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Buona Serra? | Sambodian Municipal Elections 2012

Above: Preliminary polling of São Paulo voters who will decide the October mayoral election is surprising — or at least it was to me.

Apparently everyone else has been watching candidate Celso Russomano’s Limbaugh-analogous afternoon news show on SBT for years, making him the talking head of the political moment. Something like a local version of Al Franken.

Serra’s plunging poll numbers and high rejection, meanwhile, can be explained by a gaffe he allegedly made a week or so during a «grip and grin» on the CPTM — a commuter line comparable to New York’s Metro North.

I used to get off at the Berrini station on my way to work but was soon sickened — literally — by the overwhelming stench of the Pinheiros River. The omnipresent and eternal stench.

The cleanup of the Tietê and Pinheiros have dragged on so long that they have earned Big Dig status — referring to the legendary Boston infrastructure boondoggle.

And it is a matter of public record that subway construction has flagged well behind projections, following a disasterous construction accident in 2006 at the Pinheiros station of the Yellow Line.

The recent news reports cited Serra as having been roundly booed when he commented to the effect that “at least under us the situation has gotten no worse.”

Admittedly, the statement, if made, should be placed in context, but at least you can see how the grapevine is shaping up, and how it relates to campaign counterinformation, such as the following TV spot,  for example.

Folha de S. Paulo — via Brasilianas — has this take on the story.

Candidates for the municipal assembly of São Paulo have begun distancing themselves from PSDB mayoral candidate José Serra, especially those from the urban periphery, in areas where Celso Russomanno of the PRB is enjoying the greatest support.

Some PSDB candidates do not even want Serra’s name in their campaign literature. Others use his image but are not campaigning on behalf of the Toucan.

The trend seems to express two factors: the substantial rejection of Serra among polling subjects — and among less well of voters in particular — and the lack of campaign finance distributed  by Serra’s campaign.

In election year in which the news is dominated by several campaign finance-related corruption scandals — the big monthly allowance of the PT, the big monthly allowance of the PSDB, the big monthly allowance of the DEM, and the corrupting influence of Charley Waterfall the numbers rackeeter on DEM Senator Demóstenes Torres — will the current prosecution inhibit the endless creativity of partisan funding operators?

Perhaps it may, and should.

Three would-be aldermen from the Serra coalition — two of them running for reelections — told the Folha, on condition of anonymity, that they have thrown in the towel and decided to campaign on their own, rather than play a double header with Serra.

Antônio Carlos Rodrigues of the PR, a political boss from the Southern Zone of the city, says he will remain with the Serra campaign and attend avents with Serra. Even so, he admits it is difficult to “carry” the PSDB candidate in that part of town.

“My district is pro-PT,” said Rodrigues, who defends a PR-PT coalition.

In some Rodrigues campaign materials Serra’s name appears, but another pamphlet emphasizes the fact that Rodrigues is the elected substitute for federal senator and ex-mayor Marta Suplicy of the PT.

Martha and Eduardo Suplicy are well-liked among their fellow Sambodians.

The problem is greatest among the candidates of the PR, PSD and DEM.

The PSD is a party launched by a dissidence within the DEM and headed by the sitting mayor, Kassab. Some observers saw this as the swan song of the national PFL-DEM, embroiled in corruption scandal after corruption scandal.

Even so, on a statewide level, ACM Neto, grandson of the late Citizen Kane-esque Senator Magalhães, is making what is to  be a respectable bid for the mayorship of Salvador, Bahia.

And then there are  Toucans like Luciano Gama, who ordered 200 streetside easel messages without Serra’s name, and whose Web site mentions Serra only once, and very discreetly …

These cavaletes bear the santinho of the candidate — named after the little cards passed out in church, with the image and the story of the saint printed on it.

Memes 1.0

In sum, «continue to change with us» — Alckmin, Serra and Kassab — confronts the opposition’s «why has nothing changed?»

The principal thrust of the Serra ads is therefore the Ozymandias meme — «Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!».  The rhetorical device is anaphora and the fallacy, if any, would be a fallacy of the heap in reverse, of sorts.

Some local Media Matters or Fact Check project should look into the projects cited and the numbers provided.

As a fact-checker, I might want to look into how many residents remained in the area and how many were driven to outlying shantytowns. What was the net demographic effect of these housing projects?

The Ike and Kennedy Effect

Gloomy coverage of Serra’s campaign may also have to do with internal rivalries of the PSDB, where Serra has often clashed with presidential hopeful and Minas Gerais governor Aécio Neves.

Neves and his sister, youngish and charismatic, are media masterminds in their own right and almost certainly could have outperformed Serra in the election that led to the inauguration of Dilma.

This tendency of the PSDB seems to understand that repeated losses on a national stage call for fresh faces, at the very least. When Serra was considering Arruda as his running mate in 2010, the joke was «buy one bald man and get one free».

After Arruda’s arrest in the Big Monthly Allowance of the Federal District case, not even the guarded silence of the major national dailies could avoid putting Humpty and Dumpty back together again.

The same may prove to be true of the Serra-Kassab alliance — if Toucans are distancing themselves from Serra, they are also distancing themselves from Kassab’s PDS.

Corruption charges are emerging in the city’s building permit system.