictatorship. Those nostalgic for the military regime would not exceed 10% in an election. This was valid for twenty years, from 1994 to 2014.

But this historic mission of the PSDB continues – or is it over? The number of people within the party is growing, some of them well voted, who are hostile to the basic agenda of the PSDB founders, which defended human rights, sometimes even more than the PT. Of the main names within the party, only FHC and Serra are close to the PSDB's principles. Alckmin is relatively indifferent to what I would call Tucano humanist values, Aécio is even more so and Doria is not even mentioned. One of the greatest achievements of FHC's life – civilizing, democratizing the right – entered a serious crisis.


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