Quick Take: One week until the US election

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. This is the last week before elections, have only lasted for two years, cost billions of dollars. We're sick of it. We're ready. We're ready to get past this. What do we think is going to happen?

Well, let's be clear. Biden is way ahead, and it's hard for incumbents to lose. They tended to win in the United States. They need to be unpopular and unlucky to lose, but Trump does seem to be checking both of those boxes. He's never been enormously popular. He has a pretty narrow base that is very strongly supportive of him, some 38 to 42% back and forth, but a narrow band, which has been pretty consistent for most of them the last four years, but he's also been massively unlucky. Unlucky, how?


Well, the timing of the election, compared to coronavirus. I mean, it's getting colder, and people are going back inside, and the second wave of coronavirus, including a White House superspreader event and the vice president's aides testing positive in reasonable number, all of that happening right before the election, weeks before the election. Trump still does well on the economy. In fact, in general polls, he's been ahead of Biden pretty consistently, though narrowly, on who would handle the economy better. He does reasonably well on law and order issues, certainly amongst Republicans and some independents. He does reasonably even in a bunch of foreign policy issues like on trade, the new NAFTA, the U.S.-South Korea deal, the Middle East plans and agreements diplomacy, the breakthroughs that have happened, a bunch of China technology stuff, getting the allies on board.


But the big crisis, the largest crisis of my lifetime, of our lifetimes is coronavirus. 225,000 Americans dead, millions and millions having gotten the disease, largest number of cases on record right now, one week before the election. Hospitalization's going up, and even mortality. The rates overall have been going down, but the numbers of people dying is going up again and will almost certainly continue to right through election day. Trump wants us to be talking about anything but coronavirus because that's the issue that he polls the worst on, and it's what we're all talking about. The ability of Trump to actually win this election is a hell of a lot lower than it normally would have been, and 2020 is not like 2016.

A couple of additional things. First, getting through the vote itself. If you think about polling error, it is certainly possible that Trump can win. If there's polling error that's largely in his favor in swing states, it's a lot closer than the national polls are, about 5.6 points. It did look like Biden was ahead in Texas. Now it looks like Trump's ahead two, three, maybe even four points there. We've seen that in some of the southern swing states too.

If there's a decent amount of polling error in Trump's favor, he can win narrowly. If he wins narrowly or if it is close in Biden's favor, then it's pretty clear that this is going to be a process, a long process where both sides contest it. I mean, Trump is going to say he wins almost irrespective of what happens, and if it's close, and Biden actually has a larger number of electoral votes, but Trump says, "No, I'm contesting it. This was rigged," you could end up with a constitutional crisis.

It's very important to understand that the willingness of GOP members to go along with President Trump just as they did in the impeachment, only Romney voting to convict every other Republican Senator supporting Trump on what was a fairly open-and-shut case that he was using the power of the presidency to get the Ukrainian president to open an investigation against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, it was pretty clear they had him to rights on that, but the GOP was not going to respond to it. It was a political decision. It was not based on a view of how American rule of law is supposed to be handled.

I can easily see the same thing happening if it is close in this election, even if it's close and legitimately it looks like Biden actually won. The potential for constitutional crisis, if it's narrow, is real. I think under any surface, Trump says, "I won, and that was rigged, and it's not reasonable," if it's close. Certainly, the media, his supporters on social media and the GOP in Congress likely to pull out every stop to attempt to effectively contest that.

Now, what about if it's a landslide for Biden, which is certainly plausible, a little bit of polling error in Biden's favor, and he wins really big, and then Trump can say whatever he wants, it doesn't matter. The Republicans aren't with them. They throw them under the bus. They say, "That's it. We move on." McConnell already gotten his 6-3 Supreme Court, and from his perspective, that's a big legacy win. He's not going anywhere. They lick their wounds. They move longer-term.

But if Biden does win by a landslide, we should remember how we got here. Trump won the 2016 election. He won it legitimately. He is the president. He is our president. He is my president, despite the fact that he is clearly one of the least fit-for-office people to ever seek that position, and even after 225,000 people have died of coronavirus, even after he has governed for four years and shown that he is incapable of actually not only not unifying the country, but incapable of responding effectively to the worst crisis of our lifetimes, this is something that would sink almost anyone that you can imagine, he still gets roughly 40% approval.

That's because people don't think America works for them. That's because the working class, and particularly, the white working class in the United States, has been treated like cannon fodder for decades, whether it's the result of trade policies that have depleted their ranks and not found ways for them to experience upward mobility and the American dream, whether it's immigration with lots of others coming into the United States to have their land of opportunity, but no one's taken care of the Americans already here, whether it's wars that have been fought on the back of the poorest Americans for decades and we've lost those wars and taking care of those and their families that have given all? Now, under Obama and Biden as vice-president, you had eight years of focus on progressive social policy, which, I mean, there's lots of good things that come out of that, but if you are a white member of the working class rural area in the United States, you view that nobody cares about you anymore.

I mean, there is structural racism in the United States. Blacks absolutely have the worst situation in the country, and they have the least amount of wealth, but at least, from their perspective, there is more opportunity. The absolute situation is the worst, but their trajectory has been improving. The white working class, undereducated, has a lousy... I mean, they're doing better overall than blacks and Hispanics in the U.S., but they're not doing well. They've been stagnant for decades, and the trajectory is actually getting worse. Indeed, life expectancy is going down. Suicide rates are going up. Opioid addiction is going up. I mean, these are people who are not just angry because they're all racist, they're angry because everyone's been lying to them.

There's no question. There is an enormous amount of racism in the United States, not just structural racism in the system, but individual racism that exists in many of these communities to a great and disturbing degree, just as it exists in other communities in the United States, but I will tell you that everyone in my feed that hates Trump, almost everyone I see in social media are also saying that these people are all racist and that it's unacceptable to vote for him.

I will not say that. I think it's pretty clear that when you're talking about 40% of the population voting for Trump back in 2016 and just about that in 2020, it is not just about them. It's about us. It's about how we could get to the place where so many Americans would feel that the system was indeed so rigged against them, and they're right. Trump is not fixing it for them, but you understand how angry they are.

I look at Borat and this movie that is out now, Sacha Baron Cohen, and I see how it does well in part because it's fine to laugh at the idiots in the middle of the country, the flyover states, the uneducated. We're responsible for that. I don't think it's okay to punch down. I think you have to reach out and help your fellow Americans, and when they're hurting and when they're angry and even when they say and do things that are unacceptable, realizing that those of us that are in a vastly better position and have done so little to help them, it is unacceptable for us to say it's their fault.

I know so many people in the United States on the left who strongly oppose stereotyping of blacks, of Hispanics, of Muslims, but they would think nothing of mocking rural working class whites, of laughing at them. This must end because if we don't learn those lessons, if we don't understand that's how we got Trump after a massive Biden win, then populism in the United States and racism in the United States and extremism in the United States is going to get much, much worse. These people are going to suffer so much worse in 2021 and 2022 unless we get our act together on the back of coronavirus with digital transformation, the knowledge economy doing fine, and so many of the jobs remaining for these people just going away. If that happens, the next time they vote someone in, it's not going to be someone as incompetent as Trump, and that's going to be much more dangerous to the American system that I hope we all still believe in.

Thanks a lot for listening. I'll talk to you all real soon.

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