What We're Watching: A nail-biter for the Senate, the losers' future, Trump's baseless claims

People stand next to a screen displaying a U.S. flag in Times Square during the 2020 U.S. presidential election in New York City, New York, U.S. November 4, 2020.

Control of the US Senate: For months, the Democrats expressed cautious optimism about retaking the Senate, which they will need in order to pass key legislation on healthcare, immigration, and climate change. A strong show in the Senate races would also give Democrats a good chance of regaining full control of the federal government — the House of Representatives, Senate, and the presidency — for the first time in a decade. While the Democrats picked up a coveted seat in the battleground state of Arizona, results remain in flux in closely watched races in Georgia, North Carolina, and Maine. Meanwhile, Democratic losses in Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas mean that even if they do squeak out control of the Senate for the first time since 2014, it will be with an extremely slim majority. This means that even if Joe Biden does win the presidency, he will have a hard time getting his legislative agenda through a Senate with a heavy Republican presence. At the time of this writing, Republicans and Democrats are at 47 seats a piece, with six spots still up in the air. More results will trickle out in the hours and days ahead, but either way, it's clear that the US Senate race did not amount to the "blue wave" (53 seats) that Democrats had been hoping for.


The future of the losing party: The losing party in the US election always faces a bit of an existential reckoning about what it did wrong and how to become more competitive next time around. How might that look this year? The stakes don't seem equal. Even if Trump loses by a hair, his better-than-expected performance shows that his brand of conservative populist nationalism is very popular — he is on track to get more popular votes than in 2016 — and it will continue to exercise broad influence over Republican politics, with 2024 hopefuls such as senators Tom Cotton or Josh Hawley, and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley waiting for Trump's blessing to throw their hats in the ring. On the other hand, a shock Biden defeat will be crushing for the Democrats, who will have failed to unseat the president despite having spent four years training their fire on his erratic and divisive leadership, and more recently his mismanagement of the pandemic. The Dems are already increasingly split between centrist moderates and the activist progressive wing of the party. Given the realities of the electoral college, which forces Democrats to win votes in several large battleground states, will they double down on centrism but with a stronger candidate, or will they opt for a progressive populist who can dent some of Trump's appeal among working-class voters and turn out a large base of their own (like many believe Bernie Sanders could have done)? Either way, if Biden loses the Democratic Party is in for some major existential angst.

What We're Ignoring:

Trump's "victory" speech: With some incomplete battleground results going his way, President Trump broke US election night tradition by prematurely and unilaterally declaring victory and calling for "all voting to stop." He claimed wins in Georgia and North Carolina while millions of votes are still being counted there, and said that he's "on track" to win Pennsylvania even though the Keystone State's final tally may not be known until Friday. He also claimed, without evidence, that many of his voters had been disenfranchised, and vowed to take any contested result all the way to the Supreme Court, where after the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett conservatives now hold an ample 6-3 majority. We're ignoring Trump's speech because there is no legal basis for the Supreme Court to stop counting votes that were already cast according to the rules set by each state (which even his buddy, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, recognized when criticizing Trump's move).

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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Listen: A deep dive down the bottle to examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

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.

There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

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:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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