Georgia Senate election is a game changer for Biden; Trump's effect on GOP's future

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on US politics:

First question. What do the results of the Georgia Senate election mean?

Well, this is a real game changer for President Biden. He came into office with the most progressive agenda of any president in modern history and the Republicans controlling the Senate were prepared to block all of that. That meant no education spending, no healthcare spending, very little green energy spending and probably no stimulus spending, further COVID stimulus spending this year. Now the Democrats seem to have a majority in the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives. All of that can get done as well as tax increases in order to finance it. The concern now for the Democrats is overreach that could lead to backlash. They have very thin majorities in the House, and the trend has been that in the first midterm for a new president, you almost always lose seats in the House. Democrats can't really afford to lose too many. That may cause them to moderate some of their plans.


Second question. What's the future for President Trump and the Republican party?

Last night's Georgia elections were not good for President Trump. He really campaigned hard for the two Republican candidates. They really embraced him and ran as Trump Republicans in a state that's rapidly moderating and turning purple-ish, if not all the way blue. But the problem is for the Republicans is that President Trump has a strong base of voters who are very loyal to him. Many of them are here in Washington this week to protest the counting of the electoral college votes. Ultimately that will be a futile effort, but the fact that they're here, they're passionate supporters, they make up a big chunk of the Republican base, it's going to create problems the Republican party in the 2022 primaries. And you've got seats in the Senate in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, traditional swing states where they're going to have either vulnerable Senate Republican incumbents or open seats. And the primaries there are going to be quite competitive. If a Trump backed person emerges from those primaries, they're probably going to lose in the general election the way Loeffler and Perdue did in Georgia. It's going to be hard for Republicans to take back the majority in the Senate as long as that dynamic persists.


Third question. Why are Republicans objecting to the electoral counts this week?

Well, the reason is that the president's in spinning these conspiracy theories about fraud in Arizona, Georgia, and a couple of other states. And he's got enough allies, which shows this depth of his support in Congress that about a quarter of Senate Republicans are set to object and potentially several dozen, potentially maybe over 100 House Republicans are going to object on his behalf. Ultimately, this is going to fail. It's basically just theater. The Republicans want to signal to the world that they are aligned with President Trump. They're likely to face a lot of blowback repudiation from members of their own party.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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