GZERO Media logo

Donald Trump's relevance to US politics doesn't disappear on Jan 20, 2021

In 2020's final installment of The Red Pen — as we say goodbye not only to this tumultuous year, but also to the Trump presidency -- Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's US team: Jon Lieber, Jeffrey Wright, Clayton Allen, and Regina Argenzio are taking the Red Pen to an op-ed by John Harris, veteran political journalist and co-founder of Politico, optimistically titled, "Relax, a Trump comeback in 2024 is not going to happen."

On January 20th, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. So how long will Donald Trump still be a thing in US politics, and does he have another shot at the White House? John Harris makes his case that Trump is going to fade away based on historical precedent that the US system has seen disruptors before and endured other politicians who were more obsessed with their own publicity than the greater goals of their party. And that's true, but we're not so sure that Donald Trump is quite the same phenomenon.


Let's get into it. First, Harris writes, "There are abundant precedents suggesting that Trump does not have another important act in national politics." He points to Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, and Ross Perot. And he argues that while cults of personality in American politics are quite common, they never live long, and Trump has offered no reason to suppose he will be an exception. Well, hold on a second.

Trump got elected president. That's a big difference from other cults of personality in politics.

The biggest difference between Trump and McCarthy, Wallace, and Perot is that Trump actually got elected president. He's got a very broad base of support, unending media presence, and the ability to fundraise at a massive scale. Ross Perot got 8 million votes when he ran as a third-party candidate against Bill Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole back in '96. Trump lost the 2020 election as the incumbent Republican president and he got more than 74 million votes as he keeps reminding us. Big, big difference there.

Next Harris argues, "No one can seriously believe that Trump cares more about the public's problems than his own and that is not a recipe for sustaining political power in contrast to his 2015 agenda, which addressed trade, immigration, globalization and perceptions of national decline."

Donald Trump has long put himself first, but that has not bothered his supporters.

That's not exactly breaking news to anyone who is a critic of Trump on both sides of the aisle, but clearly, it's not how Trump's supporters feel. Remember, if it wasn't for coronavirus, Trump wins this election. He still did better with Black and Hispanic voters than in 2016 and among people who thought the economy was the most important issue in the election. And Republican voters who stood by Trump are angry. Most of them believe the election was stolen and that's not a sentiment that can be waved away on inauguration day.

Harris also writes that, "Trump is essentially a one trick pony. He goes to extreme and he doubles down no matter what. That combination of flawed judgment and impoverished imagination hardly supports optimism about his ability to retain power after January 20th," he writes.

Donald Trump has been demonstrating flawed judgment for years and yet he still has tens of millions of supporters. Now he will have free time and a big megaphone to promote his message.

We say again, "Is that news?" Trump has been going to extremes and demonstrating flawed judgment for four years and yet he still has tens of millions of supporters and he will now have tons of free time and the largest megaphone in the Republican party to promote his message. It's a recipe to stay prominent.

Finally, Harris argues that, "Republicans who want to regain control of the party and become president themselves can simply transcend Trump. They can make Trump look irrelevant, an artifact of an era that has passed." Yeah, they've done such a great job of transcending him so far. Look, let's face it, the GOP right now has very little bench. There is no real era parent to claim that mantle and begin the road to 2024.

How would the Republicans transcend Trump? Who do they have to claim the mantle?

Rather than comparing Trump to McCarthy or Ross Perot, we should look a little deeper into American history at Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president. In a very divided 19th century America, Jackson embodied all the same anti elite and populous arguments as Trump and had a very similar band of aggressive and highly motivated supporters. Trump has expressed his admiration for Jackson several times in his presidency, he even put a portrait of Jackson right in the oval office. (I think that's probably coming down on the 21st of Jan.) Jackson, by the way, served two terms. They were consecutive, and that is certainly not happening this time. But it's way too soon to say that President Trump has no voice beyond January 20th.

That's your Red Pen this week and for this year. We'll see you again real soon in 2021.

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.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

More Show less

Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

More Show less

Now that Joe Biden is officially US president, leaders from around the world would like a word with him — but where will he make his first international trip?

After a tumultuous four years, many countries are now clamoring for a face-to-face with President Biden. That includes allies who felt abandoned by Trump's "America First" presidency, as well as adversaries with thorny issues on the agenda. We check in on who's pitching him hardest on a near-term state visit.

More Show less
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal