Charles Davidson for TAI: Welcome to you all. I should mention, this is the 15th anniversary of The American Interest. Our first issue came out in August 2005 under our founding editor, Adam Garfinkle. And since then we’ve had the privilege to operate under the editorial leadership of Francis Fukuyama, which has been both a privilege and a pleasure.
Francis Fukuyama: Thank you very much, Charles and Jeff. It’s really a pleasure to be able to do this event. I’d like to thank Jeff in particular, I think he’s done a spectacular job as the editor. Adam really put this whole enterprise on a terrific basis and Jeff has expanded the reach with all of the events that they’ve been doing in Washington and now online.
We founded The American Interest in 2005 in the wake of the Iraq War because it seemed to us that a huge gap had opened up between the way that Americans saw the world and the way that other people in other parts of the world were looking at things. And that lack of understanding and communication was one of the reasons we created the magazine. So we said that we were going to try to explain the world to the United States, which is what other foreign policy-oriented magazines do, but also, importantly, to try to explain the United States to the rest of the world.
And I must say that in the 15 years that have passed, that job has become even harder—because in many respects, to me at least, the U.S. has become something very hard to explain to anybody. The other thing that I think we’ve tried to do in the last couple of years is to shift a little bit our political emphasis. We had always said that we were decidedly centrists, we weren’t going to take strong ideological positions, or the magazine as a whole wouldn’t represent a strong ideological position, but I think with the election of Donald Trump in 2016, that position has become a little bit problematic.
Even as a political scientist and a Stanford senior fellow, we have academic freedom to say whatever we want. But the university really doesn’t like professors to take strongly what it regards as partisan positions. But it seems to me that if you’re a student of global democracy and democratic institutions, it’s not just a partisan position, like saying our tax rate should be higher or lower, to be critical of some of the things that have been happening under the Trump Administration in the last few years.
Because I think that if you just look at the actions, for example, of the Justice Department in rescinding the indictment of Michael Flynn, or the case against Michael Flynn, there’s a much deeper threat to democracy that’s going on. It’s a fundamental threat to basic institutions. Some of my conservative friends have really made the switch wholeheartedly, such that “Never Trump” Republicans like Bill Kristol are now among his most vocal critics. But there’s another group that basically hasn’t been willing to stand up and talk about what I think is the biggest threat to American democracy and global democracy today, which is the President of the United States.
And so we didn’t want to be neutral on that issue, and I think that’s been an important focus as well as focusing on American domestic political institutions, because I think that most Americans have taken for granted something like the checks and balances of their constitutional system. Because up till now, those haven’t really been threatened in terrible ways. But I think right now we’re seeing the value of having those checks and balances. And that is what brings me to the topic of the article that I wrote, which is about American political decay.
Now, I had written about this in the penultimate book that I wrote, Political Order and Political Decay, which was published in 2014. And it basically argued that the American political system was undergoing decay. And I think the reason for that is the confluence of two phenomena. The first phenomenon is the American system of checks and balances, compared to a Westminster system or other kinds of European parliamentary systems. The United States Constitution really spreads power out very, very widely. So you have three branches of government, you have a very powerful upper house of Congress, you have federalism that distributes power to lower levels of government. And all of that is really designed to protect against the kind of situation we’re in now, where you get one individual who wants to accumulate a lot of power personally, not even institutionally, but just personally, and therefore attacks those other checks on the system.
Now that system worked pretty well throughout the 20th century because the United States, despite these checks and balances, still managed to pass major legislation—the New Deal, the Great Society, the civil rights legislation. But in the last couple of decades, that system has come grinding to a halt because the system of checks and balances started meshing with social changes, which had to do with the growing polarization in the country. This really began in the 1990s and accelerated after the financial crisis in 2008.
And as many people point out, it wasn’t symmetric polarization. There’s been a shift clearly to the left by the Democratic Party, represented by Bernie Sanders, but the real thing that changed was a shift by the Republican Party to a position that was very unfamiliar to Reagan Republicans, in which the state itself became the enemy for a lot of the Tea Party wing of the Party. And then it’s captured by the Trump wing that was kind of an identitarian right-wing nationalist group. And that has led, I think, to the current crisis that we’re in, where fundamental decisions are really deadlocked. We’ve had repeated crises over the budget. Just passing our yearly budget has become a big slog, and I think polarization is now reflected in the current coronavirus crisis that we’re facing.
Now, if you look back at the causes of this polarization—I think there’s been a lot of writing about this, which is largely correct—its origin lies in the Southern realignment in the 1960s, because prior to that, the Democratic Party had been a party of progressive trade unionists and urban professionals and so forth. But it was constantly connected to all these Southern racists, and that was actually an important base of the Democratic Party during the New Deal.
But after the adoption of the civil rights agenda by the Democratic Party in the 1960s, the Republicans began collecting a lot of disaffected white voters in the South, and that’s a process that unfolded over the next 20 years. And I think it lays the basis for the shift from an ideological definition of the two parties, which had been about limited government and economic policy, to now a polarization that’s increasingly based on identity, where the Democratic Party represents white educated professionals plus various racial minorities—Hispanics, African Americans, the LGBT community, and so forth. And that kind of identity-based polarization is very problematic.
This is a huge source of weakness for the United States because if you think about how, for example, our rivals and enemies like Russia and China are dealing with us, they’re trying to exploit this division, and they’ve done it extremely effectively in different ways. So I think that if you don’t solve this underlying social and political problem, the country is actually never going to return to operating effectively.
Now, how do you do that? Well, I think the main way is political. I think that in a functioning democracy, which I think we still are, the main antidote to this kind of populist nationalism is an election. It’s just a very simple principle that the way you stop the rise of these kinds of groups is by winning an election decisively. And in that regard, I think that there is actually a pretty good chance of the Democrats not just retaking the presidency, but also retaking the Senate and controlling those three branches of government after November, and the reason obviously has to do with the current crisis.
The main argument that Trump had going for him before the coronavirus appeared was the low level of unemployment, booming economy, high stock market, and so forth. That’s obviously been replaced by what is in many ways an unprecedented economic crisis. But I think the most important thing will end up being the incompetent handling of the health crisis itself. This is a policy failure that’s very hard to excuse. The United States today represents a quarter to a third of all coronavirus deaths in the world as a whole. It’s just performed miserably. And although Trump himself is trying to declare victory and a job well done, I think that is not something that fools at least a certain part of the public.
Now, I think that in terms of America’s international position, if the Democrats do retake the White House, the damage to international institutions can be limited, because Biden is a very traditional center-left politician. He believes in internationalism. And so the Paris Accords, NATO, the security arrangements with Japan and Korea—all of these things have been kind of on hold, with allies hoping that we would come back after four years. And I think to some extent, some of that can be restored, although I don’t think it’s really ever going to go back to the way it was before 2016.
So in that respect, I think that things will change, but there are a lot of reasons for thinking that even a pretty decisive Democratic sweep in November is really not going to fix our problems. And there are a number of reasons for that. One is just the election itself. It’s not clear that we can hold a free and fair election in November amid the pandemic. And here the epidemiological characteristics that we’re coming to understand are really important because it now appears that the disease is actually not as lethal as many people thought initially—as there’s been more testing, it’s turned out that actually a lot more people are infected.
Now, a lot of conservatives took this as saying, “Well, this was an unjustified panic because the death rate is actually not that high.” But in a way that actually makes the disease more dangerous, because it is much more contagious than other kinds of flus or certainly than something like Ebola. And if you think about the social and political impact of a disease that is highly contagious but not that lethal, it’s very bad because people won’t take it seriously. And in fact, that’s fed a narrative on the right that actually the entire pandemic is a kind of fraud, or has been grossly exaggerated by the enemies of the President and so forth. And that’s also been driving a lot of the protests against shut-ins and so forth, because a lot of people don’t see anybody sick around them, especially in more rural communities. They’re saying, “Why are we bothering with this?” And that feeds various conspiracy theories about what’s happening.
I think that increasingly, since the disease is really not going to go away, the economic damage becomes greater even with the President and various governors encouraging people to go back to work. The conditions for that just aren’t there. Even if they’re allowed to, a lot of people aren’t going to want to go eat in restaurants or go shopping or go to crowded sports events and this sort of thing. And it means that the economic part of the crisis is going to continue for the indefinite future.
Now, I think that that combination of characteristics then leads you to this cognitive crisis that we’re in, which really makes this moment very different from previous ones. We’ve been polarized for 20 years, but I would say that the cognitive landscape in the United States and in the world more generally has really changed. And that’s really, I think, the product of the rise of the internet, interacting with the social polarization. And in terms of causality, it’s very hard to say that the directionality goes particularly one way or the other, but they’ve clearly interacted because what the internet has done is take away all of the intermediaries that used to filter, verify, confirm, and ensure the quality of the information that got out to people.
And this is actually very important in terms of social learning. Quite frankly, social learning is an elite-driven thing. I’ll give you an example of the Great Depression. The Great Depression started with the stock market crash in October 1929. It really rolled on and people did not recognize that the existing policies that were being pushed by the Hoover Administration, namely tight money and a balanced budget, actually weren’t the correct solution. They weren’t the correct policy solution to a situation of liquidity trap and everything that was happening at that point, so the crisis got deeper. It evolved into a banking crisis in 1931 and it was three years after the onset of the crisis that people suddenly realized, “Hey, reality just doesn’t correspond to the mental models we’ve had.” And so the Roosevelt election in 1932 brings a new administration to power very decisively, and the policy begins to shift very dramatically, but it takes three years for that to happen.
The learning that we achieved out of that was in the heads of people like Ben Bernanke, or, ironically, in people like Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz, whose history of the monetary side of the Great Depression made people realize that in a panic like that you want to flood the world with liquidity, you don’t want tight money. But that’s a very elite kind of conclusion, and fortunately in 2008 we had Ben Bernanke, who was a historian of the Depression, running the Fed. He understood that story very well, and therefore the Fed didn’t try to remove money from the system. It put liquidity into the system.
And so that’s the way that social learning is supposed to take place. It’s an elite matter and it’s kind of why you need elites to guide policy over the long run. And that’s precisely the thing that’s been eroded in recent years as a result of the rise of the internet. And I think that interpreting the pandemic itself is a good case study in how that cognitive confusion continues to dog us, because it’s actually hard to convince people that it’s not safe to go out in red states, where there’s a lot of pressure to do so. Social scientists actually would have trouble establishing clear cause and effect when the effects are very delayed from the causes and there’s a lot of noise in the data and so forth.
And that means that people can interpret things according to their ideological preferences rather than through any kind of careful examination of statistical evidence and the like. So that, I think, is a big problem that we are still dealing with. And what it means is that even if the Democrats do take over those three branches of government, you’re still going to have a big problem because a future Biden Administration is going to inherit a very unhappy country in which you may start with people contesting the legitimacy of the election—which could actually come from both sides. It could come from Trump Republicans that say that there’s a lot of fraudulent voting. But today it could also come from Democrats who say that because there was an inadequate attention to mail-in ballots and alternative ways of voting, a lot of voters didn’t get represented.
And so that’s in a way the first obstacle that has to be overcome. But then you’re going to face a situation in which the arguments over the responses to the epidemiological crisis are going to be replaced by huge disputes over the economic response. Congress has now tripled this year’s deficit, so that we added another $2.3 trillion in new federal spendin—which is very justified, but it is opening the door to an unending series of arguments over the way that this money is going to be distributed.
I think that if you look down the road, the class divisions that have already been very pronounced in this country are going to widen enormously as a result of the crisis. So for people like those on this call who are sitting at home with a good internet connection and the technological ability to work together online, it’s not going to affect our lives. We are just now getting word that it’s unlikely that Stanford is going to be able to open in person in the fall, but I’ve been teaching all quarter online and it’s actually just as good.
So it really doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t hurt my income and so forth, but other people that have to actually be out there in factories and retail and many other places are not going to have that kind of an easy job. And as this crisis rolls on month after month, it’s going to produce all sorts of forms of backlash that are very hard to predict at the moment. But if you look at prior crises, you get all sorts of delayed responses that nobody predicted at the outset of the crisis.
For example, I just think that the whole rise of populism around the world was in certain ways the long-term consequences of the 2008 financial crisis. The rise of Trump probably wouldn’t have happened if that crisis had been avoided in the United States, and the Euro crisis in Europe. So there are a lot of things about “black swan” events that we really can’t foresee now, which in a prolonged crisis become much more likely than in one that is shorter term.
So that’s the reason why I unfortunately ended up in this relatively pessimistic place. If you look historically at how countries did get out of situations of extreme polarization, oftentimes it required some kind of really big external shock, like a war or invasion or an epidemic. And in many ways, in terms of opinion polling, I think you still get a majority of Americans that say that they believe experts, they’re not unhappy with the stay-at-home orders and that sort of thing, but the polarization has been reflected absolutely in responses to the crisis.
I remember being particularly struck when the anti-shut-in demonstrations began and someone was holding up a sign that said, “We’re not all in this together.” And although it’s such a cliché in a moment like this to say, “Yes, we’re all Americans and we’re all suffering jointly,” that’s simply not the way it’s been interpreted by a certain part of the population. And so even a big shock like this I’m not sure is going to force the kind of social rationality that you would hope for, or it may take a much longer period of time for that kind of social rationality to emerge.
All right. Let me stop there and invite comments, questions, or anything else.
CD: Thanks, Frank. That was fascinating. We have a hard stop at noon because of Frank’s schedule, so if you can use the raise-hand function in Zoom, that would be much appreciated. And I’ll try to get in as many people as we can. I’d also like to welcome our friends at the Tocqueville Conversations Foundation, I gather a few of them were able to join despite the technical glitch we’ve had here. And welcome to everyone who was able to join. Sorry about the ragged start.
So let’s see who we’ve got here. All right. Why don’t we start with Nicholas Illuzzi.
Nicholas Illuzzi: Yes, thank you very much. You mentioned that one of the ways to fight back against populism is through decisive elections. In these past few years, a lot of democratic allies and nations across the world have seen struggles in such an effort: the European parliament, with its centrist parties falling in their numbers, the same with the Germans. Israel has had three elections so far and Italy’s been flip-flopping across its coalitions. What if we’ve come to a place where the people know what they want, but what they want is fundamentally different from each other in so many areas across an individual nation?
FF: Well, look, that’s obviously going to be one of the things that determines the nature of politics, right? So if you study the party system in comparative politics, one of the truisms is that it depends on existing social cleavages. And if you’ve got a lot of cleavages or cross-cutting cleavages it’s going to yield a legislature that has lots of parties, where it’s very hard to come to consensus. So obviously that’s been a big problem. It’s been a problem in Spain and in Israel, as you’ve said, and in the United States, where Republicans and Democrats have been pretty evenly divided.
So there are certain things you can do to mitigate that institutionally—for example, Larry Diamond and I are both big fans of ranked choice voting, because part of what accentuates the polarization in American politics is our first-past-the-post voting system. And if you made it easier for people to vote for third parties, there is some possibility that the left wing of the Republican Party and the right wing of the Democratic Party could split off and you’ll ease a little bit of the polarity. But I don’t think any comparative political scientists would say that that’s ever going to solve a problem if your fundamental cleavages are so deep.
And that’s why countries that are organized around fixed identity groups like Lebanon or like Bosnia or like many countries in the Middle East really have a lot of trouble dealing with democracy because they’ve got fundamentally split populations that really aren’t ever going to achieve anything more than the most superficial consensus. And one of my concerns in the United States, and this is even more true in certain European countries, is that you’re seeing the growth of parallel immigrant communities that don’t integrate well into the broader body politic. You’re seeing a gradual drift into this more rigid identity-based form of politics. And so we need to do whatever we can to mitigate that.
I don’t think there’s a universal solution to this, but I do think that political leadership can overcome some of it because really what’s required is the creation of a narrative that would anchor national identity in a more universal set of values and stories that would be accessible to people on both sides of a particular polarization. And unfortunately, for opportunistic politicians, it’s much easier to just exploit people’s feelings of grievance that then anchor them more firmly in their polarization. So, I’m sorry, it’s not a very satisfying answer, but it’s a hard problem to overcome.
CD: Great. Next question. I think “Ana’s iPad” probably means Ana Palacio.
Ana Palacio: I want to be optimistic. Let’s assume that the elections go well and the Democrats win. I absolutely agree that there will be a different approach, focused on international institutions, international agreements. But you Americans have to tell us Europeans that we are not going to be in this situation next time. My question is, don’t you think that the next administration has to create frameworks on cyber, on health, on multilateralism, on all areas—and not cling to NATO as the only institutionalized bilateral, as past administrations have done?
FF: Thanks, Anna. Good to see you again. So I think that the repairing of relations with Europe is going to be much harder and I think it’s completely correct to say that we’re simply not going to go back to the situation under Obama under any circumstances. I think that the foreign policies of Obama and Trump actually are more similar to each other than many people recognize because both of them really wanted to get out of the Middle East, both of them really wanted to reduce overall the burden of global leadership. And I think that that’s not going to change if Biden is the president.
Furthermore, I think that everybody that likes internationalism has been telling themselves, “Well, four years of Trump we can survive; eight years, we can’t.” I’m not sure that he hasn’t already done enough damage in four years that it’s going to take quite a while before Europeans actually come to trust Americans again. They’re going to say, “Well look, you still got this big block of voters that take these crazy positions on international cooperation, and they could come back at any moment, and can we really believe in American commitments? Maybe two years from now the Republicans will come storming back, and where will we be?”
I think those are all legitimate concerns. But on your basic question, should we fundamentally rethink some of these international institutions? I think it would be a good thing to do. I do think a crisis like this presents certain opportunities to create new institutions, just as we did after 1945. I guess, though, that my feeling has been that we’re in such a defensive position right now, and there’s always this big transitional cost when you move from one set of institutions to a new one. There’s a lot in the world that requires immediate attention, and if you go through that kind of transition too quickly before the ground has been adequately prepared I think there are dangers of discontinuity—like sanctions against Russia or the whole situation in Eastern Europe.
So I would say that I’ve just felt that defending existing institutions, as imperfect as they are, is the agenda for the time being. But I do think that in the longer run, yes, it is worthwhile to think about what we could possibly replace them with.
CD: Next I’ve got Nicole Penn. Nicole, you there?
Nicole Penn: Yes, I am, hello. I want to ask if you think that there’s any opportunity during this period to look at federalism, perhaps as a key to addressing the problems with polarization that we have. When it comes to epidemic planning, is there a space, particularly in our nation, to accept that policies in Texas are going to look different than policies in New York, and is that perhaps a path to letting people feel like they have a say in their government, and perhaps tamper down the nationalization of politics that seems to exacerbate polarization? I mean, it would take a lot of wind out of the sails of people who are furious that policies in New York don’t look the same as in their own county, but maybe that’s what’s needed to to calm these raging tensions.
FF: Oh, sure. I think that’s actually what’s been going on. In the absence of any real leadership from Washington, governors have taken over and they’ve done it in both directions, both in terms of early lockdowns like in California or in terms of early openings like in Georgia. We obviously have to open up the country again and it’s obviously not going to be safe, and I think that there’s so much that we don’t know about the likelihood of a second wave and how deep it’s going to be and how that interacts with the existing capacity of the health system, that any opening will necessarily be very experimental. And therefore, in a sense, federalism is a good way of of doing that.
And in any event, the federal government doesn’t have the power to stop it. It didn’t have the power to stop the early shutdowns. I think its rhetoric on opening up is wrong, but Trump does not have absolute authority over the states in this matter, no matter how many times he’s tried to assert something like that.
The thing that worries me is whether, like I said, there is a kind of socially rational evaluation. If the people that believe in the seriousness of the epidemic are correct, then states that open up prematurely are basically going to be punished for that because they’ll see their infection rates rising.
But if they respond to that non-ideologically and look at the health data seriously and then make adjustments, I think that’s what we would hope for. Under current circumstances that’s not going to be something we can take for granted. The final thing I’d say is there really are certain functions that only the federal government can do. So ramping up national preparedness in terms of funding vaccine research, in terms of testing or making adequate levels of testing available, is something the government could put a lot of time and effort into. And that’s where I think the big failure has occurred over the last three months.
CD: Wonderful. Next we have Iulia Joja.
Iulia Joja: Hi, thank you. This is Iulia Joja from SAIS and Associate Professor at Georgetown. Professor Fukuyama, you talked a little bit earlier about the cognitive crisis the U.S. is facing and the right-wing narrative here in the context of the pandemic. I found that very interesting. Over the last few weeks in Europe and to a lesser extent in the United States, I have witnessed the opposite of the right-wing narrative, which is a compelling, very powerful, and interesting left-narrative: Western governments and media are controlling individuals and the population. They are pushing unnecessary measures and enacting disciplinary power in a Foucauldian way over us. This is of course a cognitive dissonance because mostly it targets the West, with everybody in this narrative citing Sweden as the way to go. But it’s actually too early for conclusions as some scientist show us. Can you comment on this left-wing narrative?
FF: Yeah, well, I think that it’s likely that that’s going to gain a lot of traction among a lot of people. This is what I was saying about long-term effects. Sometimes these interpretive narratives just take a while to emerge, but the more unhappy people are and the more confused government responses seem to be, the more traction they’re going to gain. So I would expect that something like this will emerge. I mean, if you listen to the narratives coming out of the American left in the primary campaign, a lot of the Sanders supporters, a lot of that stuff sounded pretty crazy to me but nonetheless it took hold among a lot of people.
Whether these types of interpretations will be symmetrically distributed between right and left, I don’t know. Up until now I think it’s really been the right that has been more guilty of this. But that’s the problem with our cognitive space right now, where a lot of these conspiratorial ways of thinking can gain a lot of traction, and, indeed, sometimes they’re right.
CDC: Seth Kaplan.
Seth Kaplan: Thank you. You’ve spoken a lot about the problems of polarization in institutions today and in your writing. You haven’t spoken as much about the changes in our society or the failure of some of our, I want to say, elite-driven policies to serve the needs of parts of our society. Would you like to comment on what ought to change so that more parts of our society feel included—and more parts of our society do not feel so much anger that they elect Trump?
FF: There’s a simple answer to that. I think that you need to increase the level of social protections by increasing taxes on people that actually have the means to pay for it, beginning with the health care system. It was completely crazy that the United States was the only rich country that did not have some kind of government-mandated universal healthcare system. Obama tried to create that in 2010 with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and he succeeded. But then that became the victim of partisan polarization because the Republicans then spent the next several years trying to dismantle Obamacare. But I think the crisis demonstrates the terrible consequences of not having such a universal healthcare system in place.
But I would say the following, and this is where the cognitive irrationality comes in: Even before the crisis, many white voters in the South who were among the biggest beneficiaries of the ACA continue to vote for Republican politicians who vowed to dismantle the ACA. So they were voting directly against their own health and economic self-interest. And that’s just one of many instances of the way in which this kind of cultural identity politics, the need to identify with the policies of your team, overrides any kind of individual rational self-interest. And that’s why I think that if the Democrats returned to power, they’re clearly going to campaign on health. That’s the number one issue. That’s what got them their House majority in 2018, and in the middle of a pandemic, that’s such an obvious no-brainer.
And they’re going to try to move in a direction that I would approve of, but is that going to then get the core Trump voters, these working-class people that actually don’t have health insurance? Is that going to make them wake up one morning and say, “Wow, the Democrats are really a great party. I’m going to vote for them the next time around”? I think it’s not obvious that that’s going to happen, or if it does happen, it’s going to take a very long time. It’s kind of a change in cultural affiliations. It’s not impossible because that’s really what happened after 1932 in the United States with the building of the New Deal coalition. But I don’t think it’s going to happen very easily.
CD: Bill Clifford?
Bill Clifford: Thanks very much for this excellent discussion. It seems to me that one of the potentially most dangerous periods for this country could be between the election and Inauguration Day. I think it’s imaginable that if Trump loses a close election, a whole host of things could happen. You’d have daily discourse, like we’ve had it on steroids, about how it’s just the latest hoax. There could be a spike in disease, a market meltdown, a foreign policy crisis, or any of those in combination. To what extent might norms be blasted even there, or to what extent are our institutions resilient?
FF: Well, your guess is as good as mine. I think that that in the short run probably the chief political danger is actually being able to hold a free and fair election that grants access to all voters and whose legitimacy is not contested. But I think there’s really very powerful forces that will stand in the way of that. I think my main hope is that the Democrats will do so well that it’s not going to be a close election, that it’ll be kind of a blowout, and it’ll be very hard to pursue this narrative that somehow the election was stolen.
But that could easily not happen. I think one of the things that worries me and a lot of other people is the issue of violence. You saw those pictures of people showing up in the Michigan State Capitol with semi-automatic weapons. Now, one of the things that’s actually quite striking about the last three and a half years is that there hasn’t been that much violence, despite the deep polarization and the kind of hatred that exist on both sides. If you compare that to things in my experience, like the late 60s and early 70s, when you had assassinations and riots and students getting shot on university campuses and this sort of thing, it is kind of remarkable that we haven’t seen much of that. But it seems to me right now, given the dry tinder that exists out there, it’s not hard to imagine scenarios in which you actually could spark that sort of thing.
You’ve got all these people showing up for a demonstration that are heavily armed and a firecracker goes off or something and then all of a sudden there’s a lot of shooting and people get killed. And then that begins its own dynamic of recrimination and the like. So I think there’s a lot to worry about in terms of people taking matters into their own hands, if they don’t feel that the election was a legitimate one.
CD: I’m afraid we’re at 11:59, a minute away from our hard stop. Frank, would you like to say anything in conclusion?
FF: I would say cheer up, because there really are a number of positive things that could come out of this crisis. The first thing is just a different president next year. That in itself would be a big achievement and step forward.
But there’s going to be a lot of work that still needs to be done. We’re not out of the woods yet.