Brazil just experienced one of the most dramatic moments in its democratic history. Four years ago, Jair Bolsonaro was an Army reservist and a congressman from Rio de Janeiro with relatively limited national exposure and connected to a minor party. When his name did pop up, it was usually to be condemned for his outrageous, stupid, hateful, racist, misogynist, or homophobic comments, or his enthusiasm for the military dictatorship and the torture that it inflicted on dissidents. His legislative achievements were almost nonexistent. On Sunday, however, he solidified his role as the leader of a far-right counterrevolution that swept through the nation like a tornado.
Bolsonaro won nearly 50 million votes in the first-round election – 46 percent of the electorate in a 13-way race. His party hit Congress, jumping from one seat to 52, sucking support for the traditional, center-right parties that have run Brasília since re-democratization. More than half of the lower house will be new members, and only eight of 54 Senate seats that were up for grabs were filled by incumbents. The collapse of these parties, rife with corruption and incompetence, would normally be grounds for celebration — if their seats weren’t being filled by some of the most extreme elements in modern politics.
Now, Brazilians must endure three more weeks of campaigning until the second-round elections on October 28. Bolsonaro will face off against Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party, an academic and former one-term mayor of São Paulo. Haddad failed to win re-election in 2016 to a man who now supports Bolsonaro. In the presidential race, Haddad came in 17 percentage points behind in the first round and suffers from an enormous enthusiasm gap and messaging