In a tediously long article on Monday, Jeffrey Rubin, a history professor at Boston University inadvertently explained why prospective students should not choose his course.
Writing for The Guardian, Rubin argues that "In both Brazil and the U.S., democracy is at a crossroads." But Rubin breaks the number one rule of any good historian: allowing emotion to dictate his analysis.
The evidence for Rubin's failure is abundant, but the best example comes not from what he says, but from what he omits. Because not once in Rubin's 1350-word adventure does the good professor mention the words "car wash," or acknowledge the Brazilian Workers Party's disqualifying corruption. And that's a problem, because "car wash" is the title of an ongoing investigation into systemic corruption in relation to kickbacks and graft from Brazil's Petrobras energy company.
That scandal has seen former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva end up in prison and led to his presidential successor and fellow Workers Party compatriot, Dilma Rousseff, being impeached and removed from office. Rousseff was officially impeached for cooking the budget books, but as a member of Petrobras board of directors during the apex of its corruption, Rousseff is not exactly Mother Theresa.
Rubin claims that the Rousseff was removed not for corruption, but because she was a woman. As Rubin puts it, "While technically legal, the impeachment process saw Rousseff ousted for minor transgressions by famously corrupt male politicians."
Rubin then uses his historical illiteracy as a foundation for his political analysis. He argues that the rise of Trump, and of Brazilian conservative presidential front-runner, Jair Bolsonaro, and the collapse of Lula, Rousseff, and Hillary Clinton, is not a consequence of the former's better deal for voters, but rather of a conspiracy to subjugate popular empowerment. More precisely, Rubin says that the reason the political Left has lost power is not because it has done anything wrong, anywhere, ever, but because of pernicious forces that have unjustly constrained it.
Of course, the true history is a different story. It explains that Bolsonaro's sustaining rise is a function of the Brazilian Left's failure and corruption. The true history explains Trump's win in terms of voter weariness with self-serving establishment leadership, and his success is rooted in his own achievement of making more lives better.
As I say, you might not want to study history at Boston University. King's College London's War Studies department offers a far better alternative.