Will Democrats Change?

Will Democrats Change?

Among the 23 men and women now seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to take on Donald Trump in next year's election, the frontrunner, at least for now, has spent half a century in politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, first elected to the US Senate in 1972, is the very epitome of the American political establishment.

Yet, the dominant political trend in many democracies today is public rejection of traditional candidates and parties of the center-right and center-left in favor of new movements, voices, and messages. Consider the evidence from some recent elections:


  • As we warned last month, Brexit has undermined both of the UK's major parties. Local elections earlier this month saw disappointing losses for Labor and a tidal wave of anger at Conservatives. This weekend's elections for the European Parliament are expected to boost Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party
  • In France in 2017, voters chose Emmanuel Macron, who had never run for office and was leading a party he had created from nothing one year before the vote. The center-right Les Republicains finished third behind the far-right Front National, and the center-left Socialists fell to fifth place behind France's Communists.
  • In Germany's most recent election, the center-right CDU collected its lowest vote share since 1949, while the center-left SPD suffered its worst result since the 1930s. The far-right AfD is now the country's lead opposition party, and the Greens poll higher than the SPD.
  • In Italy, the last election (2018) produced a governing coalition that combines a protest movement that didn't exist a decade ago with a far-right, former separatist party.
  • In Mexico, voters in 2018 pushed aside traditional parties to elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador as their president. His Morena party, created less than five years ago, now commands a solid legislative majority.
  • In Brazil, voters chose a far-right former army officer, Jair Bolsonaro, representing a party that before the election held just one of more than 500 seats in Congress.
  • In Ukraine, voters pushed past the incumbent president and former prime minister to instead elect a comedian who played the country's president on a TV show.

So what about the United States, where two-party dominance of politics remains deeply entrenched?

In a sense, Donald Trump, the first person ever elected president without having served in either government or the military, has created a new party within the Republican Party. He has upended the party's traditionally pro-immigration and free-trade views, and challenged the assumption that it's in the US national interest for Washington to play a global leadership role, reversing the position of every Republican president—and presidential candidate—since World War II.

Senior leaders of his party have pushed back in some areas, but Trump remains the unrivalled standard-bearer of the much-changed "Grand Ole Party" (GOP).

So what about the Democrats? As their would-be champions take the debate stage beginning next month, the great question facing the party and its supporters is whether the party must change to meet the demands of a changing electorate or whether job number one is to send Donald Trump packing.

The bottom line: If it's all about beating Trump, Biden may well be his party's strongest choice. But if Democrats believe their party must accept the global trend toward promises of transformational change, other candidates will emerge and the race will become much more difficult to predict.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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10: Joshua Wong was sentenced along with other Hong Kong democracy activists to 10 months in prison for participating in a vigil last year marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Wong is currently behind bars for participating in separate pro-democracy protests, and will only start this new sentence after that term concludes in November.

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What's the biggest foreign policy misconception that Americans have about the US's role in the world? According to international relations expert Tom Nichols, too few Americans believe that the US, in fact, has a critical role in the world, and that the things Americans enjoy, from cheap goods to safe streets, are made possible because of American global leadership. "Americans have become so spoiled and inured to the idea that the world is a dangerous place that they don't understand that the seas are navigable because someone makes them that way. They don't understand that peace between the great powers is not simply like the weather, that just happens," Nichols tells Ian Bremmer. Their conversation is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television – check local listings.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The Red Pen

India’s COVID crisis hits home

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal