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Fareed Zakaria GPS
The 2022 Outlook For Omicron; Is Russia Preparing To Invade Ukraine?; Interview With Elizabeth Economy, Senior Adviser On China To The Secretary Of Commerce. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired January 09, 2022 - 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 of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): On today's program, we'll take a look at what the new year might have in store for the world. After the Omicron spike, will the world be able to get back to something approaching normal. Perhaps a new normal?
Will Russia actually invade Ukraine? Or is Vladimir Putin saber- rattling to get Western concessions?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've made it clear he cannot move on Ukraine.
ZAKARIA: And what will China do in 2022? What are the implications for its neighbors and for America?
Also the global economy, will there be more inflation, less productivity, fewer babies? I will talk to experts about it all.
And I will bring you a preview of my latest CNN special about the threat to American democracy. One year after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, is the republic really at risk?
I believe it is. Stay tuned for a clip of "THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY," which airs in full tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." In just the last 10 days almost a dozen people I know have tested positive for COVID-19. Two of them had a rough time with it, saying it was comparable to a full-blown case of the flu. The others had a day of chills or nothing at all. When asked about symptoms, one of them having been isolated responded boredom.
I compared that to the beginning of the COVID outbreak around March 2020 when I knew just two people who got the virus, both of whom were hospitalized, and one of whom, the talented New York chef Floyd Cardoz, died.
I realized that this is anecdotal but the data so far confirms this pattern. In the words of one "Wall Street Journal" headline, New York's Omicron surge points to a wave of mild cases. If the pattern holds up, it's crucial that we approach this phase of the pandemic substantially differently rather than fighting the same way we did the last mutation.
The United Kingdom Health Security Agency released an important analysis on December 31. Again the findings are tentative based on data available a few days before. Even so the analysis estimated that your risk of being hospitalized with Omicron is half as high as with the Delta variant, and your risk of needing emergency care is only one third as high. More significant is the distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
The U.K. analysis, which looked at AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, estimated that people with two doses of the vaccine plus a booster shot are 88 percent less likely to be hospitalized than those without vaccinations. Even if you get the virus, if you are double vaccinated and boosted, you are still an estimated 81 percent less likely to be hospitalized than if you are unvaccinated. If you get the virus and have had two doses of the vaccine, no booster, you are estimated to be 65 percent less likely to be hospitalized.
In the United States at least hospitalization numbers themselves are misleading. For instance, "The New York Times" reported this week that at two major New York hospitals, around 50 percent to 65 percent of COVID hospitalizations were people coming to the hospitals for other reasons than COVID and then once there testing positive for COVID.
U.S. health officials have also noted the growing evidence that supports Omicron is less severe than Delta. In South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, even the relatively few who had been vaccinated, people were less likely, 80 percent lower, according to one preprint study posted in December 2021, to be hospitalized for Omicron than for other variants. In addition, the Biden administration has now ordered 20 million treatment courses of the Pfizer COVID pill, though we clearly need more.
The early data -- and it is early -- suggests two conclusions. First, Omicron is much less lethal than previous mutations of the virus. Second, the vaccines, especially with the booster shot, are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death. That means we're in a fundamentally different situation than we were in March 2020 when the original virus was sweeping around the world.
We don't need lockdowns, school closures or onerous travel restrictions. Instead we need to make an even sharper distinction between the vaccinated and those who are not, coupled with sensible measures to slow the spread of the virus so that the health care system is not overburdened.
The CDC has shortened the recommended isolation period from 10 to five days. Could it be even shorter if you are vaccinated and not showing any symptoms? At this point, for someone who is fully vaccinated with three shots, getting Omicron seems to be similar to getting the flu. We don't force people with the flu to isolate for five days.
We must have different rules across the board for people who are vaccinated. We know from the science and the statistics that they will impose many fewer burdens on the health care system. Why should the willfully unvaccinated be able to force the rest of society to pay the price for their refusal to take a simple medical precaution?
For everyone, the key beyond vaccines is mass testing and good masks. The epidemiologist Michael Mina has long argued that the focus on PCR tests as opposed to rapid tests has been misguided, that from a public health standpoint what matters is not whether you have the virus but whether you are spreading it to others.
Rapid antigen tests determine that pretty effectively. But compared to Europe, tests in the United States cost way more and are far less widely available. Similarly, we should make widely available cheap, high-quality masks. Germany's leading virologist recently said that Omicron could become the first post-pandemic COVID variant, which would likely make the disease an endemic one, not so lethal and one that we will live with like the flu.
We cannot be sure of this because with so many unvaccinated people, about 26 percent of Americans still have not received even one dose. The virus still has lots of space in which it can replicate and thus mutate. But it does seem that at least for now for the vaccinated majority, the post-pandemic future has arrived if we are willing to accept it.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column. And let's get started.
So how is Omicron likely to progress in this new year? Let me bring in Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the UCSF Department of Medicine, who's written very intelligently on all of these subjects.
Let me ask you, Doc, I know we have -- you feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel. But let's first talk about the tunnel. How bad is this wave going to look for the next month?
DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, UCSF DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE: Hi, good morning, Fareed. Thank you for having me. I think it's going to look awfully bad and I agree with you that the average case is much milder, but we're seeing five times as many cases, maybe in some places more.
In San Francisco a month ago, where I live, we had 50 cases a day and now we have 1500 that are being reported, and as you know, many of them are not being reported because they're being tested -- they're being confirmed on rapid tests done at home.
So the problem with the math for the next month is you do have a milder illness on average but you have so many more cases that you still are having a lot of people coming to hospitals, hospitals really are getting overwhelmed, nurses and doctors are out. I think we're going to have a really tough time for the next month. I do think there's light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel is a problem.
ZAKARIA: And in terms of how to cope with it, you know, I hope I didn't come across as complacent, but what I'm saying is if you are triple vaccinated and if you use the tests intelligently and if you wear -- do proper masking, you know, there's a way for you to have a more normal life. What is the biggest obstacle in managing that process for the next month?
WACHTER: The biggest obstacle is Omicron, which is just unbelievably infectious. The kind of encounter that you might have had a month ago that would have been safe, now there's a decent chance it will cause you to be infected, even if you're vaccinated.
And so I guess my take on -- I liked your essay very much because I think that is the world we're getting to, but I'm still in hunker-down mode for the next several weeks because I do think there's just a ton of virus around. If you go into a restaurant, for example, and there are 20 or 30 people there's almost certainty that one of the people in the restaurant has COVID, doesn't know it.
And so at least for the next few weeks, as hospitals are getting filled and getting overwhelmed, I do think it's a time to be very careful, not to hide under the kitchen table as you might have done in March 2020. If you're fully vaccinated, the chances you're going to die of this are very low but they're not zero and it's not zero chance that you're going to go to the hospital. So I do think it's the right call to try to be safe if you can for the next few weeks and the things you discuss wearing a high-quality mask, being thoughtful about the kinds of encounters you have.
And then I do think that, you know, this is blowing through our population so quickly, that we may be looking at a really bad January, but things in February looking like the world that you painted, one in which we can go about our business, unvaccinated people being at higher risk but many of the unvaccinated people are going to get infected this month and so they will have a measure of immunity that they didn't have before.
ZAKARIA: And your hope, the light at the end of the tunnel, comes from the data we're seeing out of South Africa, right? Where you have a massive spike up but then a massive spike down.
ZAKARIA: So what does that look like?
WACHTER: Yes, it does look like that this virus just -- once it enters a community, spreads like wildfire. And that's what we're seeing everywhere, even in San Francisco where it's the most highly vaccinated city in the country. We're seeing massive -- a massive increase in cases. So it hits a community very hard, very fast. As you said, the average person has a milder case than before.
But not all of them do and our hospitals are getting filled and those are mostly people who are sick with the virus. A fair number of them are also sick with other things and happen to have the virus. But it goes up very fast and then at least in South Africa, about a month or so it plateaued and then came down just as fast. And London looks like it's showing the same pattern, they're a few weeks ahead.
So why does it go up and come down so quickly? Two things probably, people start being a little more careful because people see their friends and family getting sick and they'd like to try to dodge that if they can. But the second reason is the level of immunity in the community goes up very, very quickly. The people who have had -- let's say if you only had one shot or two shots and you get a breakthrough case, it's essentially the equivalent of a booster.
You're now going to have a higher level of immunity. But the key thing is the people who are unvaccinated, if you're not vaccinated, you're not really being super careful, you are going to get this virus. And you're going to get your immunity the hard way. It would have been better if you've got it through vaccination but you're going to get some measure of immunity from the virus.
I hope you then go ahead and get vaccinated because that immunity, we don't know how long it's going to last and how robust this is going to will be, but you will at least have some immunity. So at the end of this, you know, in a month or so, you have almost everyone with some level of immunity, which is not what you had going into this surge.
ZAKARIA: That is so helpful for all of us to hear, Doctor. Thank you so much.
WACHTER: My pleasure. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, we will look at what we can expect from Russia in the current chaos in Kazakhstan and in Ukraine. What is Putin trying to do in 2022?
ZAKARIA: One of the big debates taking place in Washington these days is whether or not Vladimir Putin intends in 2022 to reinvade Ukraine. People are wondering what Russia will do in Kazakhstan as well. More than 5,000 people have been arrested and more than 160 killed in the anti-government protests there this week. And the Kazakh government has welcomed the deployment of troops from Russia and its allies.
To talk about it all, Ian Bremmer and Niall Ferguson are joining me. Ian is the president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, and Niall is a historian and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Niall, let me start with you because you wrote a very provocative column in "Bloomberg" this week in which you said, make no mistake of it, Putin does seem to ready to use military force. He is going through the song and dance of diplomatic moves and demands. But don't be surprised if all that breaks down and he essentially reinvades. Explain briefly why you feel that way.
NIALL FERGUSON, SENIOR FELLOW, STANFORD'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, Vladimir Putin has been beating a drum of war for months. Back in July last year he published an article on the historical unity of the Russians and Ukrainians which I read carefully and took to be a threat to annex Ukraine, bring it under the control of Moscow. Troops, 100,000 or so Russian troops have been amassed on Ukraine's borders for many months.
And crucially the Russian government issued back in December what amounted to an ultimatum to the United States and NATO in the form of two draft security agreements are full of things they really cannot possibly accept.
We're going to have a week of diplomacy coming up in the coming week but don't be fooled, this is not the kind of good-faith diplomacy that's supposed to lead to an agreement. It's the kind of phony diplomacy that an aggressor engages in prior to a premedicated military attack.
ZAKARIA: Ian, why do you feel a little bit less certain. In fact, you've said the end of the day if you had to bet, you bet Russia will not go into Ukraine militarily?
IAN BREMMER, EURASIA GROUP PRESIDENT: Of course. What I'm suggesting is that if I had to bet I do think escalation is very likely. I agree with Niall that this is not a friendly negotiation that is meant to resolve, it's actually meant to divide. But for me, I see Russia's big surprise not as Ukraine which they've already functionally annex the piece of and they're occupying another piece of it. But rather being able to divide the United States and Europe to a much greater degree.
That's the goal. And Putin is not going to make it easy on the United States and Europe to respond together. A full invasion of Russian tanks into Ukraine makes it much easier for the United States and Europe to work much more closely on prepositioning, advanced positioning, NATO troops closer to Russia's border, on very severe sanctions and on recognizing that Russia is a severe and common threat.
There are lots of other things the Russians can do, like cyberattacks, like defending -- formally defending the Russian citizens that are in the Donbas who the Russians implausibly claimed that Ukraine is committing acts of genocide against.
So if I'm Biden, I'm much less worried, I think, about the idea that the Russians invade and the Americans and the Europeans can then take the steps they said they were going to, and rather they take other steps that would allow, for example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who's going to meet by himself with Putin in the next few weeks, to have a very different response to the Russians than the Americans will.
ZAKARIA: Niall, is it possible that this is a lot of saber-rattling not as a prelude to war but to set out a demand that Ukraine never become part of NATO? That that's his core issue, that he wants a kind of guarantee, whether implicit or explicit, that Ukraine -- that NATO has expanded all of these different countries close to Russia's borders but Ukraine has to be the bright line?
FERGUSON: Unfortunately, that's not the only thing that Putin is asking for. He's saying that NATO shouldn't accept any new members, that the U.S. and NATO shouldn't deploy short-to-intermediate missiles within range of Russian territory, that the U.S. shouldn't stationed nuclear weapons abroad, and so on. That NATO shouldn't deploy forces to member states that joined NATO after 1997. That it shouldn't conduct military exercises in those states.
And in effect what Putin is trying to do, what his demands amount to, is to create, re-create really, the old Soviet sphere influence in Eastern Europe and render NATO enlargement after the end of the Cold War a dead letter. There's no way that Joe Biden, even if he's in full appeasement mode can agree to all of this. There may be a few things that they can agree to but it's a very small proportion of what Russia's demanding that's really viable.
And that means that I think Putin's set these negotiations up to fail. That's why I think military action is more likely than Ian is suggesting, though I don't think we're too far apart because I'm not saying that Russian tanks are going to be rolling across the plains towards Kiev. Rather I think what is going to happen is an escalation in the areas where Russian forces already are present. There will be almost certainly a cyber component to this.
But I don't think the primary goal is, Ian, to divide NATO. That's actually a relatively easy thing and in many ways you might say it's already been achieved by creating such heavy dependence by the Europeans on Russian natural gas.
No, I think the goal here is to undermine the viability of Ukraine as a sovereign nation state and create such uncertainty that Ukraine never can stabilize as a democracy. That I think is the core goal. And it needs to be seen in the context of crises elsewhere in the former Soviet realm, not only in Kazakhstan, which, Fareed, you already mentioned, but also in Belarus.
Putin cannot afford for there to be another successful revolution, another successful democracy or semi-successful democracy, showing Russians that there is an alternative to his brand of ultra nationalist authoritarianism. And that's really how we should think about his objectives.
Not that many of us can really read Vladimir Putin's minds and that's where we have to I think be circumspect in what we predict.
ZAKARIA: Ian, we don't have a lot of time but I want to ask you one piece of this that Niall alluded to. It does seem that the threat of sanctions, of cutting Russians off from the global banking system, which are the things the Biden administration has talked about, fundamentally lack of a certain degree of vigor when you consider this issue that the Europeans are desperately dependent on Russian natural gas.
Natural gas prices have gone up four-fold. They really can't afford for them to go up much more or you would have domestic crises in all of these countries. I assume your big governments will stop subsidizing natural gas because they cannot have people pay that much. Isn't that, you know, the kind of a great Achilles' heel in a concerted Western response? And you have 45 seconds.
BREMMER: It certainly explains the timing why this is being done in winter because that's, of course, when the Europeans are most vulnerable. But Olaf Scholz did privately tell both the Americans and the U.K. that if there was an invasion, that Nord Stream 2 is dead. So I do think Putin has to be careful about how far he wants to push that leverage, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Thank you, Ian Bremmer, Niall Ferguson, pleasure to have you on.
ZAKARIA: Last year China continued its crackdown against pro-democracy activists and journalists in Hong Kong. On Taiwan Beijing's actions and rhetoric brought renewed fears of a Chinese attack against the self-governing island. And Beijing strengthened ties with Russia, while upsetting many of its other neighbors.
What can we expect this year?
Elizabeth Economy is the author of a new book out Tuesday called "The World According to China."
She's on leave from her post as a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution to serve as a senior adviser on China to the secretary of commerce. But she's speaking today in her civilian capacity.
ELIZABETH ECONOMY, SENIOR ADVISER ON CHINA TO THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Thanks, Fareed. Great to be here.
ZAKARIA: So I want to ask you -- you know, you're the person who really, in some ways, fundamentally alerted us to the fact that Xi Jinping marked a very different leadership in China, with a much more ambitious, in some ways more repressive, in some ways more expansionist sense of China.
What do you think is most important to him on his agenda, when he looks out right now? Is it more consolidation at home? Is it more external influence abroad?
ECONOMY: I mean, certainly 2022 is a really important year for Xi Jinping because it is going to mark the third point of transition for him.
So come this fall he is up to be reselected as general secretary of the Communist Party for his third five-year term. And then we anticipate another third five-year term as president of the country the following spring.
So I think there's little doubt that his number one priority is cementing his political control, his political leadership, and ensuring, sort of, a smooth 2022.
Having said all that, I would say he has surprised us before with his adventurism. If we look back into the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first six months, we saw that he undertook a series of very assertive military moves in the South of China sea, the border dispute with India, in Bhutan, around the Diaoyu Senkaku Islands.
So even though, you know, rationally, we should anticipate that he wants stability overall this year, I don't think we can exclude the possibility of some sort of military assertiveness.
ZAKARIA: Now I want to ask you about China's capabilities. Because, you know, we sometimes hear a lot of Chinese pronouncements made in China, they're going to manufacture all this stuff; they're going to become the leaders in these technologies; they're going to spend trillions of dollars on the Belt and Road initiative.
And most of us don't follow through to figure out how much is actually then happening. What does that part of it look like? How strong is China really?
ECONOMY: That's a really important point. You know, you're right that there -- Xi Jinping is very fond of making grand pronouncements, and he has a lot of, sort of, flagship foreign policy initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative, like, you know, the thousand talents program, like Confucius institutes.
But I think, if you do in fact follow these projects over a period of years, you find that in many respects they are less successful than we previously understood.
So, for example, the Belt and Road Initiative, yes, China has invested hundreds of billions of dollars, or lent hundreds of billions of dollars to other countries for hard infrastructure, for digital infrastructure. It has increased its presence in many countries via this Belt and Road plan.
But by the same token, if we're trying to understand the influence that China gains as a result of this investment, you can look and see that in virtually every Belt and Road country, there are popular protests against those projects, right, because the people aren't perceiving the benefits of the project. There's corruption, a lack of transparency, as the projects are pursued, so that China in many respects isn't getting the kind of influence at a popular level, right?
So Xi Jinping's levels of popular -- popularity globally, by opinion polls, are at an all-time low.
Trust in Xi Jinping is at an all-time low. Trust in China as a global leader is at an all-time low.
ZAKARIA: When you look at Xi Jinping's image at home, though, is it fair to say that, when you look, for example, at the dominant issue now, which is COVID, the Chinese regime is presenting itself as being probably uniquely successful at dealing with COVID, with the zero COVID policy?
I think the last number I saw for deaths in China was something like certainly under 5,000. And the number, you know, for the United States is, what, 825,000. So what does that -- the United States has 165 times the number of deaths.
Is -- is Xi Jinping able to say it, and does it resonate, "Look, we've handled the -- the biggest crisis of our times pretty well?"
ECONOMY: Look, certainly, I think, when you look at the number of deaths, China has a terrific story to tell. It has been very aggressive at arresting the spread of the virus in ways that the United States has not.
I think -- and Xi Jinping has sold that story and has sold it effectively. On the other hand, I think, moving forward, it is more difficult for China.
I think this lockdown process, right, has significant implications for Chinese economic growth, for its position in supply chains and the sense of reliability that China has, you know, globally as an economic supplier.
You know, China's economy is slowing. It has unemployment rates now, between the ages of 16 and 24, at 14.2 percent. Consumption is not growing.
So there are a number of challenges that China is facing in part because of this way that it's approached its COVID -- you know, addressing the COVID pandemic -- that are problematic.
But I think, overall, yes, I think Xi Jinping has made a strong case for how he has elected to -- to address the challenge.
Liz Economy, always a pleasure.
ECONOMY: Thanks, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," we'll look at our wallets and try to understand what we can expect from the global economy this year.
[10:41:30] ZAKARIA: In 2021 we had the return of inflation, spikes in gas prices, a gummed-up supply chain and the Great Resignation, which saw millions of Americans bid adieu to their old jobs.
What will 2022 bring to the U.S. and global economy?
For answers let me bring in Ruchir Sharma, a global investor and a contributing editor at the FT.
Ruchir, you have a few really fascinating predictions in the Financial Times. So let me ask you about some of them.
The first one you talk about is the baby bust. Explain.
RUCHIR SHARMA, GLOBAL INVESTOR: Well, Fareed, you know, one of the defining features of this pandemic has been that, instead of up-ending the world, what the pandemic did was to accelerate many trends that were already under way before 2020.
And one of those was the demographic shift that we have seen, which is that the world's working-age population and even the population growth rates had been slowing down for many years before the pandemic.
You would have expected that, during the pandemic, with people staying indoors, that they'd be having more babies. Instead, the evidence that's come in is that the demographic decline, or the decline in the world's birth rate, accelerated during the pandemic. And that, I think, has major implications for global growth going forward, among other things.
ZAKARIA: One of the points you make is that Chinese growth has slowed down. We've all seen this. But, surprisingly, it doesn't seem to matter as much as people used to think it would.
SHARMA: Yeah, just see what's happened over the past couple of years, especially in 2021, that you have a major slowdown in China's economic growth rate, and yet so many economies around the world accelerated.
And I think that this is a big change which is taking place as China turns more inward, and also as China's growth rate slows down.
So I think that we (inaudible) China, which is that the contribution of China to the global economy is going to keep declining after the peak it reached in 2019, when China alone was contributing to nearly 40 percent of the world's economic growth.
I think that number has come down to about 25 percent, and will keep going down in the years ahead because China faces so many structural challenges, from the decline in its population to the incredible amount of debt that it has piled up, which is undermining productivity in China now.
ZAKARIA: And that issue is the one that you really focus on, which is debt. I mean, when you look at the transformation of the picture for the world's major economies, in terms of the massive increase in debt over the last 10 years but really the last year or two, describe what that looks like.
SHARMA: You know, today there are more than 25 countries in the world which have a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 300 percent. To put this in perspective, in the mid-1990s there were no countries in the world which had a debt as a share of their economy that was as large as 300 percent.
So a massive amount of debt has been taken on. During the pandemic in particular, we saw some very sharp increases in debt levels led by governments around the world that were taken.
Now, you can argue that during crises it's fine to take on more debt to ride through the troubled times. The problem is that, even during the good times now, we keep on taking more debt.
And this has some serious implications, not necessarily in terms of a crisis but something more insidious, that by taking on so much debt, we're keeping alive a lot of inefficient companies, a lot of zombie companies, as I call them, and that is undermining productivity and is also one of the trends that I speak about.
ZAKARIA: When you look at rising asset prices, low interest rates, which fuel rising asset prices like stock prices, one has to ask, I mean, American stocks are at extraordinary highs, all-time highs. It's -- you know, it does appear to be something like a bubble. Is this a bubble?
SHARMA: I think there are pockets of what I call "bublets" in the market -- so electrical vehicles, I think, in clean energy. I think there are so many technology stocks out there with no earnings, I think even cryptocurrencies, which was a good idea that's gone too far.
I think that there are these bublets out there, and they have started to deflate. On average the prices of many of these bublets are already down 35 percent to 40 percent from their peak. And my guess is that they have much further to go.
I'm particularly concerned about a lot of small and retail investors who have rushed in and bought these assets in the last 18 months or so. At the same time, the insiders, the big CEOs at companies, are selling the stock of these very companies. So that's a mismatch that we have to look out for and a warning sign, I think, for the markets.
ZAKARIA: Ruchir Sharma, always a pleasure to have you on.
SHARMA: Thanks, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," one year after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, the American political experiment is teetering. I will bring you a preview of my latest special, "The Fight to Save American Democracy," which airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:52:00]
ZAKARIA: Tonight on CNN, my latest special will premiere. It's called "The Fight to Save American Democracy," and it airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
In one part of the hour, I take up the difficult question of whether America has anything to learn from the most famous collapse of democracy in the past 100 years, that of Germany in the 1930s.
ZAKARIA (voice over): A film industry that rivaled Hollywood, groundbreaking Expressionist art, and more Nobel Prize winners than any other nation, including a physicist named Albert Einstein.
This was Germany in the 1920s, the thriving and sophisticated Weimar Republic. It was a proud and advanced democracy with a state-of-the- art constitution, women's suffrage and, 100 years ago, a strong gay rights movement.
But in a few short years, all of it was gone.
ANNOUNCER: The chief opponent is Adolf Hitler.
ZAKARIA: Adolf Hitler came to power.
ANNOUNCER: In this crucial presidential campaign, every vote counts.
ZAKARIA: By killing democracy from within.
ANNOUNCER: Hitler leaving for his first cabinet meeting.
ZAKARIA: He was enabled, crucially, by Germany's conservative establishment...
ANNOUNCER: Von Hindenburg installed Hitler as its leader.
ZAKARIA: ... that tried to use him, underestimated him...
ANNOUNCER: Hitler assumed dictatorial powers.
ZAKARIA: ... and eventually was destroyed by him.
BENJAMIN CARTER HETT, AUTHOR, "THE NAZI MENACE": The responsibility of the conservative elites is massive.
ANNOUNCER: The German republic was dead.
ZAKARIA: Hitler's rise is the most deadly example of a chilling pattern...
ANNOUNCER: Mussolini, hailed by his compatriots as the genius of Italy...
ZAKARIA: ... political insiders willingly giving power. HUGO CHAVEZ, FORMER PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA: (UNTRANSLATED)
ZAKARIA: ... to a charismatic strong man.
And the scholars who wrote "How Democracies Die" worry...
FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: The time for action has come.
ZAKARIA: ... that this pattern may be repeating itself in America.
TRUMP: I alone can fix it.
DANIEL ZIBLATT, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Establishment Republicans --
TRUMP: I'm pleased to be here with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
ZIBLATT: ... thought that they saw an opportunity in Donald Trump and decided they needed to form a kind of unholy alliance with him.
We see this dynamic of conservative elites aligning themselves with demagogic outsiders throughout history.
TRUMP: It was all an illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election.
ZAKARIA: Let's be very clear. Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler. But Weimar's death highlights a danger for all democracies, specifically the way conservative elites determined to keep the left out of power align themselves with an anti-democratic demagogue. The story in Germany began with a big lie.
ZAKARIA (on camera): Don't miss "The Fight to Save American Democracy," tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.