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Sambodian Elections 2012 | Addressing Grampa’s Gripes

In a nicely illustrated Folha de S.Paulo Sunday magazine package on elder care options in the greater Sambodian metro megalopolis, I discover an inconvenient truth: The older I get, the more like Grandpa Simpson I become.

Recall Abe’s outraged complaint to the FCC and advertisers in Season One, Episode Five, «Bart the General».

Dear Advertisers,

I am disgusted with the way old people are depicted on television. We are not all vibrant, fun-loving sex maniacs. Many of us are bitter, resentful individuals who remember the good old days when entertainment was bland and inoffensive. The following is a list of words I never want to hear on television again. Number one: Bra. Number two: Horny. Number three: Family Jewels.

More specifically, in the Folha‘s poll of São Paulo senior citizens shown above, I discover that I share many of the same gripes as folks of my mother-in-law’s generation, such as,

  1. Insecurity and urban violence
  2. Inadequate street lighting
  3. Inadequate street and road signage
  4. Sidewalks in poor condition
  5. Lack of public restrooms
  6. Lack of accessible cultural and sporting activities

Seniors comprise some 8% of voters, a number that has doubled in recent years. The importance of this demographic is reflected in the campaign messages, such as the item above from Serra’s TV time.

An interesting aside: one of the seniors interviewed in the campaign video — the guitar-strumming Cassiano dos Santos Neto, 66  — also turns up as an interview subject in the Folha’s coverage of programs for the elderly. Are political marketers and journalists working hand in hand on these pautas?

Against that backdrop, consider the most recent electioneering videos aired by two of the three front-running candidates, Serra (PSDB) and Haddad (PT), who appear to be slugging it out for a spot in the runoff election with TV personality Celso Russomanno.

Serra’s pitch tends to minimize the sensation that anything is lacking in our beloved city, piling up numbers of cinema screens and business events and commercial outlets and so on.

But how do these numbers compare with other cities, prorated by population? How do transportation and education stats, in particular, compare with what voters feel and experts say is needed to make the system easier to use and the city more open to free flows of human beings?

It would take a complete fact check to be able to comment on the numbers marshalled here, but one example might be the progress made toward the goal of expanding the subway system.

Building 2 km of subway and 5 km of commuter train trackes per year, as a matter of historical average,  São Paulo state will have to build 8 km of subway and 10 km of CMPT per year in order to meet its goal for 2012-2015. The state had foreseen building 32 km of subway and 40 km of commuter rail in that time period.

Serra and his party also presided over the Great Smoking Hole of 2006 — the collapse of a huge excavation at the new Pinheiros station on the Yellow Line. The turnkey contracting model was questioned by engineers and experts.

«I, Meme, Me My

In short, the basic meme of the pro-Serra campaign is something like «São Paulo is already great, we love it the way it is and we owe it all to Serra».

If I were the specter of Mário Covas, F.H. Cardoso or Geraldo Alckmin — founding figures of the PSDB — I might feel slighted by this claim.

I cannot help feeling that Serra is beating a dead horse by adopting the discourse of autohagiographic moral integrity in this piece, which feels anachronistic and tired.

It is too soon to forget the downfall of PSDB political ally Demóstenes Torres, a self-proclaimed champion of public morality who fell hard from grace in a case not disimilar to the Tom DeLay affair.

The ethos appeal of Serra’s «my humble origins» speech recalls Nixon’s invocation of a dog named Checkers. Serra would do better — IMHO — to stick to past accomplishments and the need for continuity in technical policy areas and public works projects.

I would take Piauí magazine’s August report on the PSDB’s involvement in the «big monthly allowance» scandal as an indication that hip, informed young voters no longer view the affair through the lens of a Manichean allegory.

It is generally admitted, even in the pro-opposition press, that the PSDB and PT were simply two consecutive passengers in the black-market Tijuana taxi of the Marcos Valério money laundering scheme.

Take the one-woman polling sample who wakes me when I snore: A dyed in the wool petista, she still reacts positively to the Serra who dealt with AIDS and generic medicines during his time as federal health minister.

The problem Serra is having, according to reliable local political handicappers of various creeds, is voter rejection of the municipal administration formed by Serra’s deputy when Serra ran for governor. Kassab was a municipal secretary in the crooked, post-Malufist PSDB City Hall of Celso Pitta.

The Haddad Express

The PT has outspent the PSDB by a factor of two in spending on the current campaign, and that whole amount is reflected in its Web site and social media campaign — even if its viral videos are not racking up the volume of likes and twitteds an election manager might wish.

Seriously, the Haddad site is actually more sophisticated in its information architecture and wealth of churn-generating strategies than those of Obama and Romney. João Santana is in charge of the campaign — he would make an interesting interview for a PR industry trade magazine like O’Dwyer’s.

I believe I read that the party had recorded up to 2,000 mini-spots with ex-president Lula endorsing local candidates from across Brazil.

I think the Haddad piece speaks for itself, and its central thesis is provided by a back-slapping Lula when he says, «Dilma was an unknown but I got her elected based on her accomplishments; the same will happen with Haddad.»

Haddad himself is something of a mirror image of ex-governor Neves of Minas Gerais: Youthful, technocratic, wonkish. The «him and her» hosts of both messages mirror this age category, with Serra appealing directly to the black community.

The soundtrack appeals to current trends in youthful musical genres — rap, in particular, with a message from Emicida, and new directions in samba. Production values are remarkable.

The Russomanno Factor

Russomanno remains an unknown quantity to me, although local media heads explain that his years as presenter of the rabble-rousing Balanço Geral SP explain his name recognition.

Curiously, one reads very little in the way of explanation for the man’s leadership in the polls.

The «Power» page of today’s Folha reports on evidence of a link between the Russomanno campaign and IURD — the politically powerful, national TV network-owning Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

As in the States, churches may not engage in electioneering and risk losing tax-exempt status if they do.

In this case, the Folha team observed the comings and going of Russomanno sound vans and «sticker trucks» from a IURD parking structure, and were even offered a job: US$ 75 per six-day week by campaign workers emerging from a religious service.

Since Russomanno has only declared a tenth of the donations as reported by the PT, it makes sense to wonder whether the Israelites are not being fed by manna from heaven.