Demand For Radical Change

Demand For Radical Change

Willis' big story of 2018: "Throw the bums out."

  • Germany struggled to form a government as support for its dominant parties continued to slide, and then the ruling party nudged Chancellor Angela Merkel toward the exit.

  • Mexico elected its first leftist president in eight decades, a man leading a party he created just four years ago.
  • Pakistan pushed aside the Bhutto and Sharif political dynasties to elect a charismatic former cricketer leading his own party.
  • Sweden's dominant center-left party drew its lowest vote share in 100 years. Three months after elections, Sweden closes 2018 without a government.

There's nothing new about incumbents losing elections, and the sources of anger that prompt demands for change vary widely from one place to another. But 2018 saw establishment parties of all kinds, entrenched for decades, tossed off a cliff in favor of wildcard candidates.

His big question for 2019: What happens if leaders elected to bring sweeping change fail to deliver?

France had no national elections this year, but the reformist President Emmanuel Macron's 23 percent approval rating and recent nationwide protests signal the French public isn't happy with the country's direction. The upheaval began with an announced increase in fuel taxes, but fast-expanding demonstrations quickly exposed broader grievances.

Just as Britain's leaders struggle to deliver Brexit and Donald Trump's approval ratings stand at 38 percent, those elected this year on extravagant promises of change face formidable odds against delivering anytime soon. We've learned over the past decade that public protests and their impact are nearly impossible to forecast. What begins as anger over bus fare increases in Sao Paulo or commercial real estate development in Istanbul or land requisition outside Addis Ababa can quickly form the eye of a powerful political storm.

Change will always be easier to promise than to deliver, and public anger may continue to build.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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