Sergio Fausto: past, present and future of the PSDB

In an article for Folha de S.Paulo, political scientist Sergio Fausto presents a good summary of the past, the present and the future of the PSDB, the main opposition party in Brazil.

During Lula’s mandate [2003-2010], there is no doubt that the PSDB was wrong trying to avoid being connected to the supposedly cursed inheritance left by the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government [1995-2002]. The party committed several times the mistake of giving up a constituent part of its identity […].

Basically, the PSDB did not have conviction that the Cardoso government, despite the crisis and the unsatisfactory results in terms of growth and employment, represented a significant advancement for the country and constituted an asset and not a liability to the party, not only in a retrospective view, but also in a perspective of the future.

The scenario faced by the PT today has some similarities. After the elections and especially this year, with the effects of the crisis more evident, it has been hard to see members of the party defending the first term of Dilma Rousseff. In addition, a fraction of the PT believes that the party or the government mimics the PSDB by committing “the mistake of giving up a constituent part of its identity”.

There is at least one significant difference: it will probably be much harder for the PT to convince the population (and perhaps even itself) that the Dilma government, “despite the crisis and the unsatisfactory results in terms of growth and employment”, will have represented “a significant advancement for the country”.

To stablish a qualified dialogue with this network [of potential PSDB supporters] implies not only to democratise the party internally, but also to define more clearly the place of the PSDB in the ideological map of the country. For that, the party cannot forget it built its history in the progressive and viscerally democratic camp. Forgetting its DNA might seem tempting in the face of the conservative tendencies on the rise in the Brazilian society, but that would represent the irremediable loss of its character and its transformation into a party like any other.

More than a provocation to the most conservative fraction of the PSDB, that message is a warning to his progressive colleagues of the party. “We cannot lose our character.”