Conflict and Leadership
Squeezing the Spring of American Policy: A Threat to US Stability?

The lack of deeply meaningful publications in the American media or analytical publications is a worrying sign. This suggests one of two things: either the crisis is superficial and will not have a profound impact, or that the American elites are unable to correctly diagnose their own situation, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.

On January 20, Joseph Biden was sworn in, becoming the 46th President of the United States. The Democrats perceive their victory in the presidential election as unconditional and reliable. At the same time, almost half of those who voted disagree with this. An attempt to implement the maximalist programme of the Democrats creates the risk of pushing the pendulum too far, so that it returns, full force, during the next political cycle. Perhaps with a new takeover of Congress?

There are many questions on the surface, the answers to which could dampen the severity of the crisis. How can the L-shaped irregularities in the counting of votes be explained? Why do long-dead citizens “participate” in the US elections? Why are the pogroms with fires and robberies under the slogan Black Lives Matter socially approved, while the protests in Washington are not? Why, after all that happened, did eight senators and 139 members of the House of Representatives vote against Biden’s approval as president? However, American analysts have not yet adequately analysed the popular uprisings in Washington on January 6 — there has only been a fierce inter-party struggle.

What is happening in terms of stability in the American political system, which, with its exemplary rules, norms and institutions, has hardly defeated the non-systemic outsider?
Donald Trump is a very specific American president. If we assess his presidency according to the method of the American researcher Fred Greenstein, we will see that Trump’s strength was mass communication, a specific style of thinking, and a political vision based on these features that captivated people. This allowed Trump to create a wave of support, get a short-term effect, get people involved, and get them to express their emotions.

At the same time, Trump’s weaknesses, according to Greenstein’s method, were his lack of emotional intelligence, inability to find consensus with opponents, and, most importantly, his lack of organisational skills. The peculiarity of Donald Trump as a leader is that he does not know how to create systems. In a way, he is the anti-Eisenhower who brought a military-like organisation to the White House and launched the full-scale work of the National Security Council.

And yet Trump, this unstructured, impulsive person who lives by his ego and personal brand, walks on the edge of the law, and makes decisions spontaneously — this person almost defeated the American political system.

It should be understood that one of the characteristics of the United States political system is that, internally, it is highly dynamic. In other words, the basic process for the system is an acute conflict. In the aftermath of the Cold War, partisan conflict deepened, beginning with the confrontation between Bill Clinton and the Republican leader in Congress, Newt Gringrich, who sabotaged White House policies. This became possible because the United States experienced fewer external constraints — such as confrontation with the USSR — that would otherwise prompt it to mobilise to achieve national goals.

Morality and Law
Power and Stability in America After COVID
James Andrew Lewis
COVID highlighted a significant change in American society, writes James Andrew Lewis, Senior Vice President and Director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The decades-long nuclear confrontation has firmly implanted the meme of existential catastrophe in the American psyche, the 9/11 attacks reinforced this, and the result, is that many America are now a much more risks averse society. COVID accelerated this.
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We can say that modern American elites are spoiled by satiety, relaxed by the absence of external threats, and therefore absorbed in an internal struggle. The elites and society are not ready for any kind of mobilisation; they are not united by common goals. The level of divergence in views on national priorities is the highest in a hundred years. In their struggle, elites constantly test the strength of the political system in the United States, apparently believing that this resource is unlimited.

In the United States, there is an exceptionally high degree of stability, but primarily because of its geographic distance from the sources of threats, and the absence of another centre of gravity nearby, which would enhance centrifugal tendencies.

On the economic plane, the January 6 crisis will have no consequences. Even the stock market barely reacted to the turmoil. The major indices were mostly up. It must be remembered that the American economy is largely global and is strongly out of sync with American politics. Investors are more concerned with the effects of the pandemic, the speed of vaccinations and the long-term priorities of the Biden administration regarding the environment, the finance sector and energy. The chances of his plans being implemented are higher now that the Democratic candidates have won the by-election to the Senate in Georgia.

The political consequences of the January 6 crisis will be greater.

Trump is still an anti-systemic man who arrived in the wake of disaffected people voting impulsively. Probably, he would have done better if he had not been so egocentric, and knew how to build long-term relationships and parallel political systems. These things never came to pass. Therefore, the conditions for a radical breakdown of the political system in the United States are not present.

Nonetheless, the live capture of the Capitol Building is a significant image of resistance to the system that will long be in demand among various pro-GOP groups. Impeachment does not threaten Trump — Democrats do not have the necessary majority in the Senate. However, Trump will face investigations now that his presidential term has ended. Trump will use them to his advantage to bolster his popularity — he will feel less constrained outside the office than as president.

Henry Kissinger prophetically said that every country is an experiment. The lack of deeply meaningful publications in the American media or analytical publications is a worrying sign. This suggests one of two things: either the crisis is superficial and will not have a profound impact, or that the American elites are unable to correctly diagnose their own situation.
Morality and Law
American Riots and the Theory of Revolution
Oleg Barabanov
The question of whether a revolt can turn into a revolution in the United States is, of course, provocative, but nevertheless, the recent history of civil protests in the USA makes this possibility quite plausible, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov. The publication of this article continues online collaboration between Valdai Club as part of its Think Tank project and the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI).
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.