Discover more from Letters from an American
October 31, 2022
Last night, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court declared that voters in Brazil have elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva president, replacing right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro. A factory worker from a young age, the new leader, popularly known as Lula, is a workers’ rights supporter who held the presidency from 2003 to 2011. In office, he launched programs to end hunger, strengthen family agriculture, provide housing, and protect Brazil’s environment, including the rain forests. During his first term, malnutrition among Brazil’s poor was cut by half, from 14% to 7%.
Former president Trump saw Bolsonaro as an ally: Bolsonaro followed Trump’s playbook to rise to the presidency in 2018, governed as Trump did, and worked to delegitimize Lula’s victory even before voting began. In a video statement before the election, Trump called Bolsonaro “one of the great people in all of politics and in all of leadership of countries,” and told voters: “He has my complete and total endorsement…. Don’t lose him. Don’t let that happen. It would not be good for your country.”
Democratic leaders around the world congratulated Lula shortly after election officials declared him the winner. President Joe Biden tweeted his congratulations to Lula within minutes for his election “following free, fair, and credible elections.” The leaders of Canada, France, and the United Kingdom hurried to congratulate Lula, in part to head off Bolsonaro’s refusal to accept the results of the election. In late August 2021, Bolsonaro vowed he would win the 2022 election, be arrested, or be killed.
Bolsonaro has stayed silent, refusing to concede the election but, so far, not contesting it either. He has said he will speak tomorrow. But right-wing figures in the U.S. are urging him to fight. Trump ally Steve Bannon insisted that the vote was rigged and that Bolsonaro “cannot concede”; right-wing agitator Ali Alexander, who helped to organize the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, used the hashtag StopTheSteal when he noted, “In Brazil, the MILITARY has the right to insert itself into an election where there is suspected FRAUD. We must have an AUDIT NOW!”
For his part, Lula has promised an inclusive government that will protect the rain forest and try to heal the nation’s political divisions. “I will govern for 215 million Brazilians…and not just for those who voted for me. There are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people—one great nation,” Lula told a crowd after his election. “It is in nobody’s interests to live in a country that is divided and in a constant state of war.”
The effect of the sort of political division Lula called out has been highlighted in America this weekend as the country has tried to come to grips with the assault on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, by a radicalized 42-year-old man who has spent the past two years living in a garage. In addition to the state charges already filed against him, federal prosecutors today charged David DePape, the alleged assailant, with assault and attempted kidnapping with intent to “impede, intimidate, or interfere” with an official’s ability to perform official duties.
An FBI affidavit described what happened at the Pelosis’ San Francisco home early in the morning of October 28. DePape, who was a stranger to Mr. Pelosi, broke through a glass door with a hammer and surprised Mr. Pelosi, who was asleep in bed. DePape told Mr. Pelosi he was looking for Nancy and that he would tie Mr. Pelosi up with zip ties while he waited for her. Mr. Pelosi went into a bathroom and called 911 at 2:23 am. When the officers arrived at 2:31, the two men were at the front door, both holding onto a single hammer while DePape was holding Mr. Pelosi’s forearm with his other hand.
When the officers asked them to drop the hammer, DePape pulled it out of Mr. Pelosi’s hand and swung it at his head, fracturing his skull.
DePape later told San Francisco Police officers that he intended to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and talk to her. If she told “the truth,” he would let her go, but if she “lied”—as he was certain she would—he intended to break her kneecaps to show other members of Congress what could happen to them. He said he considered Speaker Pelosi “the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party.” He said he didn’t leave after Mr. Pelosi called 911 because “much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender.”
He told officers he swung the hammer at Mr. Pelosi because Mr. Pelosi’s actions resulted in his “taking the punishment instead.”
The parallels between DePape’s rhetoric and plans and the January 6th attack on the Capitol—right down to the zip ties and the references to the American Revolution—have made Republicans desperate to spin the deadly attack as a reflection of political violence on both sides of the aisle, of the general violence they insist is happening in the cities, or—appallingly and without evidence—of a gay tryst gone bad. Others have tried to turn an assault on the husband of the Speaker of the House, the second in line for the presidency, in an attempt to get at her, into fodder for jokes. Conservative commentator Tom Nichols tweeted that the moment “feels like a turning point…. [I]f we’re not going to ostracize people who are yukking it up over taking a hammer to a man in his 80s, then we’re a different society.”
On today’s Morning Joe television show, Mika Brzezinski drew the obvious parallels between January 6 and the attack on Mr. Pelosi, calling the incident out as the second deadly threat against the House Speaker’s life in two years, and laying the blame for it on the rhetoric of right-wing extremists, including the former president. “While surgeons operated on the fractured skull of the 82-year-old grandfather, deranged right-wing fanatics, Trump media allies, and some of the most powerful people in the world were feverishly trying to stir up conspiracy theories that distracted from the central political headline of this story,” she said, “that years of Republican propaganda and Trump-fueled fascism led 42-year-old David DePape to break into Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home, seemingly with the intent to harm her.”
Meanwhile, the man at the heart of “Trump-fueled fascism” continues to try to evade the law. Yesterday the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol obtained eight emails that a judge says show Trump and his lawyers planning to defraud the courts by filing lawsuits they knew contained false information, and trying to abuse the legal system to stop Trump’s election loss. John Eastman, the author of the infamous memo setting up a plan to steal the election, is trying to get the committee to return or destroy the emails.
Today, Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to block the House Ways and Means Committee from seeing his tax returns. An appeals court decided that the committee could see them, but Trump is pretty clearly trying to delay, hoping a Republican House will kill the request.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro now faces investigations and possible criminal charges that have been delayed while he enjoyed presidential immunity. He has told two senior officials he is worried that, out of office, he will go to prison.