January 6th: One year later

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, and it is January 6th, one year on, a date that's going to be seared in American consciousness for a long time. And of course, depending on who you are in the United States, a date that has a radically different meaning for you than many of your neighboring Americans. And that of course is precisely why this crisis of democracy has become what it is, that Americans don't agree on what actually happened on the date. Was this seditious behavior, trying to overturn a legitimate election, being exhorted to violence by the former sitting president of the United States, Donald Trump? Or was it a group of patriots trying to ensure that the false certification of a stolen and fraudulent election would not place and ensuring that Trump would be installed as reelected as a legitimate president?

Literally, the country is divided not down the middle, only about 30% of Americans believe in the latter narrative, but it's an enormously disturbing divide. And look, simply by saying this, there are people that are watching this video that are going to disagree with me and say, "how can you say that President Trump called for violence, and this was all BS, and this was a fake insurrection." And I am someone who came out on the day and said, this was not a coup, it was not a coup attempt. The military was not involved and was independent. Judiciary did its job. And I mean, the possibility, the worst possible scenario was that a bunch of sitting legislators and maybe even the vice president were in physical danger and could have been killed. And that would've been a horrible, horrible thing, but we've had assassinations of presidents in the past in the United States and the US has gotten through it.

The reason that this is such a critical crisis in the United States is not because of the violence on January 6th. It's because the aftermath of January 6th was only greater political division. The aftermath of January 6th was only that larger and larger numbers of Americans believe that the election was stolen falsely, and larger numbers of Americans believe that their principal enemy is the political opposition across the aisle, in their own country. Their fellow Americans, their fellow citizens, their fellow patriots are actually their enemies and countries that operate like that don't stay functional democracies for long. This is not new. I've been talking about this. We've been talking about this as a country for a while now.

The US election process has been getting worse through the last two cycles. In 2016, an election that Trump won legitimately and I did not vote for him, but I told everyone at the time he was my president, but a lot of people that didn't vote for him did not say that. Hillary Clinton, of course, conceded and called Trump on the evening and congratulated him, but a large number of Democrats on the media and even sitting in office believed and said that the election was stolen by Trump, who engaged in collusion with the Russian government and shadowy forces to ensure that they could steal the election from Hillary Clinton.

And we even had an impeachment procedure over that. And we had the Mueller investigations over that. And for years you had Democrats saying that Trump was not a legitimately elected president of the United States. Then we had the 2020 election and it got a lot worse because in this case you had the sitting president of the United States saying that the fair election, which was certified by Republicans in the key states like Georgia and Arizona, and found no cases of significant fraud anywhere. And all of the cases that were brought by Trump and Giuliani and his supporters were either thrown out of court or found to be unfit. They were not clear cases. There was no substance to them. It was a free and fair election, but the president himself did everything possible to stoke the belief, the false belief that the election was stolen.

And therefore, that Biden is not the legitimate president of the United States, so much so that you now have millions of Americans, tens of millions of Americans that believe that Biden is not their president, millions of Americans that believe that Trump should be installed as president by force. And this would be legitimate. This is unprecedented in our lifetimes, in the United States. We're going to have midterms coming up in November and the Republicans will almost surely win the House. And you see with all of the Democrats, some 25 Democrats in the House say they're not going to run again far more than Republicans, including some committee chairs. They all see the writing on the wall that they're going to lose. The Senate may well flip to Republican. That's a closer call. Many of the key swing states that are critical for certifying a 2024 election, the gubernatorial elections, the state legislatures are likely to be in the Republican hands on the back of 2022 elections.

In other words, we are set up for the 2024 election to be a step change even worse than 2020, which itself was a step change even worse than 2016. This is not normal in a democracy. This is an enormous challenge for the United States. And indeed, this could not happen in other advanced industrial democracies around the world. In the past few months, we've had elections in Canada, in Japan, in Germany, free and fair, peaceful transfer of power. We're going to have elections in the coming months in South Korea and in France. They will be free and fair, peaceful transition of power. We can no longer say this about my country. A fundamental part of a representative democracy are legitimate free and fair elections accepted by the citizens of the country. The United States no longer has that.

And so it's not a question of, can we keep democracy? It's a question of, can we rebuild some of the democracy that has eroded? Can we change the course that the United States is on right now towards a hybrid system, a system that no longer reflects and represents the interests of the average American voter? Unfortunately, right now, the answer is no. There is nothing that you can see in the near-term political future of the US that would imply that this is going to be fixed. It doesn't make me despair, but it certainly makes me want to work harder. And I hope that that is the reaction of most of you who are watching this today. It's something we're going to be seeing much more of as we get closer to the '22 midterms, which are the most important midterm elections in American history for all the reasons I just described and which will drive so much political danger and uncertainty as we get closer to 2024.

So that's a little bit for me on this rather disturbing anniversary, one year anniversary of the events of January 6th, I hope everyone's well and I'll talk to you soon.

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