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Trump will do ‘everything possible’ to delegitimize the election outcome: Ian Bremmer

Eurasia Group President and GZERO Media President Ian Bremmer joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss election uncertainty and the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." We are continuing to track the very latest on the presidential election. Still a number of states that need to be decided, but some key states we're watching at this hour, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, as well as Pennsylvania. Of course, North Carolina and Alaska still not being decided, but those four states that we mentioned there certainly going to be key to any path of victory to the White House.

Want to bring in Ian Bremmer. He is the President and Founder of the Eurasia Group. Also the President of GZERO media. And, Ian, as we talk, still no clear winner here, but what's been the takeaway for you so far in some of these returns that we've gotten?

IAN BREMMER: Very high divisiveness politically inside the United States. If you cared about the economy, you voted overwhelmingly for Trump. If you care about coronavirus or race issues, you voted overwhelmingly for Biden. There is virtually no connection between those two parts of the country.

The fact, of course-- I mean, look, I think it's very clear that Biden is going to win. I think it is also very clear that the Congress is going to be incredibly divided. And the President of the United States is saying that the outcome, if that is the outcome, is illegitimate. That's new, right, and that is going to make it a hell of a lot harder for a President Biden to govern effectively, especially in the middle of coronavirus, which continues to be by far the most important issue exercising us in this country and globally.

So I think that this is going to be not quite a poisoned chalice but a hell of a hard time for our country.

ZACK GUZMAN: You know, you talk about--

AKIKO FUJITA: And even to that point, we did see Vice President Biden yesterday come out and try to sort of begin the healing process, if you will, saying that just because somebody disagrees with you doesn't mean they are our enemies. But to your point, if it is so very divided, how does any president govern based on this? And if it is a Biden administration, what does a President Biden need to do to try and bring the country together?

IAN BREMMER: Well, let's remember that Biden was vice president with Obama for eight years, and the country got more unequal and more divided over that course of time. I would argue that that division has only accelerated under Trump, who has leaned into it.

Now, certainly Joe Biden, his personality is one of convener. His personality is one of reaching out. He's a centrist by nature. At 77 years of age, that's not about to change.

But, you know, you can't reach across the aisle if the aisle is way the hell over there. Like, his arms just aren't long enough. And, you know, assuming that the Republicans maintain the Senate, the idea that Biden would be able to do meaningful things in terms of stimulus, in terms of municipal and state support, in terms of climate-- I mean, so you're talking about a president that will have won the popular vote by 5 million and that cannot actually effectuate any piece of his reform agenda. That's inconceivable in any other democracy in the world today, and yet that is where the United States is going to be.

And so irrespective of the fact that Biden's personal orientation is towards bipartisanship and centrism, the structure of the country just does not allow that. And I fear that he's going to be incredibly hobbled and very ineffective as a consequence, though he can clearly do some things. Like, I mean, executive orders-- he can undo Trump's executive orders as fast as Trump could undo Obama's executive orders.

But you and I both know, Akiko, that that's not a way to run a country. That's not a functional representative democracy. That's not the way-- we've got a legislature. We're supposed to be working together on these things. That ain't happening.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I mean, when we talk about that too, it is going to be interesting to see how it shakes out. You can make the argument that it might give Joe Biden an excuse or an out here to maybe focus in on what he was campaigning as, a moderate, relative to some of those more progressive menu items that were being pushed by his Democratic counterparts.

But when you look at the division as it matters to the average American, the average American watching this all play out, maybe waiting for months now without stimulus since the CARES Act rolled out, what does that division mean for the average American when it comes to productivity, wages, everything else in this country? Aside from, . you know, challenges or Trump's challenges, depending on how this goes, but what does it mean for the average American when we are so divided?

IAN BREMMER: I think it's going to make it a lot harder for the working class, for those who have been furloughed and those furloughs are being made permanent because the amount of stimulus that will be on offer will be so much less.

Look, I think if you want to put this in context, in Europe you have pretty much the same coronavirus crisis. The case levels actually and hospitalizations are higher right now per capita than the United States. But in Europe, unlike in 2008-2010, they are responding to this crisis collectively. In fact, 27 European countries voted unanimously for a massive relief package that will take money from the wealthy countries and send it to the poorest countries, and that will actually start to address the kind of issues in Europe that you were just asking about, Zack, you know, people that otherwise would be hardest hit by this crisis.

Now, if Biden had won and had taken a Democratic Senate and we were to see $3 trillion of stimulus plus that would be spent on infrastructure and that would go to the states and cities that most desperately needed it, then I could tell you, well, you know, there's the ability to start to bring red and blue together, but that's not what we just saw.

And again, we're not even yet talking about the scorched earth that will occur as Trump does everything possible to delegitimize this outcome, which has not even started really yet. And I personally do not expect a concession speech from this president. That's [INAUDIBLE].

Don't you remember 2008? John McCain, the concession speech, was so gracious, was so statesmanlike, was such an effort to create, you know, the ability to have a honeymoon. And, you know, maybe Trump's scorched earth actually costs him Arizona. We'll see. It still hasn't been decided for good, although I see it is on your map. It's not on the "New York Times" or other places.

But, you know, the fact is that we have-- 2008 feels quaint. It's a memory that feels like it's not just from a different time but from a different country. And I think that this is-- 2021 I think is going to feel very bad for an awful lot of Americans.

AKIKO FUJITA: Ian, I am curious of your assessment on how the Democrats perform just given all the talk that was about a blue wave that was coming. That was not a wave. It was a ripple. They weren't able to flip the Senate seats that they were hoping to-- even in the House. What do you think the Democrats misjudged, if that is in fact the assessment, specifically on the coronavirus? Because they really did double down on that, and yet when you look at ultimately how the votes turned out, it did appear as though there were a lot of people who were more concerned about the economy shutting down than the virus actually spreading.

IAN BREMMER: Yeah, especially because we just had 100,000 cases yesterday. We're in the middle of our second wave. So the timing is really bad for Trump. And yet despite that, you had an awful lot of people that were focused on the economy who said, you know what? I actually trust Trump more on the economy than Biden.

Now, that we've known all the way through. But how many people actually believed coronavirus? Look, you can argue that this is a fail for the Dems. I'm not so sure, and I say that for two reasons. First of all, because historically in the United States, incumbent presidents win. They win. And here we have an incumbent president that's losing, and he's losing because he was very unlucky with the timing of coronavirus and because he was maximally incompetent in the way he handled his own campaign. And I think you put those two things together, and it turns out that he's lost.

But let's keep in mind that 5 million more people voted for Biden than for Trump, and that's a significantly greater turnout in a record-level turnout than what Trump was able to-- than what Hillary beat Trump in in the popular vote back in 2016. But the issue is we do not elect our president that way. It is an Electoral College, an Electoral College that increasingly reflects minority rule of a small number-- a smaller number of Americans in the United States.

I think the things that are most interesting, that were most misjudged by the pollsters and by the media is that Trump's-- the vote for Trump was not a racist vote. The vote for Trump was a disenfranchised vote of which there was some racism. But as you saw in Florida, in Texas, in other parts of the country, Hispanics turned out in significant numbers for Trump.

And these are not all racist Hispanics that are aligned with white nationalists in some secret cabal. These are actually a bunch of Hispanic Americans that feel like they've been lied to by a lot of people in the country, the establishment and the CEOs and the bankers and the media. And when media pollsters call them, they don't take the call. They don't answer the phone because they don't trust the "Washington Post." They don't trust the "New York Times." They don't trust any of these organizations.

My God, I mean, the "New York Times" last weekend, did you see the Sunday Review section of the "New York Times"? I mean, 15 pieces, every single one-- there were only 15 pieces-- every single one was a different version of how horrible Trump was for the country. I mean, why would you possibly read that unless you were already in that bubble? You wouldn't.

And I think that that does a fundamental disservice. I think that increasingly much of the media in the United States is fundamentally broken in terms of the purpose that it should be serving.

ZACK GUZMAN: Well, Ian, you talk about Hispanics here, and obviously that played a huge part in Florida. We talk about Hispanics in this country, and we don't want to look at them as monoliths. Hispanic Americans can be Mexican, could be Venezuelan, could be whatever when you look at what's going on in that vote.

When we talk about what it means though here because you touch on coronavirus and the response right now. We're seeing El Paso in Texas right now lead the nation in terms of the worst outbreak there. It's interesting to see the response from a state level, the federal level, and the county level even as they go back and forth with Governor Abbott in Texas to go through with their shutdown order as they have an incredibly bad outbreak right now on their hands. As you said, it came at the worst-possible time for President Trump. And I don't want to jump to conclusions here on how this race is going to go yet, but when you talk about that handling and how it's gone so far, I mean, how big of a factor was that in watching what was happening in Europe and whether or not the campaign could have done anything to change the storyline of how that was unfolding here in the US as we headed into this election?

IAN BREMMER: You know, I think that Trump lost a lot of elderly people. And OK, we don't want to treat elderly people as a monolith either because there are 90-year-olds. There are 70-year-olds. There are happy elderly. There are-- I'm giving you a hard time.

But, I mean, the fact is that if you're 70 plus, you're a lot more concerned about coronavirus. You are much more likely to die from it, and you think that Trump really screwed up there. So he lost that.

But if you're living in El Paso and you're 25, you're 30, you're 35, you're 40, I'm not sure you care as much about that as you care about the economy, and I think that that matters. I think that played out.

And another thing I should say is look, I believe that Trump fundamentally mishandled coronavirus, certainly on early-stage testing where he failed and certainly the politicization of the process of mask wearing, of treatment. I mean, you know, this is in a way that no other head of an advanced industrial democracy had mishandled it. I would argue that Trump did damage in not leading by example.

But I want to be very clear here. If you look today at France, at Spain, at the United Kingdom, at Italy, it is not clear to me that the outcome in the United States of coronavirus has been materially worse than those countries. Germany it's been worse, not the rest of Europe.

And so I think it is worth at least asking how much of that would have been changed if it had been Biden in office as opposed to Trump. I think that's an interesting and worthwhile question to ask that, again, I know very few people really want to address right now.

AKIKO FUJITA: Ian, let's talk about what this means for the US standing internationally. I have to wonder that if you're Xi Jinping in China, you're watching this all play out and say, look, this plays right into my hands. This is why we run our government the way that we do. I mean, give me a sense of how you think the world is watching this election play out, whether that is in China or Europe or the Middle East.

IAN BREMMER: Oh, there's no question. I mean, after the 2008 financial crisis, back in China you had a lot of people saying, oh my God, American capitalism. We're so glad we're state capitalists.

That didn't last long because by 2009, 2010, they recognized the US economy was robust. The animal spirits were growing. We've got all these big companies, entrepreneurs. Our stimulus actually worked. Our bailouts worked.

But when the Chinese look at our political system right now, they look at our corruption right now. They look at yesterday our secretary of state publicly airing concerns about irregularities in elections in Tanzania and the Cote d'Ivoire. Maybe we should give a rest for a few years on pointing out irregularities in other people's elections when our own president is saying that our own election has been rigged and we should stop the count. Maybe let Canada handle that for a couple of years. Just, like, calm the hell down with American exceptionalism.

So, I mean, very clearly the ability of the United States to tell other countries how they should run themselves has really run its course. We do not have the ability to do that right now. There are very few-- and people around the world want to come and live in the US. They want to send their kids to go to school in the US. They want to invest in the US. Of course they do. They're not stupid.

But they don't want their political system to look like the United States. Like, no one would actually want that right now. Canada, sure. You know, the Nordics, fine. Germany, Japan, fine. The US, are you freaking kidding me?

But when I look at a country like China, that's not the only thing they're thinking about. They're also thinking that they've got a fight on their hands with the Americans on a bunch of issues-- on Huawei, on Ant Financial, on TikTok, on trade, on IP, on Hong Kong, on Taiwan, on the Uyghurs, and it's not just with the US. It's with a lot of countries around the world that, Trump or no Trump, don't trust the Chinese, don't think the Chinese are doing a great job, don't feel comfortable with them as partners. Xi Jinping has a very serious problem on his hands.

And he's also smart enough to understand that stability in the United States is good for China because there's a massive amount of interdependence between our two economies. If you're Russia and you feel so put upon by the decline that you've experienced in the world and in your region, you are angry and you just want to see the Americans fall apart. You want to see the delegitimization of the US elections. You want to see the fighting and the lack of capability. That's actually not true in China.

So I think it's a very complicated question to ask specifically about China. We're in so many other countries in the world. They're just going to be happy that they don't have to deal with Trump. Not everyone-- not Modi in India, not the Gulf states, not Israel, not the United Kingdom-- but most traditional American allies, even if they said nice-nice to Trump because they didn't want to get into trouble with him, the fact is that they thought he was a lunatic, and they really can't wait to get back into the room with someone that just feels normal, not like a crazy uncle that could molest you.

And I do think that there will be a honeymoon in the near term. I'm just trying to get you guys to chuckle in the middle of this. There should be something that he gets out of that in the near term.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, always appreciate your takes, Ian. Some strong words there. But no question, especially on the issue of China, you do get the sense that, particularly on the issue of technology between the US and China, this is not going to change in terms of the tensions, whether it is a Biden administration or a second-term Trump presidency.

Ian, it's always good to talk to you. Ian Bremmer joining us from the Eurasia Group and GZERO media.

IAN BREMMER: See you, guys.