Showing posts with label #BrooksBlackboard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #BrooksBlackboard. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Not One Single Republican Votes for Probe of Neo-Nazis in US Military and Police

Zero House Republicans supported a measure requiring the Pentagon and federal law enforcement agencies to publish a report on countering white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity in their ranks.

photo credit:Anthony Crider
Zero House Republicans on Wednesday supported a measure requiring the Pentagon and federal law enforcement agencies to publish a report on countering white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity in their ranks.

Rep. Brad Schneider's (D-Ill.) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2023 directing the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense "to publish a report that analyzes and sets out strategies to combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity in the uniformed services and federal law enforcement agencies" passed in a party-line 218-208 vote.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Flint Residents 'Disgusted' After Court Throws Out Indictments of Top Officials

"It has become increasingly clear that the judicial system is not a viable option for a poor majority Black community facing injustice," said Flint Rising.

photo credit: Water Alternatives
Flint residents expressed disappointment and disgust after the Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday determined former state officials were not indicted properly—yet again delaying accountability for the city's water crisis.  "No more excuses. No more delays."

"This leaves no one criminally responsible for poisoning 100,000 people in one of the largest public health disasters in this nation's history," Flint Rising said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the group is "disgusted" by the 6-0 decision.

"It has been 2,986 days since the start of the Flint water crisis. Throughout the years, we've sent buses of Flint residents to our state and nation's capital, shared our stories, marched in the streets, and fought for reparations for our community," the group continued.

Monday, June 27, 2022

In 'Dangerous Decision,' Supreme Court Guts Protection of Miranda Rights

JULIA CONLEY

Legals experts warned law enforcement agencies will have "zero incentive" to ensure that a person being arrested is read their Miranda rights after the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday handed down a ruling the ACLU characterized as a "dangerous" assault on long-established protections.

"The warnings mandated by the Supreme Court in Miranda have been part of the fabric of law enforcement interactions with the public for more than 60 years."

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Press Makes Trump, Not Voting Rights, the Primary Issue

Press Makes Trump, Not Voting Rights, the Primary Issue

 

WaPo: Kemp, Raffensperger win in blow to Trump and his false election claims

The Washington Post (5/24/22) reported that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s GOP primary win “threatened Trump’s reputation as GOP kingmaker.”

The country’s centrist corporate media have decided what this year’s primaries are mainly about: Donald Trump.

In the wake of an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and continued efforts by the Republican Party to undermine democratic processes, corporate media remain fixated on Trump’s role in the party, seeing the 2022 primaries as a series of referenda on Trump and his role as kingmaker. But the focus on Trump obscures the even more important story that Trump represents: the GOP assault on democracy, which is being carried out only marginally less aggressively by many of those “defeating” him.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is the perfect example of this. After this week’s state primaries, most corporate media made their lead story the losses of Trump-backed candidates, in particular to Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who both played very public roles in refusing to bow to Trump’s demands to “find” votes for him in Georgia in 2020.

The Washington Post (5/24/22) declared, “Kemp, Raffensperger Win in Blow to Trump and His False Election Claims.” A New York Times (5/24/22) subhead read, “The victories in Georgia by Gov. Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, handed the former president his biggest primary season setback so far.” At Reuters (5/24/22), the top “takeaway” subhead read: “Trump Takes Lumps.”

These are stories centrist media like to tell: The voters are sensibly rejecting extremists from their party, so the “moderate” candidates are taking the right path. Journalists tell this story over and over in coverage of Democratic primaries, with “move to the center” stories encouraging the party to reject its progressive candidates. The problem is, candidates like Kemp and Raffensperger are not moderate, except in comparison to Trump—and painting the story as one centrally about Trump obscures the anti-democratic nature of those who defeated his hand-picked candidates.

Boston Globe: Kemp Cruises to Victory in Georgia, Delaing Blow to Trump but Not His Voter Fraud Lies

The Boston Globe (5/24/22) noted that “Kemp had not beaten back the 2020 doubts of voters [who thought that election “stolen”]; he simply found a different way to champion them than Trump.”

The Boston Globe demonstrated that this contradiction could be addressed, with an article (5/24/22) headlined, “Kemp Cruises to Victory in Georgia, Dealing Blow to Trump but Not His Voter Fraud Lies.”

The Globe‘s Jess Bidgood reported:

Kemp’s easy win over Perdue on Tuesday may seem to suggest that the former president and his baseless insistence that fraud and irregularities cost him the election have lost their iron grip on the Republican Party….

Even though he stood up to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, Kemp found other ways to assuage the GOP base’s unfounded doubts about the issue. He signed a voting bill that added new hurdles to absentee voting and handed some election oversight power over to the Republican-controlled legislature. He spoke of “election integrity” everywhere he went, while Raffensperger leaned into the issue as well.

But even this didn’t go nearly far enough in describing Kemp and Raffensperger’s histories of attacking voting rights. As Georgia’s secretary of state, Kemp for years vigorously promoted false election fraud stories and made Georgia a hotspot for undermining voting rights. He aggressively investigated groups that helped register voters of color; in 2014, he launched a criminal investigation into Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project—which was helping to register tens of thousands of Black Georgians who previously hadn’t voted—calling their activities “voter fraud.” His investigation ultimately uncovered no wrongdoing (New Republic5/5/15).

Kemp oversaw the rejection of tens of thousands of voter registrations on technicalities like missing accents or typos (Atlantic11/7/18) and improperly purged hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls prior to the 2018 election (Rolling Stone10/27/18), disproportionately impacting voters of color (Atlanta Journal-Constitution3/12/20). He refused to recuse himself from overseeing his own race for governor against Abrams, drawing rebukes from former president, Georgia native and fair elections advocate Jimmy Carter (The Nation10/29/18), among others. Kemp ran that governor’s race as a “Trump conservative.”

None of Kemp’s history as anti–voting rights secretary of state was mentioned in any of the next-day election coverage FAIR surveyed. (There was an opinion piece on CNN.com on May 26 that detailed “Kemp’s appalling anti-democracy conduct.”)

As governor, Kemp has further eroded voting rights in Georgia, as mentioned by the Globe (a story that the media managed to both-sides at the time—FAIR.org4/8/21). He has also taken a hard-right stance on many other rights issues, signing into law a bill to prohibit “divisive concepts” from being taught in schools, a bill to ban abortions as early as six weeks and a bill discriminating against transgender kids in sports.

Like Kemp, Raffensperger was an early supporter of Trump who pushed election fraud stories and voter suppression tactics. As FAIR (3/5/21) pointed out at the time, centrist media fawned over Raffensperger for standing up to Trump in the 2020 election, ignoring his “support of the little lies that made the Big Lie possible.”

AJC: A principled stand where it counts

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1/4/21) editorialized that Georgia Secretary of State Brad “Raffensperger deserves kudos from all Georgians for continuing a principled stand for what is right,” weeks after reporting (12/17/20) that “the secretary has helped fuel suspicions about the integrity of Georgia’s elections.”

For instance, just weeks before an uncritical editorial (1/4/21) praising him, the local Journal-Constitution published a front-page investigation (12/17/20) that found Raffensperger was touting “inflated figures about the number of investigations his office was conducting related to the election, giving those seeking to sow doubt in the outcome a new storyline.” Those claims helped propel the state’s 2020 bill restricting voting rights.

Like Kemp, he launched vote fraud investigations into progressive voter registration groups (AJC11/30/20), and oversaw the purge of nearly 200,000 voters, mostly people of color, from the rolls before the 2020 election (Democracy Now!1/5/21).

During his re-election campaign, Raffensperger had gone on national television (CBS, 1/9/22) to push for a constitutional amendment prohibiting noncitizens from voting in any elections, as well as to praise photo ID requirements for voting and oppose same-day voter registration. He has also called for an expansion of law enforcement presence at polling sites.

In their obsession with Trump’s win/loss record and their desperate search for “moderate” Republicans, journalists whitewash GOP candidates who paved the way for Trumpism and, ultimately, seek the same end—minority rule—by only slightly different means.


Featured image: Reuters (5/24/22) depiction of Donald Trump illustrating the takeaway, “Trump Takes Lumps.”


Reprinted with permission from FAIR.org. FAIR’s work is sustained by our generous contributors, who allow us to remain independent. Donate today to be a part of this important mission.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Abortion has been common in the US since the 18th century – and debate over it started soon after

Treva B. Lindsey, The Ohio State University

State-by-state battles are heating up in the wake of news that the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overrule landmark rulings - Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey - and remove constitutional protection for the right to get an abortion.

Now, pro- and anti-abortion advocates are gearing up for a new phase of the abortion conflict.

While many people may think that the political arguments over abortion now are fresh and new, scholars of women’s, medical and legal history note that this debate has a long history in the U.S.

It began more than a century before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established that the Constitution protects a person’s right to an abortion.

The era of ‘The Pill’

On Nov. 14, 1972, a controversial two-part episode of the groundbreaking television show, “Maude” aired.

Titled “Maude’s Dilemma,” the episodes chronicled the decision by the main character to have an abortion.

Roe v. Wade was issued two months after these episodes. The ruling affirmed the right to have an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. “Maude’s Dilemma” brought the battle over abortion from the streets and courthouses to primetime television.

Responses to the episodes ranged from celebration to fury, which mirrored contemporary attitudes about abortion.

Less than 10 years before “Maude’s Dilemma” aired, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first commercially produced birth control pill, Enovid-10.

Although various forms of birth control predate the birth control pill, the FDA’s approval of Enovid-10 was a watershed in the national debate around family planning and reproductive choice.

Commonly known as “The Pill,” the wider accessibility of birth control is seen as an early victory of the nascent women’s liberation movement.

Abortion also emerged as a prominent issue within this burgeoning movement. For many feminist activists of the 1960s and 1970s, women’s right to control their own reproductive lives became inextricable from the larger platform of gender equality.

19th-century advertisements for abortion-inducing items and abortion services. The Library Company of Philadelphia, CC BY-NC

From unregulated to criminalized

From the nation’s founding through the early 1800s, pre-quickening abortions – that is, abortions before a pregnant person feels fetal movement – were fairly common and even advertised.

Women from various backgrounds sought to end unwanted pregnancies before and during this period both in the U.S. and across the world. For example, enslaved black women in the U.S. developed abortifacients – drugs that induce abortions – and abortion practices as means to stop pregnancies after rapes by, and coerced sexual encounters with, white male slave owners.

In the mid- to late-1800s, an increasing number of states passed anti-abortion laws sparked by both moral and safety concerns. Primarily motivated by fears about high risks for injury or death, medical practitioners in particular led the charge for anti-abortion laws during this era.

By 1860, the American Medical Association sought to end legal abortion. The Comstock Law of 1873 criminalized attaining, producing or publishing information about contraception, sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and how to procure an abortion.

A spike in fears about new immigrants and newly emancipated black people reproducing at higher rates than the white population also prompted more opposition to legal abortion.

There’s an ongoing dispute about whether famous women’s activists of the 1800s such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony opposed abortion.

The anti-abortion movement references statements made by Anthony that appear to denounce abortion. Abortion rights advocates reject this understanding of Stanton, Anthony and other early American women’s rights activists’ views on abortion. They assert that statements about infanticide and motherhood have been misrepresented and inaccurately attributed to these activists.

These differing historical interpretations offer two distinct framings for both historical and contemporary abortion and anti-abortion activism.

Abortion in the sixties
Photo credit: SHYCITY nikon

By the turn of the 20th century, every state classified abortion as a felony, with some states including limited exceptions for medical emergencies and cases of rape and incest.

Despite the criminalization, by the 1930s, physicians performed almost a million abortions every year. This figure doesn’t account for abortions performed by non-medical practitioners or through undocumented channels and methods.

Nevertheless, abortion didn’t become a hotly contested political issue until the women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. These movements brought renewed interest in public discussions about reproductive rights, family planning and access to legal and safe abortion services.

In 1962, the story of Sherri Finkbine, the local Phoenix, Arizona host of the children’s program, “Romper Room,” became national news.

Finkbine had four children, and had taken a drug, thalidomide, before she realized she was pregnant with her fifth child. Worried that the drug could cause severe birth defects, she tried to get an abortion in her home state, Arizona, but could not. She then traveled to Sweden for a legal abortion. Finkbine’s story is credited with helping to shift public opinion on abortion and was central to a growing, national call for abortion reform laws.

Two years after Finkbine’s story made headlines, the death of Gerri Santoro, a woman who died seeking an illegal abortion in Connecticut, ignited a renewed fervor among those seeking to legalize abortion.

Santoro’s death, along with many other reported deaths and injuries also sparked the founding of underground networks such as The Jane Collective to offer abortion services to those seeking to end pregnancies.

Expanding legal abortion

In 1967, Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnancy would cause permanent physical disability to the birth parent.

By the time “Maude’s Dilemma” aired, abortion was legal under specific circumstances in 20 states. A rapid growth in the number of pro- and anti-abortion organizations occurred in the 1960s and 1970s.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade nullified existing state laws that banned abortions and provided guidelines for abortion availability based upon trimesters and fetal viability. The subsequent 1992 ruling known as Casey reaffirmed Roe, while also allowing states to impose certain limits on the right to abortion. Roe remains the most important legal statute for abortion access in modern U.S. history.

Since Roe, the legal battle over abortion has raged, focused on the Supreme Court. If the draft opinion overruling Roe and Casey stands, the battle will end there and shift to the states, which will have the power to ban abortion without fear of running afoul of the Supreme Court. And the long history of conflict over abortion in the U.S. suggests that this will not be the last chapter in the political struggle over legal abortion.

This story is an updated version of an article published on June 10, 2019.The Conversation

Treva B. Lindsey, Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Why did the ALU's campaign for worker rights resonate with Amazon workers?


Amazon workers took a page in history to write their own story by voting to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. This fulfillment center (JFK8) will be the first unionized Amazon work site in the country. Out of the nearly 6,000 workers there, 2,654 voted for joining the ALU while 2,131 voted against.  ALUs victory is extraordinary considering that up until now, Amazon successfully defeated every single attempted union drive in a US facility. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter could make its misinformation problems worse

Elon Musk’s moment of triumph is a moment of uncertainty for the future of one of the world’s leading social media platforms. 
Anjana Susarla, Michigan State University

Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, acquired Twitter in a US$44 billion deal on April 25, 2022, 11 days after announcing his bid for the company. Twitter announced that the public company will become privately held after the acquisition is complete.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission for his initial bid for the company, Musk stated, “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.”

As a researcher of social media platforms, I find that Musk’s ownership of Twitter and his stated reasons for buying the company raise important issues. Those issues stem from the nature of the social media platform and what sets it apart from others.

What makes Twitter unique

Twitter occupies a unique niche. Its short chunks of text and threading foster real-time conversations among thousands of people, which makes it popular with celebrities, media personalities and politicians alike.

Social media analysts talk about the half-life of content on a platform, meaning the time it takes for a piece of content to reach 50% of its total lifetime engagement, usually measured in number of views or popularity based metrics. The average half life of a tweet is about 20 minutes, compared to five hours for Facebook posts, 20 hours for Instagram posts, 24 hours for LinkedIn posts and 20 days for YouTube videos. The much shorter half life illustrates the central role Twitter has come to occupy in driving real-time conversations as events unfold.

Twitter’s ability to shape real-time discourse, as well as the ease with which data, including geo-tagged data, can be gathered from Twitter has made it a gold mine for researchers to analyze a variety of societal phenomena, ranging from public health to politics. Twitter data has been used to predict asthma-related emergency department visits, measure public epidemic awareness, and model wildfire smoke dispersion.

Tweets that are part of a conversation are shown in chronological order, and, even though much of a tweet’s engagement is frontloaded, the Twitter archive provides instant and complete access to every public Tweet. This positions Twitter as a historical chronicler of record and a de facto fact checker.

Changes on Musk’s mind

A crucial issue is how Musk’s ownership of Twitter, and private control of social media platforms generally, affect the broader public well-being. In a series of deleted tweets, Musk made several suggestions about how to change Twitter, including adding an edit button for tweets and granting automatic verification marks to premium users.

There is no experimental evidence about how an edit button would change information transmission on Twitter. However, it’s possible to extrapolate from previous research that analyzed deleted tweets.

There are numerous ways to retrieve deleted tweets, which allows researchers to study them. While some studies show significant personality differences between users who delete their tweets and those who don’t, these findings suggest that deleting tweets is a way for people to manage their online identities.

Analyzing deleting behavior can also yield valuable clues about online credibility and disinformation. Similarly, if Twitter adds an edit button, analyzing the patterns of editing behavior could provide insights into Twitter users’ motivations and how they present themselves.

Studies of bot-generated activity on Twitter have concluded that nearly half of accounts tweeting about COVID-19 are likely bots. Given partisanship and political polarization in online spaces, allowing users – whether they are automated bots or actual people – the option to edit their tweets could become another weapon in the disinformation arsenal used by bots and propagandists. Editing tweets could allow users to selectively distort what they said, or deny making inflammatory remarks, which could complicate efforts to trace misinformation.

Musk has also indicated his intention to combat twitter bots, or automated accounts that post rapidly and repeatedly in the guise of people. He has called for authenticating users as real human beings.

Given challenges such as doxxing and other malicious personal harms online, it’s important for user authentication methods to preserve privacy. This is particularly important for activists, dissidents and whistleblowers who face threats for their online activities. Mechanisms such as decentralized protocols can enable authentication without sacrificing anonymity.

Twitter’s content moderation and revenue model

To understand Musk’s motivations and what lies next for social media platforms such as Twitter, it’s important to consider the gargantuan – and opaque – online advertising ecosystem involving multiple technologies wielded by ad networks, social media companies and publishers. Advertising is the primary revenue source for Twitter.

Musk’s vision is to generate revenue for Twitter from subscriptions rather than advertising. Without having to worry about attracting and retaining advertisers, Twitter would have less pressure to focus on content moderation. This could make Twitter a sort of freewheeling opinion site for paying subscribers. In contrast, until now Twitter has been aggressive in using content moderation in its attempts to address disinformation.

Musk’s description of a platform free from content moderation issues is troubling in light of the algorithmic harms caused by social media platforms. Research has shown a host of these harms, such as algorithms that assign gender to users, potential inaccuracies and biases in algorithms used to glean information from these platforms, and the impact on those looking for health information online.

Testimony by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and recent regulatory efforts such as the online safety bill unveiled in the U.K. show there is broad public concern about the role played by technology platforms in shaping popular discourse and public opinion. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter highlights a whole host of regulatory concerns.

Because of Musk’s other businesses, Twitter’s ability to influence public opinion in the sensitive industries of aviation and the automobile industry automatically creates a conflict of interest, not to mention affects the disclosure of material information necessary for shareholders. Musk has already been accused of delaying disclosure of his ownership stake in Twitter.

Twitter’s own algorithmic bias bounty challenge concluded that there needs to be a community-led approach to build better algorithms. A very creative exercise developed by the MIT Media Lab asks middle schoolers to re-imagine the YouTube platform with ethics in mind. Perhaps it’s time to ask Musk to do the same with Twitter.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on April 15, 2022.The Conversation

Anjana Susarla, Professor of Information Systems, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Monday, April 11, 2022

'A Poor People's Pandemic': Poorest US Counties Suffered Twice the Covid Deaths of Richest

Jake Johnson
April 4th, 2022

Photo credit: Paul Becker
"The neglect of poor and low-wealth people in this country during a pandemic is immoral, shocking, and unjust," said Rev. Dr. William Barber II in response to the new report.

A first-of-its-kind examination of the coronavirus pandemic's impact on low-income communities published Monday shows that  Covid-19 has been twice as deadly in poor counties as in wealthy ones, a finding seen as a damning indictment of the U.S. government's pandemic response.

"The neglect of poor and low-wealth people in this country during a pandemic is immoral, shocking, and unjust, especially in light of the trillions of dollars that profit-driven entities received," said Rev. Dr. William Barber II, co-chair of the national Poor People's Campaign, which conducted the new analysis alongside a team of economists and other experts.

Monday, March 21, 2022

THE STRUGGLE FOR WORKER RIGHTS IN BESSEMER CONTINUES…

"It was a portal through which we collectively, many of us, were momentarily allowed to dream of what the future could look like if this emerging or emergent behemoth of Amazon had more democratic control, if workers had more collective power and more say over their workplaces, over how the economy is run so on and so forth...", Robin D.G. Kelley, October 2021  

words by Charles Brooks

April 2, 2022 UPDATE: According to the NLRB, the recent election results show 993 versus 875 who want to join the RWDSU but due to 416 “challenged” votes – the results cannot be certified.  The results are on hold until the NLRB holds a hearing that, “processes the challenges and any objections the parties may file.

Photo credit: BAmazon photo gallery

Workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, are once again engaged in a pitched battle to unionize there.  Although, workers voted last year not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) “set aside” the election results due to Amazon’s anti-union activities and ordered new elections.  

The workers there now not only have a second chance to make history but to continue the momentum that has already ignited similar organizing activities across the country.  The political and economic implications of a win is so enormous that it is no understatement to say the stakes here are high. 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Is Latin America shifting to the Left again?

 After the Left’s success in Chile, Honduras and Peru last year, will Brazil and Colombia follow suit in 2022?

Manuella Libardi
4 March 2022, 12.00am

When I first left the confines of my comfortable São Paulo home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was met with scenes I thought I had said goodbye to in the 1990s.

Whole families living on the streets; children as young as four asking for change at the traffic lights; men lying on the pavements of upmarket neighbourhoods, passed out from hunger or intoxication or a combination of the two.

This was the reality when I was growing up in Brazil on the heels of the country’s hyperinflation crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s. As I grew older and Brazil became more stable, a growing number of Brazilians left the streets. Poverty fell by record numbers between 1992 and 2013, and markedly so after Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva became president in 2003.

Three decades on, Brazil and its Latin American neighbours are experiencing poverty at levels unseen for generations. Amid the economic and social crises aggravated by the pandemic, the region is also seeing a shift in its political preferences: after more than a decade of Right-wing governance, there has been a surge in the election of left-wing leaders.

Recent elections in ChileHondurasPeru and Bolivia have led to claims that Latin America is going through another “pink tide”, the political movement that saw the rise of left-wing leaders across the continent in the early 2000s – including Evo Morales in Bolivia, Lula in Brazil, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

The shift to the Left had started before the pandemic, with the election in Argentina of Alberto Fernández (ally of former president Cristina de Fernández Kirchner) in 2019 and of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico a year earlier. Upcoming elections in the region, particularly in Colombia and Brazil, could strengthen that wave.

But is this new shift an actual vote of confidence for Latin America's Left or a vote against those currently in office?

Brazil: the return of Lula?

Candidates have yet to launch their presidential bids in Brazil, but some names seem all but already set in stone. Lula, who has been leading nearly all the polls since the annulment of his criminal convictions in March 2021 opened the doors for his possible candidacy, said he will decide “in February or March” whether his name will be on the 2 October ballot as the Workers’ Pathe Workers’ Party’s candidate.

Related story

2G67P1X.jpg
The far-Right leader’s status as an international pariah masks some important points of continuity

A poll from mid-January showed that 45% of Brazilian voters intend to support Lula in October, putting him 22 percentage points ahead of the far-Right incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, who placed second with 23%. While Lula has consistently led the polls, his margin over Bolsonaro has never been this wide.

Lula, who led the country between 2003 and 2010, ended his second term with a staggering approval rate of 87%, a record in the 37 years since Brazil’s return to democracy. Lula’s popularity has withstood the hardships of the past decade, but his party hasn’t shared the same luck. The Workers’ Party, a giant on Brazil’s political stage, lost considerable ground in both the 2018 general election and the 2020 municipal elections, amid allegations of corruption.

Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protegée and successor as president, ended 2015 with a measly approval rating of 9% – just months before her controversial impeachment, which many see as the undemocratic removal of an elected official akin to a coup d’état. Another key figure in the Workers’ Party, Fernando Haddad, who faced Bolsonaro in the second round of the 2018 election, finished his term as São Paulo’s mayor with a low approval rating of 17%.

But while Lula’s party has undeniably lost power, Lula hasn’t. As the main representative of Brazil’s Left, Lula’s popularity seems to transcend political-spectrum preferences and play on the old Latin American cult of personality. A repeat of his previous presidential success could very well put Brazil back on track – though he would inherit a vastly different country compared to when he first took power, in 2003.

Lula’s consistent lead in the polls doesn’t, however, seem to point to a resurgence of a cohesive Left, as indicated by his willingness to make an alliance with the centre-Right.

Colombia: first Leftist leader in modern history?

In Colombia, a five-decade-long civil conflict fought largely in the context of the cold war established a very clear line between the country’s Left and Right. Organised according to Leninist-Marxist ideals of land redistribution, the armed guerrillas of FARC who ravaged rural areas during their fight against the Colombian Army tainted the notion of the Left in the country. When the rest of Latin America was electing Leftists in the early to mid-2000s, Colombia remained solidly within the centre-Right camp.

For almost all of the 21st century, Colombia has been ruled by Álvaro Uribe or his protegés – Juan Manuel Santos and now current president Iván Duque. But the Uribismo crown seems to be slipping. It began when Santos signed the historic, but divisive peace agreement with FARC in 2016, which Uribe himself opposed. Santos was replaced in 2018 by a more fervent Uribista, but Duque, who is approaching the end of his term, is the least popular president in Colombia’s history.

The presidential elections in May could put an end to the Uribismo reign. Gustavo Petro, who was the country’s most successful left-wing candidate in a presidential campaign, in 2018, has consistently led the polls. A mid-January poll of voting intentions shows Petro ahead with 25%. He is followed by the blank vote (an option on ballot papers in Colombia) at 18%, and then independent candidate Rodolfo Hernández on 13%. The Uribista candidate, Sergio Fajardo, came fourth with just 8%.

However, despite his steady lead, Petro has stagnated in the polls. Hernández, a millionaire who claims to be fighting the establishment, is one of the few candidates gaining new supporters.

Petro, current senator, former mayor of Bogotá and, in the 1980s, a member of the M-19 guerrilla group, has risen to prominence hand-in-hand with Colombia’s progressive movements, particularly feminists. But, as with Lula in Brazil, Petro has increasingly sought to make alliances with centrists in a bid to broaden his appeal and chances of winning, a move that many believe has alienated his loyal supporter base.

This could indicate that Colombians are more interested in dethroning the status quo than voting for leftist economic ideals. But the last few years have changed the country’s political and social arenas. The massive, youth-led protests of 2021, which were marred by police brutality and resulted in the deaths of at least 80 demonstrators, came as the country grew increasingly incensed by the neoliberal agenda of recent decades.

Can the old Left meet progressives halfway?

During the mid-2010s, the region shifted to the Right almost in unison after the price of commodities crashed to some of their lowest levels this century. The crash devastated economies across Latin America that had largely depended on the export of raw materials.

Fast-forward to today and a similar movement is now happening under similar circumstances. As in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis that hit left-wing leaders, current governments are struggling to keep their country’s economies afloat while managing their citizens’ discontent amid rampant inflation and poverty across the region. After rising to power with promises to end the corruption that plagued previous governments, current leaders have done little to combat it, with corruption as prevalent today in Latin America as it ever was.

There are differences, however. Latin Americans are growing more aware of the effects the lack of wealth redistribution efforts has had, leaving them in the world’s most unequal region.

In Chile, the true neoliberal experiment is facing a slow death in the country of its birth. Millions of Chileans swept the country’s streets from October 2019, igniting a movement just short of revolution. Following the popular revolt, the country elected a wildly progressive Constitutional Convention to rewrite its constitution and later elected 35-year-old progressive Gabriel Boric as president.

Progressive movements have gained ground in Latin America in recent years. This is evident in not only the powerful student-led events in Chile, but also the strides in women’s rights taken by the region’s increasingly organised feminist movement, especially concerning abortion, which was legalised in Argentina in December 2020, decriminalised in Mexico last September and decriminalised in Colombia just last week.

This Left, though, seems removed from the traditional “pink tide” leaders, such as Lula and Argentina’s vice president Cristina Kirchner, who focused largely on economic growth via extractivism. But some analysts believe the new “green tide” has sprouted from the old “pink” generation and, as such, has the political power to influence its forefathers. Indeed, Lula openly celebrated Boric’s victory in Chile, showing that, despite his recent alliances with centrists, he understands the power of the rising generation on the Left.