PSOL's primary

07 Mar 2018

PSOL's Endorsement Primary

This Monday, March 5, Guilherme Boulos of the MTST formally registered as an affiliate of Brazil's socialist party, PSOL. His acclamation counted on none other than Lula's support of his increasingly likely candidacy (in the face of Lula's increasingly unlikely one). PSOL's electoral college meets on the 10th, and Boulos is almost certainly going to be anointed the party's official candidate.

But, as anyone who has read Sabrina Fernandes' brilliant work on the fragmented and "melancholic" Brazilian Left might have guessed, Boulos is not the consensus candidate among the 40+ internal tendencies of the party. In fact, some of the party's heavyweights are downright pissed. Babá, a founder of PSOL, said that "a Lulist candidacy is an affront to our history" [the party cleaved off from the PT during Lula's first term]. During tonight's debate, another pre-candidate, Plínio Jr., said, "Boulos is welcome to our party, but not under Lula's thumb."

I wanted to see what, if any, patterns might underlie these rachas internos and the articulation processes that follow, so I scraped endorsement data from the party's five pre-candidate statements. Below is a network map of the signatures submitted with their formal announcements:

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Each gray node represents 100 grassroots signatures. All other supporter categories represent one unit, so dark blue is a single party current, each forest green node is one congressperson, etc. Boulos had appx. 9,062 grassroots supporter signatures while the second-highest signature gatherer—as of tonight, his likely VP—was Sônia, with just over 2,000.

What's most interesting to me about this are the ratios of grassroots supporters to party leaders and party intellectuals. Plínio Jr. (whose dad ran in 2010) has almost twice as many leaders and intellectual endorsements as does Boulos (23 vs. 12). But those endorsements do not seem to have translated into a groundswell of grassroots support—either inside or outside the party. The critique of Boulos is that he was smuggled in as a "satellite candidacy," bypassing the party structure. But he brings with him a base, and not just any base: one that is organized, militant, committed, and very much in the public eye (as anyone who has been paying attention to the MTST over the past few years will tell you). Boulos' base begot the political endorsements from PSOL's six congressional reps (and then Lula), not the other way around.

An organized constituency is political currency. Ideological purism...perhaps less so.