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In 2022, the Americas said no to crazy — and louco. But it won't echo at Mar-a-Lago

Alex Brandon
New Year's sleepover? Then President Trump (left) and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago in 2020.

COMMENTARY: If Trump and Bolsonaro ring in 2023 in Palm Beach together, they probably won't discuss why the hemisphere repudiated their madness in 2022.

Mar-a-Lago might look like a retirement home for frustrated dictators this weekend.

Outgoing right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — who won’t concede his Oct. 30 re-election loss to leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — is reportedly going to spendNew Year’s Eve at former right-wing U.S. President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach resort/classified documents warehouse.

If so, call it a kindred-spirits sleepover. Trump, you’ll recall, won’t concede his 2020 re-election loss to President Biden and even incited a violent mob insurrection inside the U.S. Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn the result.

And just as Trump was an infantile no-show at Biden’s inauguration, Bolsonaro has chosen, with his own characteristically childish petulance, not to attend Lula’s Jan. 1 swearing-in. Meanwhile, Brazilian officials are bracing for possible inauguration violence from Bolsonaro’s Nazi-saluting cult followers, who’ve been braying for the military to jackboot in and restore him to power.

READ MORE: Macho and maskless: Trump, Bolsonaro make U.S., Brazil weaker COVID prey

So while they dine with whichever celebrity anti-Semite gets invited to Mar-a-Lago to help them ring in 2023, Donald and Jair have a lot to talk about besides their criminal pandemic denialism — which cost the U.S. and Brazil the highest and second-highest COVID death tolls on the planet.

Still, even if both men stay awake past midnight on Saturday, here’s the one thing you can be sure they’ll never honestly discuss: why each had such an awful 2022. Why voters in the western hemisphere’s two largest countries rejected Trumpism in the U.S. midterm elections and Bolsonarismo in the Brazilian presidential race.

They won’t acknowledge what the rest of us have figured out: this year, both north and south of the equator, the denizens of the Americas decided to say no to crazy…or louco if you’re speaking Portuguese.

While they dine with whichever celebrity anti-Semite gets invited to Mar-a-Lago to help them ring in 2023, Donald and Jair will have a lot to talk about — except why they had such an awful 2022.

In the U.S., they mostly turned their backs on the three-ring snake-oil circus of election and climate-change denialism, cruel MAGA bigotry, abortion medievalism and feudal economics that Trump Republicans were sure would usher the GOP into congressional supermajorities. It instead left them with just a paper-thin edge in the House and a bigger deficit in the Senate.

In Brazil, voters did steer rightward in congressional and gubernatorial races. But they considered Bolsonaro’s mean-spirited racism, sexism, homophobia, Amazon rainforest destruction, military dictatorship admiration and science demonization so repulsive they gave Lula — a guy who’d just been let out of prison and had his corruption conviction annulled — a new set of keys to the Planalto presidential palace.

Unhinged rhetoric

And this wasn’t just a U.S.-Brazil story, nor was it only a throw-out-the-fascists fest. In Chile, voters overwhelmingly balked at a new Constitution — billed as the most progressive in Latin America — that was drafted by an elected assembly of leftists who may have indulged in a bit too much of the cannabis they were pushing to legalize.

THUMBS DOWN An opponent of Chile's new draft constitution listens in Santiago for vote results during Sunday's referendum.
Cristobal Escobar
An opponent of Chile's new draft constitution listens in Santiago for vote results during this year's referendum.

Its avalanche of articles mandated everything from a colossal enlargement of the state to the nationalization of water to the amorphous re-designation of Chile as a “plurinational” country — and ended up making any New Green Deal statement by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez read like a Heritage Foundation pamphlet by comparison.

Next door in Peru, looney left-wing President Pedro Castillo got chucked out of office and into a jail cell this month after he tried to dissolve Congress and rule by dictatorial decree.

The former rural teachers union leader and avowed Marxist — best-known for his charming campesino straw hat and his party’s repugnant fondness for the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas who terrorized Peru a generation ago — admittedly won the presidency last year because the country’s political system is hopelessly rotted. But Castillo, like Chile’s failed charter, is proof that the leftist wave that was supposed to wash over Latin America in 2022 too often morphed into leftist overreach — and got smacked for it.

We should also recognize the spurning of crazy that wasn’t especially right-wing or left-wing but just…wing-nut. In Colombia, the erratic populist Rodolfo Hernández burst out of nowhere into a presidential run-off election against leftist Gustavo Petro. The Colombian right threw its weight behind Hernández, but Petro won thanks to the former mayor’s unhinged rhetoric — including claims that Petro supporters would burn down the houses of Hernández supporters if Petro won.

So let’s raise our glasses to an equally sane 2023. Even if they won't at Mar-a-Lago.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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