Ian Bremmer is right to talk about an asterisk presidency…might it be 45*, not 46*?


Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer and his chairman Cliff Kupchan have put America’s looming era of the “asterisk presidency” at the top of their annual list of global risks.

“46*,” they say in reference to Joe Biden’s term starting 12 noon, Jan. 20, marks a doleful era, “when the occupant of the Oval Office is seen as illegitimate by” much of the country.

Click here to read the full analysis but if you don’t, the highlights are below.

The argument about 46* basically falls in the category of Donald Trump’s supposed vice-like grip on the core base of the Republican Party. Mr Bremmer and Mr Kupchan write that “Trump’s popularity extends well beyond his most vocal supporters” and a section of the “broader electoral coalition” he constructed in 2020 sees his “refusal to concede as a display of courage, not an assault on democratic norms…he will leave office as (by far) the most popular and influential figure in the GOP.”

They go on to say Mr Trump “will cast a long shadow, compelling Republican leaders to support him to avoid alienating his backers. For them, Biden will be #NotMyPresident and considered illegitimate”.

So, what do you think? Is that likely? Will America’s 46th president be 46*, a sorta, kinda, president, who won’t be accepted by a sizeable number of Americans and thereby unable to govern?

That analysis may have some merit today, roughly a fortnight before Mr Trump’s leaves the White House. But you have to wonder about the strength of Mr Trump’s footprint and voice once he is forced to cede the biggest megaphone in the world.

Two months, six months, eight months on, I’m not so sure Mr Trump, America’s 45th president, will be looked upon quite as favourably as the Eurasia Group analysis.

Remember, he’s been thrown out by voters after just one term, something that rarely happens to American presidents.

Second, he’s ignominiously ending his one-term presidency with threats, pleas, deranged conspiracy theories and actions that raise legal questions.

For the first time ever, 10 living US defense secretaries – both Republican and Democrat – have had to step in to publicly warn against involving the army in elections.

In a sign that American business knows the perils of tarnishing the country’s democratic lustre, companies are pushing Congress to confirm Mr Biden’s win and thereby oppose Mr Trump’s wild-eyed attempts to overturn the election.

And finally, there is something to be said for national character, stereotypes or not. The Japanese are polite. Indians argumentative. And so on. So, it’s reasonable to say Americans love their constitution and are wedded to rule of law. More or less. Rather more than less.

Consequently, it’s a moot point if most Americans will look kindly upon the machinations of a man who led them away from liberty, freedom and rule of law. Perhaps it’s 45* then. And it’s Mr Trump who will have had the “asterisk presidency”?