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Fareed Zakaria GPS
How The World Is Reacting To Joe Biden's Election As 46th President Of The United States; A Divided Nation. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 08, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all you have in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA: On the show today --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We've reached a historic moment in this election.
ZAKARIA: The 46th president of the United States will be Joseph R. Biden.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight the whole world is watching America and I believe that our best America is a beacon for the globe.
ZAKARIA: What does the world make of America's choice? Three former top officials from around the globe will join me. Ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, former deputy prime minister Tzipi Livni of Israel, and former secretary of the United Kingdom, David Miliband.
Also, why is America still so very polarized? Ezra Klein wrote the book on it. He will explain what the election has taught him.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. Joe Biden's first speech as president-elect demonstrated to the world that he may be the man for this moment. Decent, generous, and determined to reach out to his political opponents. But while many will celebrate this restoration of dignity and normalcy to American politics, let us bear in mind that the United States has gone through one of its most trying periods in history. One that is not done yet.
The country was on the verge of becoming an illiberal democracy. I first wrote illiberal democracy 23 years ago when I saw countries in which elections were being held, popular participation was real, but where those leaders who had won would then try to use their power to attack the rule of law. Minority rights, freedom of the press, and other institutions, procedures and norms that made up the inner stuffing of constitutional government. I wrote about this growing danger because I was observing it in
countries like Belarus, Russia, and the Philippines. But President Trump took America down that dark path and continues to push it in that direction even now.
Think about this election. Over 140 million people voted. Participation and engagement was sky high. But the president of the United States used his platform and power to delegitimize the election, the free press, the idea of a loyal opposition, and the very country's integrity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I easily win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And it's not just Donald Trump. The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy endorsed Trump's wild allegations and agreed that Trump actually won the election. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham, and several other senior Republicans claimed that America was witnessing a conspiracy to steal the election from President Trump.
They were aided in this effort by certain FOX News anchors who whipped up their audiences to believe that Trump had lost only through election fraud. It may not be necessary to make this point, but let me do it anyway. As Ellen Weintraub of the Federal Election Commission said, there really has been no evidence of fraud in this election.
And it's not just this election. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, found that out of a billion ballots cast between 2014, there were just 31 cases of voter impersonation. Mail-in ballot fraud is equally rare. In Oregon, with more than 100 million mail-in ballots sent out since 2000, there have been only a dozen cases of proven fraud.
The conservative Heritage Foundation has tried some scam mongering alleging almost 1,300 proven instances of voter fraud in America without noting that this is out of more than a billion ballots cast in the last 40 years. Two Brooking scholars revealed that the number of fraud cases Heritage found in Colorado, for example, were 14 out of almost 16 million ballots cast, or approximately 0.00009 percent. In other words, virtually non-existent.
Trump's allegations, his lawsuits and his rhetoric might have little factual substance, but they all will have lasting consequences.
They undermine faith in the American system. Trump and his Republican allies' blistering attacks are music to the ears of Russian nationalists and Chinese communists. Those people have saying all along that American democracy is a sham. Now the Republican Party seems to agree. But it is not true. In fact, the American system has worked. Even
during a pandemic, even under the tremendous pressure of a leader and his court of sycophants who have been willing to shred the norms and rules of the system for their momentary political gain. Ultimately, it didn't work. Donald Trump entered politics alleging a conspiracy. The birtherism nonsense. And he will leave the White House alleging another conspiracy.
This time it will not work. He will have to leave. But his term in office should be a reminder to Americans and really everyone around the world democracy is fragile. It needs to be protected. It can be eroded and undermined not just in Belarus and Venezuela, but in the birthplace of constitutional government, the United States of America.
Let's get started.
World leaders have been weighing in on the election, mostly on Trump's favorite medium, Twitter. Many of America's closes allies have sent congratulations to Biden and Harris that way, and some of Trump's personal friends have even done the same.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated the winning team, said he was looking forward to working with them. Israel's Bibi Netanyahu sent a sort of two-tweet solution, one congratulating Biden and Harris without mentioning what for. The other tweet thanking the outgoing president. Meanwhile it's been radio silence so far from China's Xi and Russia's Putin, and Mexico's AMLO who said he is waiting until any legal challenges are over.
Let us check in on Europe's reaction with David Miliband, former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, the Middle East with Israel's former prime minister Tzipi Livni, and the east with Australia's former prime minister, Kevin Rudd.
David Miliband, what is the significance you think in a broader sense of Donald Trump being denied a second term, which, as you know, is rare?
DAVID MILIBAND, FORMER UNITED KINGDOM FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think there are two elements to this result, Fareed. The first is that a politician in the mold of Donald Trump, what you've called an illiberal democrat, has been defeated at the first round. And that is significant because, as you have shown and others have documented, it's often in the second term that the greatest steps to undermine democracy take place. So there is something very significant in the defeat of President Trump.
The second element I think is that we face an absolute crisis in the global commons at the moment in respect to the COVID health crisis, in respect to the climate crisis, in respect to the management of the global common. We've seen a breakdown of the multilateral system. It's the last chance salute.
Now the great sigh of relief that you're hearing from Europe, not just a sigh of relief but a tweet of relief that you're hearing from foreign ministries and presidents and prime ministers across Europe is that they think that in this last chance salute, President Biden, president-elect, soon to be President Biden, will be a force for cooperation amongst the liberal democratic countries of the world, or management of the big global problems which, fortunately, are in the social space of health and climate rather than in the security space at the moment.
And also that there is a chance to reinvent the multilateral system in such a way that it can compete and cooperate with the countries like China who are providing an alternative model.
ZAKARIA: Kevin, what does it look like to you in Asia? What -- you know, particularly for Asia's democracies, for America's allies? How significant is this?
KEVIN RUDD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think, Fareed, there are two sets of responses across Asia. One from obviously America's democratic allies in Asia, and the second from China. On the democratic allies, I think as David Miliband has just said, there is almost a collective sigh of relief, and the reason for that is that the Trump presidency has been seen right across Asia as being structurally unpredictable, that in the case of the management of individual allies like the Republic of Korea, it has been aggressive from time to time, and that the strategy towards China has been very difficult to map for allies let alone to coordinate with.
So what I sense across the democratic allies is not just a satisfaction that the American democratic institutions have worked, but for those specific foreign policy reasons a sense of relief and anticipation, an ability to work with Biden.
Finally on China, China has been divided internally in their aspirations for who would win the presidency on this election. The political military and intelligence establishment I believe were privately hoping for a Trump re-elect because they saw Trump as so divisive with America's allies around the world and damaging to the democracy within America itself and therefore damaging to the brand of democracy in China.
But the Chinese traditional diplomatic and international economic policy establishment, they welcome the opportunity of being able to re-engage with the Democrats in a new administration.
ZAKARIA: Tzipi Livni, let me ask you about that strange reaction from Prime Minister Netanyahu first. If you can shed some light on it. He seems unable to bring himself to say the words president-elect. He doesn't congratulate Biden for actually winning the presidency, and his second tweet congratulating or thanking President Trump was longer and warmer than his first one. What is going on with Bibi?
TZIPI LIVNI, FORMER ISRAELI VICE PRIME MINISTER: I loved your description of two tweet solution. It took him some time to acknowledge that President-elect is Joe Biden, and in fact I think that he tried to find the solution in saying something, congratulating Joe Biden for the future, but yet don't do something that would maybe will be taken by President Trump as insulting or so. But in a way it's not about Bibi. It's about Israel, and we have a split also in Israel because some of the Israelis appreciating for Trump or appreciating Trump contribution to the state of Israel.
Normalizing relations with Arab states, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Golan Heights, determination against Iran. They wanted Trump to be elected. But yet a lot of Israelis like me were completely worried about the global situation, about the attacks on democratic values, and what happened in the United States doesn't stay in the United States. This is what happened in Israel as well.
In a way, every red line that President Trump crossed in terms of attacking democracy was a green light to Netanyahu to do so in Israel. So for part of the society in Israel, in a way it's a split. It's the same relief as was described. Also for me. And for others, they wanted Trump to continue.
ZAKARIA: Tzipi, let me ask you quickly. We have a minute. The Abraham Accords obviously a diplomatic victory for Israel and for the United States, but is there some concern among some people in Israel that it still does not address the Palestinian issue, or is that issue essentially, you know, dead from an Israeli point of view?
LIVNI: No, it depends on who you ask. I believe that reaching an agreement with the Palestinians, so addressing the Palestinian conflict is an Israeli interest. And therefore, having or being satisfied with normalization coming with the Gulf states and Arab states, I am worried and some of us are worried that the Israeli- Palestinian conflict was abandoned. And I hope that the Biden administration would pay attention to it.
Well, I'm not talking about reaching a comprehensive peace treaty the next day, but abandoning the false idea of annexation and hopefully keep this road open for the future. And the Iranian issue is not only an Israeli concern. In a way it's going to be quite a challenge to the new administration. But yet it was clear that also Trump was talking about renegotiating with Iran and the new administration in Biden should deal with it, and in a way it's kind of a litmus test in our region the way the United States would deal with Iran.
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us. We will have this terrific panel back to talk about China, climate change, and more.
ZAKARIA: And we are back looking at global reactions to the Biden- Harris victory with former top political leaders from around the world. David Miliband, Tzipi Livni, and Kevin Rudd.
Kevin, you are a long-time China watcher, fluent in Mandarin. Give us a sense of how China as a country, not the government, is reacting. Is there a lot of interest in China in this election?
RUDD: Well, if you look at the social media data emerging out of China, Fareed, there is something like seven or eight billion social media engagements on the U.S. election in China just in recent days. So this, based on my own Chinese friends and contacts, suggests a really high level of personal interest and engagement. Not all Chinese believe what is presented to them by the people's daily each day.
Many of them have deep connections in America. But to answer your question directly, it's been right up there at the top of the pulse as far as the Chinese public is concerned.
ZAKARIA: David, what do you make of the future of kind of Trump's politics of cultural nationalism, right-wing populism, call it what you will? You come out of a tradition of kind of liberal internationalism, if I can put it that way. Do you feel that this was enough of a repudiation? Are we still in this battle?
MILIBAND: I think the path goes on. Those who believe in the authoritarian populism, so-called, that President Trump represented will see the 48 percent vote as an endorsement, albeit one that didn't, in the end, carry the day in the presidential election. Those who are fearful that this is a curse for right of center politics will obviously have to figure out how to replace it.
My own sense is that, although the -- it's tempting in the American system to point all the ways in which President Biden will be tied down, first by the Senate and maybe by the Supreme Court, I think it's very important to recognize quite how significant the agenda-setting power of the U.S. president is, not just formally through executive orders and the like, through the foreign policy domain, but also through the bully pulpit.
And I think, therefore, there is a chance for those of us who see an alternative to a -- if you like, a future that's dominated by world fortresses. Those of us who want to build an alternative to that can see a America that's ready or an America (INAUDIBLE) that's ready to engage, and the pressing issues that we face are actually some quick wins for the Biden administration. I'm thinking first of all in respect to the World Health Organization and the COVID-19 crisis.
I'm thinking of joining what is a new international momentum around climate, where the Chinese commitment to net zero, the European commitment to net zero, the Japanese commitment, all within the last two months to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, 2060. Those are significant commitments that I think America can add its voice and its resources to. So in that sense I think there is a chance, this is a moment of possibility as President-elect Biden said last night, and I think we shouldn't be obsessed with the idea that Gulliver will be tied down by the Lilliputians. I think there is a chance for something different.
ZAKARIA: Tzipi Livni, how much do personalities matter? You've known Joe Biden personally for 20 years or more maybe. Describe how you would think -- you know, what kind of a person is he from your perspective as an international player? LIVNI: I believe that the free world needs now a mensch as the leader
of the free world, and I believe that the message coming out of these elections and the result of the elections is that character matters, truth matters, and if I take what President-elect Biden said yesterday about healing America, healing the United States, my advice or maybe this is time now for the leader of the free world to heal the world.
And I believe that Joe Biden, his personality is exactly what the free world needs now because the message coming until this election from the United States was quite problematic in terms of the values that we believe and Biden represents the values of liberal and liberalism and democracy as the free world needs.
ZAKARIA: Kevin, I want to ask you about the health of democracy and what role the media can play to bolster it and to destroy it. And the reason I ask this, I notice you are trying to take some measures in Australia to, I think, in your words, make sure that Rupert Murdoch cannot do to Australia's political culture what his media organizations have done to America's political culture. Explain what you mean.
RUDD: Well, Fareed, in your introductory remarks to the program today you spoke quite specifically about how the evolution of the American democracy by seen the Moscow and Beijing, and, frankly, if the democracy fails or falters in the United States, it is of fundamental importance to the rest of the world in terms of the long-term health of the liberal democratic project.
In Australia, unlike in the United States, Murdoch and 70 percent of the print media in Australia, in my own home state of Queensland, 100 percent of the print media. And so when I look at FOX as, in the United States, I do see that that is the long-term trajectory in terms of what he wants to do in my own democracy in Australia.
We've seen evidence of that in the United Kingdom. I doubt very much there would have been Brexit in the absence of Murdoch's campaigning through his campaigning newspapers there. The bottom line is the lifeblood of our democracies depends on a fair, balanced, independent, free media which separates out two things. The reporting of facts and the expression of opinion. And with the Murdoch media empire we've seen the conflation of these two things for so long.
And that's why we've seen so many people, hundreds of thousands of people sign petitions in Australia demanding a royal commission into the future of the Murdoch monopoly in this country. What America does on that, it's a America for America. What the U.K. does on that, it's a matter for the U.K.
We're going to look at FOX and its central role in this presidential election campaign, effectively as an arm of the Republican Party, I don't think it's been good for the overall democratic project.
ZAKARIA: We have to leave it there. We will get back with all of you. Fascinating conversation. Thank you so much. Next on GPS, America is deeply divided. Why? What will bring it back
together? Ezra Klein and David French join me in a moment.
ZAKARIA: According to the count thus far, just over 50 percent of Americans voted for Joe Biden for president and about 48 percent of the country voted for Donald Trump.
This is a divided nation. Ezra Klein and David French are here to help us understand what divides us and what might unite us.
Klein is the founder and editor-at-large at Vox. He is the author of "Why We're Polarized." French is a senior editor at The Dispatch and a columnist for Time. He is the author of "Divided We Fall."
Ezra, if -- looking at this election, if somebody were to ask you the question, an American would ask you very simply, why are we so polarized, what is the answer?
EZRA KLEIN, FOUNDER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, VOX: We're polarized because we disagree. Let me put this in a slightly different way in terms of parties. What has happened in American politics that has made us polarized in the way that it functions in our common conversation isn't that we've become more deeply in disagreement with each other. It's that that disagreement has become better sorted between the parties.
If you go back 30 or 40 or 50 years, you have liberal Republicans like George Romney. You have conservative Democrats, the whole Dixiecrat coalition within the Democratic Party. And that creates a -- an incentive and a capacity for cross-party governance that we don't have right now.
So I'm not really concerned about American disagreement. There are kinds of disagreement that are toxic and kinds that are constructive. Oftentimes we need to be able to disagree. What I'm worried about is the inability to govern amidst disagreement because the parties don't have a strong incentive, and particularly here the Republican Party does not show a strong desire to cooperate.
So if you have a Joe Biden presidency and a Mitch McConnell Senate, I'm really quite worried that on key things that we need to make progress on, nothing is going to get done.
ZAKARIA: David, there are a lot of people who say that it's not an equal phenomenon. You know, Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann at Brookings have, sort of, actually studied it and said, "Look, what has happened is the Democratic Party has moved slightly left; the Republican Party has moved way right and, more importantly, has become, you know, really, post-Newt Gingrich, deeply uncompromising and antagonistic toward the opposition party.
Do you -- do you share that or do you have a different way of looking at it?
DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR EDITOR, THE DISPATCH: Well, you know, if you -- if you listen to folks on the right, they would say exactly the opposite, that the left has moved very far to the left, that ideas like defund the police, that were not even really on anyone's radar screen even recently, became part of the mainstream conversation.
So what you have, really, here is you have competing narratives of grievance that say, "OK, well, our side has a problem, but your side has the real problem."
And so to build on what Ezra just said, what we have is disagreement, which our system is built to handle, supposedly, but it's -- it is disagreement enhanced by an enormous sense of grievance that is then, especially on the right, nursed and -- and cultivated by a right-wing entertainment media complex.
And this grievance builds deep animosity, so that we're now in the grips of this -- in the grips of negative polarization, where negative partisanship, where I'm not -- let's say, if I'm a Republican, I am not a Republican because I love the Republican Party so much as I really dislike the Democrats.
And so the main virtue a Republican candidate has is that he is not the other guy. And I think that what we saw with Trump is that that was really ramped up and put on steroids.
And as far as relative fault, I think any time one side has the most powerful man in the world on its side and the most powerful man in the world is dedicated to cruelty as a tactic, that's going to adjust the balance of equities for a time. But it remains to be seen, sort of, what the Republican Party looks like post-Trump.
ZAKARIA: Well, we will get to that. But I want to keep on this polarization point and ask you, Ezra -- you make a very compelling case, as you just did, in your book, that it used to be that there were these polarizations within parties. You know, northern liberals and southern segregationists were both in the Democratic Party and had to find a way to work together. And now it's, sort of, divided and weaponized.
But isn't there also a kind of deep cultural and class division that has developed?
I mean, if you look at the coalitions -- you know, the Democratic Party is college-educated whites, you know, and then the multicultural coalition. The Republican coalition is less educated, rural whites. Those cultural class polarizations, it feels layers upon layers. So you almost have one country but two nations?
KLEIN: Yes. How long do we have? So the...
(LAUGHTER) ... the trick of this is that, as the parties polarized ideologically, what that created was a signal inside the entire rest of the system about what kind of people fit in which party.
So the beginning of the story is the Civil Rights Act, the -- the parties polarized much more around race and around racial liberalism. If you look at mid-century American politics, you know, in order to measure ideology correctly, you have to include a separate dimension for race, because race splits the two parties internally, not just externally.
So the Civil Rights Act begins a long process of re-sorting, where the southern conservative and racially resentful bloc, (inaudible) just racist bloc, moves into the Republican Party. The Democratic Party, which had that bloc, right, has a terrible record on race in that period, begins to become the party more of racial liberalism.
But as that happens, then everything begins to polarize. So a big one and one that is very, very much driving a lot of our politics right now is density. You do not have a density in this country, a dense county in this country, that votes Republican. Rural areas are overwhelmingly Republican.
And because our political system is built to amplify the power of sparsely populated areas and rural areas, particularly in the Senate, but not only, that gives the Republican Party a decided advantage within our electoral system the Democratic Party has to -- has to overcome.
There is much more religious polarization now, which David can talk about, I think, even more eloquently than I can. But it used to be the case that the parties were similar on religion, and now the Democratic Party's single largest religious group is religiously unaffiliated. Republicans, of course, are overwhelmingly Christian.
As the parties become more different types, right, people are much more tuned to understand demographic difference, cultural difference. They see that more clearly, more easily, than ideological differences.
We can have a lot of debates, possibly some debates about how health care policy should work, but when it becomes this party is for people like me and this other party doesn't seem to be for people like me, then we're able to feel those stakes on an intuitive, visceral level, a level of respect and dignity and fear. And that's when politics gets really hot.
That's always what Donald Trump was good at working with, or good to some extent, at least, at working with. It's something Joe Biden does not want to work with. So if you want to hear my, sort of, optimistic case, it's not on governance, but it is, a little bit, on temperature. I don't think Biden wants to inflame those passions. And I think it matters that he'll try not to.
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us. When we come back, we're going to talk a bit about the Republican Party. I want to ask David French about the future of his party, or the party that was once his. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Ezra Klein and David French.
David, what is the future of the Republican Party now?
And I want you to answer this specific question, which is I see lots of, kind of, interesting projects. Some people like Paul Ryan want to return it to its more economic libertarian roots. Others want it to be more of the kind of compassionate conservatism that George W. Bush talked about.
But these are all think tankers in Washington. Down there where people actually vote, they seem to love Trump, and they love what Trump stands for. How are you going to solve that problem?
FRENCH: Yeah, I live in the middle of a deep red precinct and a deep red state that voted Trump. And -- but I'm going to say this, having talked to friends and neighbors and family members about Trump for years now, it's up for grabs.
I mean, it really is up for grabs, first, because Trumpism wasn't a coherent political ideology. It was all over the place.
His biggest legislative accomplishment was a Paul-Ryan-engineered tax cut. His biggest executive accomplishment was pushing through a bunch of Supreme Court -- a bunch of Supreme Court and lower court justices who are not like Pam Bondi or Judge Jeanine but, sort of, buttoned- down, classical liberals.
At the same time, he had a populist trade war with China that didn't go so well. And he didn't get America out of any foreign wars.
So there was no coherent Trumpism ideology. There was definitely a coherent Trumpism ethic and a definite Trumpism temperament. And that temperament did drive a lot of Republican enthusiasm, but it also drove more Democratic opposition.
So, yeah, 71 million people went out to vote for him, but when it's all said and done, probably more than 75, more than 76, 77 million will have voted against him.
And so if you -- you don't have the temperament argument solidly in his favor; we don't know what his ideology is; and historically the Republican Party has not put both arms around people who lose races.
So a lot of it's going to depend not so much on party officials but this vast conservative media entertainment complex which really touches people in their homes every night.
Watch what they do. Are they going to continue to wrap both arms around Trump? If they do, then the battle against Trumpism from within this, you know, conservative world is going to be tough. If they start to distance from Trump, then all bets are off. This
thing could go very differently in the Republican Party, at the very least at a temperamental, ethical -- from a temperamental ethical standpoint could return back to historical norms. But standing where I am today, I honestly can't tell you how this is going to end up.
KLEIN: Can I add one thing to that...
KLEIN: ... Fareed?
KLEIN: So one thing that -- we tend to talk about these elections and issues in terms of polarization. But one thing that I think is embedded there in David's answer is that I think we do need to think a little bit about democratization, too.
Parties, particularly polarized parties, because they're so afraid of the other side winning, they do respond to incentives. And I think the fundamental or at least a driving problem for the Republican Party right now in this country is it has become detached from the need to win majorities of the popular vote in order to win power.
So it's going to hold the Senate, but it did not win anywhere near a majority of Senate votes. In fact, if they hold the Senate and win both Georgia runoffs, Republicans will represent 20 million fewer people than the Democratic minority.
Donald Trump will be reasonably close in the electoral college, in the sense that a couple hundred thousand votes could have tipped it, making it -- the case that Republicans would have won three of the six presidential elections since 2000 with a minority of the vote. And that is getting bigger and worse. You're going to have Republican control over redistricting from this decennial census we're just -- we just had. And that will make the electoral college popular vote divergence even bigger.
So one of the things that worries me a lot about the system is that I think the Republican Party, if it had to win majorities, it would, and it would reform because Republicans don't want to lose.
But so long as they can be on this path where they win or come very, very, very close to winning by winning minorities of the vote, a sort of version of minority rule, you get into some real trouble because you don't have the disciplining incentives of democracy.
Democrats didn't all love Joe Biden, but they thought Joe Biden would appeal to people who weren't just like the Democratic base. Republicans haven't been forced to make a lot of those same decisions. And -- and I think that has to be understood as a core perverse incentive in the system now.
Those folks David's talking about, they'll vote for other people if the other people are the ones who can win. But so long as they're protected from some of those -- that disciplining mechanism of democracy, they don't have to make those very difficult reforms.
ZAKARIA: David, what -- how would you respond to that?
I mean, it is true seven of the last eight elections, the Democrat has won a majority of the vote. And in, I think it's fair to say, any other advanced democracy, that would be the end of the story. If you won 50 plus one, you won?
FRENCH: Well, you know, I think a lot of Republicans would listen to what Ezra just said and say, "Well, actually, the system is working the way it was intended and this is -- the system was not designed for majorities to swamp minorities." And they dismiss it.
And I think they dismiss it wrongly because it's inherently destabilizing when, over a long period of time -- I'm -- now, I'm not talking about one election out of 10 or one election out of 20, but when it becomes a consistent pattern of not just minorities' ability to check majority power, which is really the intent here, but the minority rule over the majority, I think that that is destabilizing over time.
And I think it's also just unsustainable over time if the Republican minority continues to shrink, as it obviously did in this election. But we, kind of, have an irresistible force meets an immovable object problem, in the sense that, if the minority sees these institutions such as the Senate and the electoral college as the only way to ensure their access to power, they're going to cling more tightly to them. The ability to reform them is going to be -- is going to diminish as they grow in importance to the minority's ability to have a voice.
So you're going to have a real problem reforming that. The path of least resistance is for the Democrats, say, to run candidates who are more likely to win, say, Georgia, in the Senate, where they just, it looks like, pending recounts, have won Georgia for the presidency. They've done very well in running candidates who can win, for example, the traditionally red state of Arizona.
The problem with that, I think, from a Democratic perspective -- and Ezra can correct me if I'm wrong -- is that, when you run, sort of, the Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin in West Virginia style candidates, you often can't get the kinds of reforms that -- that the progressive majority would want to get through.
But I don't -- I don't see a practical way around that. There is going to have to be an effort to work within the system because the minority that clings to it is going to cling to it so tenaciously that I don't see that it will reform, and this tension will continue to exist and continue to be destabilizing.
ZAKARIA: Ezra, you have 30 seconds. Is there -- is there some positive note you can end us on, which is, how do we get over this polarization?
KLEIN: I'm not going to say we can get over it. But I will say that, if I'm trying to paint the positive picture and assuming a version of divided governance, I do think there is an outside chance five or six Senate Republicans do not want politics to feel like this anymore, and that they would want to work enough with Joe Biden to prove the system can work differently than it has been.
I do not want to -- I would not bet a lot of money on this. I am not unbelievably optimistic about it, but I don't think it is impossible that Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and a couple other folks would like to have as their legacy a different kind of politics than the one we have seen, and that Joe Biden is the right partner for them if they decide to do that, and that he is the person most likely to get that part of them to the forefront.
ZAKARIA: Ezra Klein...
KLEIN: Again, not my prediction, but my hope.
ZAKARIA: Ezra Klein, David French, a real pleasure. And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: Now for the last look. Joe Biden's narrow victory has left Democrats wondering whether he would have won at all if not for a virus that tanked the economy and killed more than 230,000 Americans in an election year.
But a Bloomberg analysis found that in the counties hit hardest by COVID-19, Trump actually improved on his 2016 performance, far more than in the average county.
Now, this was a partial and preliminary analysis, but it's clear that, at the very least, the pandemic did not hurt Trump as much as expected. Why might that be?
Well, first, as Annie Lowrey points out in The Atlantic, it seems many voters saw the pandemic as a fluke rather than Trump's fault.
Second, Joe Biden demonstrated greater empathy towards those Americans with a newly empty chair at the kitchen table. But, frankly, that is a tiny fraction of the country.
As James Palmer of Foreign Policy noted, when Trump railed against lockdowns and called for reopening the economy, that was a message with potential appeal to just about everyone.
Ironically, whereas Biden and Obama were the hope candidates in 2008, Trump became the hope candidate in this election, in a sense. Biden warned of a dark winter ahead with 200,000 more COVID deaths. Trump projected a sunny confidence about the country rounding the corner and the economy roaring back.
That optimism may have been particularly appealing in hard-hit counties. Unfortunately for Trump, it wasn't enough to push him over the edge. And, unfortunately for the country, his optimism was unfounded.
Coronavirus cases are surging to record highs, as the country enters a dark winter indeed. The pandemic is real, as are its impacts. And for more on that, I want to remind you about my new book, "Ten Lessons For a Post-Pandemic World." I hope you will buy it.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.