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Election won't 'fix' divided country: Ian Bremmer

Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group Founder & President and GZERO Media President joins Yahoo Finance's On The Move where he discussed the upcoming election with the panel and said he's not certain the country will accept the election results.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: We have to talk about the implications of the November 3 election. The best person to break this down for us is Ian Bremmer. He is the founder and also the president of Eurasia Group, also GZERO's media president, joining us right now from Nantucket. Good to see you, Ian. And one of the things that you've highlighted, out of many, about this election is no matter the outcome, there is as many as 50% of our country people who may not think that this is an accurate or valid election. What does that mean going forward?

IAN BREMMER: Well, the pandemic's making it a lot worse, right? I mean, because you have an overwhelming number of Democrats saying they're not comfortable actually voting on the day in person, an overwhelming number of Republicans saying they are. And you know, given the fact that you're talking about an immense number of mail-in ballots, far more than many of these states have ever handled before-- and that's before you talk about problems with the Postal Service.

That's before you talk about, you know, lawsuits and efforts to manipulate, before you talk about the Russians, who were, you know, involved in 2016. And we didn't identify that accurately or handle it very well under the Obama administration. We're certainly not going to in 2020. So all of those things with a country that's incredibly divided and hurting is leading us to an election that, for the first time in our lifetimes, is likely to be seen as illegitimate, irrespective of the outcome, I mean, unless it's a landslide one way or the other. And frankly, I don't think it's going to be a landslide.

Right now, Biden's up a bit in swing states, but most of the tendencies I see in the next seven weeks look like they're going to closen that up. I mean, the US economy is likely to do a little bit better. The numbers that we see from coronavirus are likely to be a little bit better, and the likelihood of social instability and violence in mostly Democratic cities is likely to be a little bit worse. And all of those, at the margins, when most people have already made up their minds, helps Trump a bit. So this feels to me like it's going to be tight at a time that, you know, everyone is going to have a hard time determining whether or not this election has been held properly.

JULIE HYMAN: Ian, it's Julie here. It's good to see you. This was one of the-- I think it was your top risk factor even going into this year. So this is something you've been watching for a while. So you-- I know you've been thinking about it a lot. So my question is, then what, right? So you have this presumably, probably contested election that many will view as illegitimate. So what happens after that? Do you just get a lot of squabbling on both sides and then eventually you end up with a winner, or how does it all play out?

IAN BREMMER: Well, let's-- since we're talking about markets on this show, let's first talk about the near-term impact, the weeks or maybe months after the election when we don't yet agree on who the president is and what the compensation of the next-- what the composition of the next House and Senate are going to be. The reason that's important, right? Is because in this environment where you've got a pandemic, where you have a major economic contraction, where there's a lot of geopolitical instability, the potential for any additional tail risk to hit when we don't have a functioning government and we don't have agreement on who's actually supposed to be in charge makes it much more dangerous.

What happens if there's a financial crisis involving emerging markets that are having a really hard time at a time when the president and the administration would need to agree on a major external bailout? That's a lot harder to do when we don't-- when we're fighting immensely over what just happened with the election. What happens if the Chinese government decides to change facts on the ground in Taiwan or the Russians do it in Belarus or the Iranians do with the Straits of Hormuz or the Turks do in the Eastern Med?

In other words, I think that there is an exceptional period of risk, both domestically and globally, in those weeks to months when we don't actually know what the outcome of the election is going to be. And I think that there's real market volatility that can come around that. I mean, the story of the pandemic has been just how strong the American market's have been. Not clear to me we're going to feel that level of confidence when we're fighting over this election outcome and we need clarity on what direction our government is actually headed.

Then you have the broader question of how we get to a president and who that President is going to be. I don't think this is the end of democratic institutions in the United States at all, but I do think that whatever that-- whether it's the Supreme Court that ultimately makes the decision or whether it needs to be decided in part by the House and the Senate through a vote and the lawsuits, you know, some of them get resolved adequately some of them do not.

The reason why the 2000 election ultimately was not a disaster was because there was a fight. There was a decision by the Supreme Court. It was a political decision on party lines, but you know, Gore then accepted the outcome, and frankly, so did the country. We moved on.

I'm not at all clear that the country is going to accept the result of this election if it's close. I think the losers are not prepared to do that, and that makes governance ongoing a lot harder. It makes the basic functioning of the government, the ability to agree to further stimulus, bailout, and relief. All of that gets a lot harder in 2021. This is not a time that you want to say that or see that.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Ian, it's Julia La Roche. I was listening to your podcast, and you are making a case how you're not one to vilify someone who disagrees with you and why that's really important. Of course, as you were just referencing, this is going to be an incredibly polarizing election, an unclear outcome as to what that might look like. My question for you, is there a path forward, and what happens in the scenario that Trump wins the election and we have four more years? What is the scenario, and will the country-- is there a possibility that the country is past the point of kind of coming together?

IAN BREMMER: We're not past the point of coming together long term, but I think the next year plus is going to be much more divisive. I don't think the election is going to fix that. I think a lot of people are hoping that, you know, you get the election and oh, thank god, we're finally through with that. But that's not-- it's not going to feel that way to the people on the losing side, irrespective of who that is, because it's so divided and because fake news is becoming so important.

I mean, I'll tell you, for example, you look at the pandemic and the deaths around the pandemic. For the last six months, if I report on those deaths and I opine on them, whether it comes from the CDC or Johns Hopkins, you know, people may disagree with my analysis, but I don't disagree with the numbers, right? In the last few weeks, I've increasingly seen people disagreeing on the numbers saying, no, this is fake. These numbers are not real. Actually, it's only 6% of those people that really died of coronavirus.

And the opposition to Trump is making this out into something bigger than it should be because they want him to lose. In that environment, you know, the outcome, even if sensible people can sit around and say, OK we see why it is that Biden or Trump won the election, I don't think you're going to get the losing side to accept those facts. I really don't. I think it's going to be incredibly difficult to make that happen.

So the repairing that you're talking about-- I mean, we will get a vaccine. We are getting better treatment. We are learning more about the disease. Our economy will rebound, but the division inside the politics is much more deeply broken than the problems that we have as the body America, in terms of our economy and our health right now. And that's going to take an awful lot longer. The election is going to make it worse, not better.

JULIE HYMAN: Ian, if, indeed, President Trump-- if, indeed, he is reelected, what do the next four years look like-- or maybe the next eight years? Because he's said, oh, maybe I should get a third term somehow as well. From a policy perspective, what does that look like? I mean, there have been critics of his who float the word fascism. You're-- I view you as a clear-eyed thinker on these matters, so what do you think?

IAN BREMMER: Well, thank you, Julie. And you know, I will say, I think we're talking about four years, not eight. And I think he knows that when he says it. He's trolling his opposition to get a rise out of them and to make them lose their minds, which is exactly what his supporters love to see because-- [INAUDIBLE] that establishment for a long time.

But you know, what does it look like? I mean, we can talk about what the policies look like. I mean, certainly there's going to be, you know, a lot-- the deficits will be much bigger. There won't be as much redistribution. You know, you'll continue to see erosion of US engagement in international architecture. There will still be a hard line on China, of course.

I mean, we can go through all of that. But I think more significantly, the question is, what does it look like? How can Trump govern? We know the Pelosi, the Speaker of the House and the President of the United States, haven't even spoken in a year. They haven't spoken to each other. Now, that's assertively broken. A democracy-- there's no way a democracy should run like that, and it makes it harder to get people the money they desperately need. A lot of people are going to be evicted from their houses and their apartments in the next two, three months because Pelosi and Trump do not have a functional relationship.

Well, what does that look like for the next four years? What does that look like when we have a lot of people that their furloughs turn into they've permanently lost their jobs? What does it happen when we don't have the ability to bail companies out father and so many small and medium enterprises go bankrupt or large companies become zombie companies that can only exist if they continue to have support from the US government? How do we run ourselves in that way?

Again, the divisions inside our country-- I'm not worried about how wealthy the Americans are. I mean, we, as a country, are doing fantastically well. The dollar is still the reserve currency. Our tech companies are still the world leaders. We've got all this energy production. We export it. We've got food production.

That's not the problem. The problem is that a large number of Americans feel like they are not, in any way, benefiting from the opportunities that should be afforded the world's only superpower, and that's going to get a lot worse after this election, especially if it's not a landslide. And I don't think it's going to be a landslide, frankly.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Ian Bremmer is Eurasia Group's founder, and we appreciate your being here. Always good to see you.