Big picture trends in US Politics

Jon Lieber, Eurasia Group's Managing Director for the US, breaks down the US political landscape on US Politics In 60 Seconds:

Today, we're going to start by discussing some of the big picture trends in US politics that are going to affect the election outlook for this year. So, bear with me if this takes a little more than a minute.


When I think of big trends in US politics, I think the number one thing is the growing rural-urban divide between the two parties. If you look back to the 1980 election, the Democrats took about 59% of the vote in the most urban districts, and they took about 56 percent of the vote in the most rural districts in the country. If you fast forward to 2018 and the midterm elections, the Democrats took about 75 percent of the vote in the most urban districts, and they took only 40 percent of the vote in the most rural districts. So, you're going from a three-point spread in the 80s to a 35-point spread today. And that's really one the defining characteristics of how the parties have realigned themselves facing the new electoral reality.

What that means is increasing partisanship as you've got increasing geographic concentration among the two parties. The Democrats are largely becoming a younger, more diverse, in some cases better educated party. The Republican Party is becoming increasingly white, increasingly rural and a little bit older than the Democratic Party. As a result, you're seeing enhanced partisanship across the US political spectrum. People are clustering in areas where they're more likely to come across people who share their partisan views. There's higher correlation between the House, the Senate and the White House, meaning it's more difficult for policymakers to differentiate themselves from their party. And you've got a fracturing media ecosystem where it's easier to hear points of view that reinforce your own. And there's less agreement not only about what the solutions to public policy problems are, but what the problems themselves are.

So, what does that mean for the 2020 election? Well, you're very likely to see a very close election that looks very similar, with a map that looks very similar to the map in 2016. Meaning you've got a number of states that are solidly blue, a number of states that are really solidly red and a small number of states in the middle that will be decided based on these questions of the rural-urban divide.

In particular, three questions that we'll be watching closely are: Do African American voters in cities show up to vote for Joe Biden? Can Trump hold on to his predominately white rural base? In many cases, they flipped over from Obama to Trump in 2016. Can he hold on to them? And three, what happens in the suburbs? Where a lot of educated, college educated Republicans moved away from the Republican Party, giving the House to the Democrats in 2018 midterms? And if that trend continues, it's very good for Joe Biden and could be trouble for President Trump.

So, it should be really interesting election year and I'm looking forward to watching with you.

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Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Andean aftermath: Two big weekend elections in South America produced two stunning results. In Ecuador's presidential runoff, the center-right former banker Guillermo Lasso upset early frontrunner Andrés Arauz, a leftist handpicked by former president Rafael Correa. Lasso will take power amid the social and economic devastation of the pandemic and will have to reckon with the rising political power of Ecuador's indigenous population: the Pachakutik party, which focuses on environmental issues and indigenous rights, is now the second-largest party in parliament. Meanwhile, in a big surprise next door in Perú, far-left union leader Pedro Castillo tallied up the most votes in the first round of that country's highly fragmented presidential election. As of Monday evening it's not clear whom he'll face in the June runoff, but three figures are in the running as votes are counted: prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, rightwing businessman Rafael López Aliaga, and conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Meanwhile, in the congressional ballot, at least 10 parties reached the threshold to win seats, but there is no clear majority or obvious coalition in sight.

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