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Legal Learning: Moving to the far right

James Manahan

How would you feel about a presidential candidate who wants to pass laws moving the country to the far right?

One leading candidate is Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party. He strongly advocates against the legalization of same-sex unions and same-sex marriage. He opposes a woman's right to choose an abortion; he opposes affirmative action; he opposes immigration; he opposes eliminating or reducing drug prohibition laws; he supports unlimited gun ownership and the death penalty. He said of a female politician: "I would never rape you because you aren't worth it."

This may sound very similar to a certain politician in the United States, but I'm describing Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Its election is scheduled for this October, and right now, he is ahead in the polls. As in many parts of the world, the legal system of democracy, the rule of law and open markets is under attack in Brazil. In fact, a poll conducted by Vanderbilt University found that nearly 40 percent of Brazilians are so tired of crime and corruption that they would support a military coup in their country.

American journalist Glenn Greenwald has called Bolsonaro "the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world." The Economist magazine says: "Jair Bolsonaro hopes to be Brazil's Donald Trump." But it's not just happening in Brazil.

In Austria, the new chancellor since last December is Sebastian Kurz. He is the world's youngest head of state at age 31. He opposes immigration; he made it illegal for women to wear their traditional burqa; his People's Party has a pact with the extreme right neo-Nazi Freedom Party in Austria.

In Italy they just held elections March 4 and Matteo Silvini's party won the most seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Silvina opposes immigration; supports the flat tax and tax cuts; supports protectionism; opposes same-sex marriage; opposed the international embargo against Russia in 2014; and endorsed Donald Trump in our 2016 elections.

In Europe, parties of the far right include Hungary's Jobbik, the country's third-largest party, which is vehemently hostile to immigration, the EU and homosexuality. The Sweden Democrats have roots in the white supremacist movement and a platform of heavily restricting immigration and opposing the EU. The People's Party in Slovakia supports leaving the EU and the Eurozone and its leader has argued that "even one immigrant is one too many."

In Greece, "Golden Dawn" is the country's third-largest party. The party employs a swastika-like flag and gangs of black-shirted thugs who beat up refugees and other immigrants.

In Argentina last February, a legislator named Alfredo Olmedo announced a proposal for a wall to keep people from poorer Latin American nations from entering Argentina. "I am 100 percent with Trump," he said.

A Hindu nationalist party now controls the parliament in India. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they oppose Muslim immigration and trumpet the slogan "India First."

In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte was elected president two years ago, and within eight months, the death toll from his extrajudicial killings reached 6,200 people. In Thailand, the military government, led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has been in control since 2014.

But here is the scariest statistic I have read lately. A Washington Post survey published last August found that 52 percent of Republican voters would support postponing the U.S. 2020 election if President Trump said the delay was needed to ensure that only eligible American citizens could vote. Read that again. A majority of Republicans who were polled said that President Trump could remain in power without holding an election if he said it was necessary.

I hope that we are teaching our kids the history of our republic and the importance of our democratic traditions. There is a story that Benjamin Franklin, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was asked what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was simple: "A republic, if you can keep it."

We can keep it only if our citizens are actively and intelligently involved, and are ever vigilant to protect us from the far-right politicians.

James H. Manahan is a Harvard Law School graduate. He handles family law, wills and probate in and around Lake County, and does mediation everywhere. He writes a regular column on legal issues for the News-Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are those of its author and are not to be attributed to his employer. He can be reached at