Quick Take: US facing domestic insurrection & terrorism

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

What a crazy day. A historic day and not one that you really want to have in your memory with the United States facing domestic insurrection, terrorism. Thousands of people converging on the Capitol and the seat of the legislative branch of government after having been stirred up with disinformation and fake news by the president, President Trump and his supporters this morning. I will be very clear that the violence that we have already seen is the responsibility of the president directly. And we've never in our lives, the last time you had an election like this was in 1876 and still the transition was handled more responsibly.

You've never had a sitting president actually work to undermine the outcome of a free and fair election. And that is exactly what occurred. And it was interesting, very late, but nonetheless, Senate majority leader McConnell came out just a few hours ago and said that President Trump's efforts to overturn the electoral vote was a threat at the heart of democracy that should not be supported. And yet, nonetheless, you could still get more than a dozen sitting, GOP senators and a majority of sitting GOP members of the house to support President Trump, knowing full well that the election had not been stolen. That indeed Biden had won a free and fair election. But because President Trump's influence over the voting base of the Republican Party so outweighs that of any other Republican figure, they were prepared to go with him even after he lost the election, even as a lame duck president. And that's the problem.


This doesn't go away. And it doesn't go away for two reasons. One, because Trump's influence will continue. He'll have access to billions of dollars and mass media and have dozens of millions of direct followers that will continue to prepare to listen to him. And it also doesn't go away because even as Trump diminishes from public view, which certainly will happen as he's no longer president and perhaps if there are legal efforts directly against him in the aftermath of the events that we are watching transpire today, Trumpism will still have political space and gravity and many will occupy it.

Trump, as Steve Bannon once said, is a vessel, a broken vessel, a flawed vessel, but for something much deeper, which is a feeling that the system is rigged against the average American. And even though Joe Biden has the instinct to reach out across the aisle and across the divide in his own Democratic party, decades of a country and a political system that makes the average American feel like it is rigged against them, creates a massive amount of antiestablishment sentiment that was tapped into by Trump, but that others will tap into as well. And in its ultimate level, you get violence. And in its ultimate level, you get what we have seen play out in Washington today.

Now, I want to be clear. I've said to all of you before that the United States is not on the verge of becoming an authoritarian regime and that continues to be true right now. But that does not mean that the United States is not deeply damaged. No, indeed. If you go to our top risks that we put out just this Monday, risk number one was the political polarization in the United States. And all week, people have been asking me, "Why wasn't it coronavirus? How can it not be the pandemic?" And the answer was, the pandemic is horrible, but at least with the vaccines, mortality is going down significantly.

The United States, the divisions in the US are getting worse. And are getting worse, vastly differentiated rate from that of other countries in the world. What we are seeing play out right now in the United States, it is inconceivable that that would have happened in Canada or Australia or Germany or France or the UK today. Historically, perhaps, today, not possible. Why in the United States? Because in the United States, so many people have fallen through the cracks. The equality of opportunity is not there. The divide is much greater.

There are some incredible things about the United States. It's very hard, very painful for me to talk about all of this, as someone who considers myself an American patriot, someone who loves my country. But the same things that created true greatness in the US economy in the past decades, the fact that we are alone, so aligned with the animal spirits of capitalism that we so provide support for entrepreneurs and the market forces. But when the market no longer works for the average person, when suddenly labor doesn't matter as much and the average American no longer has anything to offer to capitalism, and indeed coronavirus has sped that up a great deal. Well, that means that the disenfranchised in the US are going to feel uniquely disenfranchised compared to other countries that haven't done such a great job at capitalism, but they've done a better job for protecting their people. And that's all of those other advanced industrial democracies.

So, at the same time that the United States has become so much more powerful, the US has also become more politically delegitimized. And that's what today is all about. Today is, in a sense, the increasing progression of a trend that has been growing for decades and which has accelerated under Trump and has accelerated even further under coronavirus. And yes, President-elect Biden can start to try to heal and repair some of this and having probably won the two seats in Georgia that were contested that can start with a couple of trillion dollars in additional stimulus that will help to ensure that average Americans aren't evicted, don't become homeless. Can deal with having lost their jobs and the stress of the schools being closed and coronavirus continuing to affect the country. But that's a Band-Aid. That doesn't address the underlying structural challenges in the United States. That is a project for decades, not for one administration.

And until then, the erosion, globally, as the United States continues to be somewhat absent as a global leader and increasingly mistrusted as an example, not to be followed. I've said this before, but today is it not so glaringly obvious that no one outside the US would look to my country and say, "That is a paradigm for governance. That is the way I want my country to be run." In 1989 when the world fell down, we won the Cold War because people respected our system, because our government was better, because our ideas were better. You cannot say that today. And that is truly unfortunate and it's happened over a few decades.

I certainly hope that events of today and the next two weeks will be a clarion call, a wake up for Americans of all stripes and of both parties to understand that we need to work together to start rebuilding some of the institutions that have faced so much erosion and damage over the past decades. But the idea that Biden becomes president, and we can go back to status quo, anti-America is back, that our country is the world's exceptionalist power once again, indispensable nation making the world safe for democracy? You know, we've exported a lot of "democracy" over the past years. Maybe we should have kept a little more in the United States, start at home. And that is the message for today. Thank you so much. Be safe. And talk to you soon.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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