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Quick Take: The election is serious, but don't panic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here. It's Monday and a quick take for you right before the election. That's right. Don't panic. All of you remembering Douglas Adams, the great Douglas Adams, for those people that back in high school, this is the kind of book that you knew people that read the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. You said, "That's probably a normal human being a little dorky, but isn't going to kill me," where the people that were all about Atlas shrugged and the Fountainhead, those were people that were problematic later in life. That's just my own personal view. Maybe a little Tolkien. That was also fine. A little Hobbit. I'm friendly that way, but this is the message I really want people to keep in mind in the next 24, 48, 72 hours, the next week, two, three weeks.

It's going to be tough out there. People are going nuts. They're going crazy. The media is making it worse. The social media is making it worse, and it's going to be a tough time for the United States. But to be clear, we are not on the brink of becoming an authoritarian state. We are not about to be a Banana Republic. We are not on the verge of collapse. Instead, we are very divided. A lot of people are hurting. A lot of people are angry, and we have a whole bunch of people in very different information bubbles. They don't talk to each other, engage with each other, and that is a problem. That makes the country feel so much less purposeful, mission-oriented, communal, civic, all the things that we want. If you've got a flag, if you want to be united under that flag, you have to care about all the people in the country, not just the ones that agree with you politically.

Look, this election matters. It matters a lot. It matters more than usual. I'm the one that usually says, "American elections, whoever the president is ultimately doesn't impact your life that much." This time, it does, and it does largely because there is such a big crisis right now. If you get Biden and if you get a majority Democrat in Senate, you're going to have $3 trillion of stimulus come February or March. That's massive for a new American president. If it's a divided Congress or if Trump wins, it's going to be a lot less. So, there is a very big, a significant gap. The markets are responding too. It's going to matter a lot to the people, to the States, the municipalities, right? That does really matter.

Also, if there's a majority democratic Senate, you will end the filibuster... Heck, Washington DC will probably become the 51st state. You will have the Voter Rights Act. You'll probably redo the census again because it was cut short. These are significant impacts for a long time in the United States, not just measured in years, but decades of impact and trajectory.

So, I absolutely think Biden versus Trump is very meaningful. If Biden comes in, my taxes are going up a lot. Certainly, to Obama levels, but probably much more than that, and that's going to affect a lot of wealthy Americans. The regulatory environment's going to change a lot, and if you're in a corporate that's affected by that, that's very significant. So I don't want to say that Biden versus Trump doesn't matter. It's just the idea that Biden versus Trump is somehow this end of the world for the United States is not the case.

Now, what do we think is going to happen in this election? Well, the polls are telling you very clearly Biden is ahead by a lot. He's been ahead consistently by a lot for a long time. It's been very stable. There's been no closing of that gap the way there was between Hillary and Trump. So that means whether you look at FiveThirtyEight or you look at RealClearPolitics... I personally, we've got to deal with Ipsos and we do a blend of all of the different swing state polls, we look at the national polls. It's very clear that it's 85, 90% likely looking at the polls that Trump is going to lose.

But that doesn't mean that Trump is going to lose. That means that if you have seven, eight, nine, 10 elections, one of those elections at least Trump is going to win. That is an expected outcome of a multiple series. I just wish that more people don't think that the polls are wrong when you have an outcome that's unlikely. It just means that you only have a one shot at something that you'd like a larger number for.

Well, not that we wouldn't want that from a personal perspective, because it would drive everyone truly batshit, but personally, that's what it means. So there is a real potential that Trump is the President in a legitimate election, a legitimately counted election, one that Biden would need to concede for, and Trump would lead for four more years. If that happens, we'll be okay. We'll get through it, right? Again, it's going to drive some people insane, but the reality is that the United States will continue to persist as a damaged, but nonetheless, robust country, economy, even representative democracy.

On the other hand, it's much more likely... it's vastly more likely that Biden wins. What is very unusual about this election is that even in a significant Biden win, the amount of contestation is going to be very high. The willingness of Trump to say that he has won, if he has not, is pretty significant. If he decides to do that and say it's rigged and call his supporters out onto the streets, angry that the democratic establishment is trying steal his rightfully won election, I think you're going to see a lot of violence.

We've already seen some of that with lots of convoys of Trump supporters in trucks and cars. I haven't seen that they've been armed significantly, though you saw some of that in Portland, but easily plausible going forward. I've seen a lot of them obscuring license plates, because if you're shutting down traffic or shutting down a bridge, doing something illegal, they're trying to avoid responsibility for that illegality. That's not exactly conscientious objectionism. But if Trump were to directly call for his supporters to go out in the streets because they're going to take the election from him, I think that's going to be a level of demonstrations and violence in the country that will certainly rival anything we've seen since '68, in other words, anything in my lifetime. That's a problem.

That's why you see so many cities with streets and having all the storefronts getting boarded up, and that's being true in big urban areas all over the place, including right downstairs on Fifth Avenue from my office right now. Of course, when that happens, a lot of people opportunistically just come out to engage in looting and in violence and rioting. So, I think that's real. I think there's a very good chance that's going to happen, but I also think that it's not forever.

In fact, it's not even for a long time. Then eventually, we get to a new president and the ability of Trump to contest, to obscure, to create chaos is reasonably high. The ability to actually subvert the outcome is a very different story. Then it would have to be very close indeed, and even then for him to steal the presidency, no. For him to contest the presidency and create a constitutional crisis that would be like 1876 where you need a political outcome, that is indeed feasible if it's really close. That, we will have a good sense of whether that could happen or not in just over 30... say 30 hours plus.

So we'll get there. Don't panic stick with us. GZERO Media will be talking to you all the way through this. Be good, everybody. I'll talk to you soon.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

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Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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