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.

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This weekend, world leaders will open the COP26 climate summit, the UN's annual climate change conference, in Glasgow. Some insist this event is crucial to the multinational fight to limit the effects of climate change; others dismiss it as a circus that will feature politicos, protesters and celebrities competing for attention – one that's long on lofty promises and short on substance.

What's on the agenda?

Political leaders and negotiators from more than 120 countries will gather to talk about two big subjects. First, how to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists warn can inflict catastrophic damage on millions of people. This is where they'll offer their "nationally determined contributions," diplomatic jargon for their updated promises on their climate goals. Second, how to help poorer countries pay for adaptation to the climate damage that's already unavoidable.

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What pandemic result will have the largest and longest-lasting impact on women? Is the world really building back better for half the global population? How can we ensure that the post-pandemic recovery is fair to women? And how does this all play into a wider GZERO world? A group of global experts debated these and other questions during a livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, moderated by eNCA senior news anchor Tumelo Mothotoane.

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Iran to resume nuclear talks — but it might be too late. Iran's top negotiator says that his country is now ready to rejoin talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Those negotiations have been on ice since June, when a hardline new Iranian president was "elected." But hopes for a breakthrough are slim. For one thing, Iran and the US still disagree about who should do what first: Tehran wants the toughest US sanctions lifted immediately, while the Americans say no way until Iran stops steaming ahead with its nuclear programs. (For a good primer, check out this Puppet Regime.) The other big obstacle now is that since Donald Trump ditched the deal in 2018, Iran has made immense progress in enriching uranium, breaking through all the limits set by the original agreement. Reviving that pact would now entail forcing the Iranians to give that all up, which Iran's hardline leadership is very unlikely to do, while Washington certainly won't want to write up a new deal that accepts Iran's recent nuclear activity — in fact, the Biden administration is under pressure to impose fresh sanctions. Fresh talks are good, but things don't look promising.

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Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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11: Hit by a massive new COVID wave, Moscow has issued an 11-day lockdown of schools, businesses, and all "non-essential" services. Russia is now one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, having recorded 400,000 deaths by some estimates. Russia's high rate of vaccine skepticism isn't helping.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company sided pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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No government today has the toolbox to tinker with Big Tech – that's why it's time to start thinking of the biggest tech companies as bona fide "digital nation states" with their own foreign relations, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. Never has a small group of companies held such an expansive influence over humanity. And in this vast new digital territory, governments have little idea what to do.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

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