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In global elections, incumbents are in trouble

In global elections, incumbents are in trouble
Global elections: Challenges for incumbents worldwide | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week. Lots going on especially big elections. We have the France results. We have the UK results. We have the Iran results. We have a lot of uncertainty of course, here in the United States. My big takeaway is this is a horrible time to be an incumbent.

It's really challenging and what a huge reason for it that people aren't talking about, because it's already way in the rearview mirror is the pandemic. If I'm talking to you right now, your life was really changed by the pandemic in ways that you never would have expected before, right? I mean, we all had to deal with social distancing and masking and vaccine and not only that, but of course, the global economy seized up and people also stopped moving around for like a couple of years. An enormous amount, trillions and trillions of dollars were spent and that got us through an incredibly difficult time. But on the back of that, you suddenly have no more money that's being thrown at everyone, and you've got inflation that comes from, all of a sudden, the supply chains moving and demand moving. You know that these are costs that people are paying, that people no longer have those checks that were coming in during the pandemic, and those savings have been deployed already if you're working or even middle class. And people are moving again, people are moving not just from city to city, but also around the world. So migration is really picking up. And you really don't want to be the leader who's holding the bag when that happens. That's absolutely a big piece of what happened in France. It's a big piece of what happened in the United Kingdom, South Africa, India.

Lots of these elections are people that are unhappy with their existing leadership because it is such an unprecedented environment, and they're having a hard time dealing with that. There are other issues, too, don't get me wrong. And certainly in the UK, the fact that this also comes on the back of Brexit and a level of perceived incompetence on the part of successive conservative prime ministers who were not elected by the population but were selected by the party. The Labor Party did just as well in 2024 as they did in 2019. I think they picked from 33% to 34% total population. It was hardly a landslide, but the Conservative Party imploded because people were unhappy with them. And that is very much the story. It's that the existing incumbents are not doing well.

Macron is not doing well. He's lost so many seats in France and the far right has doubled their number in the parliament and the far left and the left coalition that is not Macron's centrist have also done far better, far better than anyone expected.In fact, they came in number one. Percentage wise, it's Macron in the center that is falling apart in France. That's the big lesson. It's not that the far right is doing well or badly. Some of the far left is doing well or badly. It’s that the incumbent, whoever they are, are really getting hit. Now that leads to a big question here in the United States.

November is coming up. Our elections are way too long. They're way too expensive. But, you know, four months, it's now starting to really be silly season in the United States. And, even if Biden was an incredibly robust and reasonably popular candidate, he would have a hard time in this environment. And of course, that's not the case. He's by far the oldest person that's run for the position in the United States. And he's showing that age, he is showing it more and more every day. I worry about that, of course, for him and for all of those that support him, certainly doesn't seem as if he's about to step down. But of course, that's what he has to say if he's intending to continue to fight until the moment that he changes.

On the other hand, Trump is also historically unpopular in the United States. If this was another candidate on the Republican side, this would be an easy call. This would be a Republican landslide. And Biden or anyone that the Democrats would put up would have a really hard time. And that's because, you know, immigration issues, inflation issues, anti-incumbency very strong in this environment. But because Trump himself is so extraordinarily unpopular and polarizing, it's actually still pretty close. And most of the polls show that that we're talking about a small number of swing states and a very small number of voters. And if you're Biden, you can convince yourself in that environment, “hey, I'm the guy that's going to be, you know, as useful as anybody else. It's too dangerous this late in the race to bring in another candidate.” I would agree with that. I would, if I really believe that what we saw at the debate was a one-off event and not a condition as former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said. I don't believe that, certainly don't believe that on the bases of conversations that I've had with the CEOs, the heads of state, the heads of the multilaterals, the senators, the members of the House that have been engaged with Biden regularly and routinely.

Now, that's different from what the people inside the Biden staff are saying. They are on message. They are very loyal, and they are all saying Biden can do it. If you've seen the schedule, he's so robust, he's so active, he's with it. But anyone outside that who is not like being paid to be completely on message is saying Biden has a serious problem. And in that regard, the likelihood that this doesn't go away, that his principal vulnerability gets worse, I think is very high. So if I were in a room advising him personally and he was willing to listen to me, I would tell him to step down. Having said that, I would have said it a year ago. But, you know, it is what it is.

We'll see what happens this week at the NATO summit with all of these world leaders coming in that are very concerned about what's happening in the United States and going forward, we've got the Republican convention real soon. We’ve got the Democratic convention, and everyone is going to be laser-focused on what's happening in the United States.

So much for that. I'll talk to you all real soon.


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