Us vs Them

Us vs Them

Ian Bremmer (president of GZERO Media and Eurasia Group) has a new book out next week. It’s called “Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism.” I expect many people will soon be arguing about both its interpretation of the present and its vision of the future.


A few words on the main points of argument:

1- Ongoing economic and technological changes in today’s world make it much harder for government to meet our needs. Globalization and new technologies threaten our jobs. Fights over migration have transformed borders into fault-lines. Predatory companies, other governments, and criminals compete for access to the data we produce. Our government isn’t protecting us.

2- These problems open doors for politicians who promise to protect “us” from “them.” Depending on the country and the context, “them” can be establishment politicians, foreigners, racial, ethnic or religious minorities, bankers, reporters, the police, the criminal, or supporters of the other political party.

3- This trend is fully visible in Europe, where far-right political parties have made extraordinary gains in recent years, in Britain (see Brexit), and in the United States (see Donald Trump and the most extreme voices in both parties.)

4- But look to the future, and you’ll see this isn’t just a rich-world problem or a threat only to democracies. Automation of the workplace, in particular, will disrupt the ways that developing countries build and sustain middle classes. These places already have weaker political institutions than in wealthy democracies, and many have ready-made “us vs them” racial, ethnic, and religious divisions already within their borders.

5- In both developed and developing countries, some governments will respond by building walls, real and virtual. Some of these walls will be designed to protect citizens from outsiders. Others will divide this group from that group. Still others will protect government from its people.

6- But there will also be governments — inspired by or partnering with the private sector, philanthropists, and individual visionaries — that experiment with ways to update the social contract for the 21st century. How to expand our conception of education? How to create a social safety net for the gig economy? How to tackle inequality of opportunity? How to restore public confidence in the ability of government to serve citizens?

Ian’s conclusion — Mocking Donald Trump and deriding the world’s strongmen is too easy and misses the point: The world is shifting beneath our feet. We must plan for the best outcomes and prepare for the worst.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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