• Transcript
  • Show Notes

Related Content: Listen to the bonus content for this episode here

On this week’s episode of Stay Tuned, “Our Next Move,” Preet is joined by chess grandmaster and human rights advocate Garry Kasparov to talk about the impending U.S. presidential election, President Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin, and how humor can be used to process dark political moments. 

In the Stay Tuned bonus, Kasparov discusses his work with the Renew Democracy Initiative and his faith in centrism. To listen, try the CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks and get access to the full archive of exclusive content, including the CAFE Insider podcast co-hosted by Preet and Anne Milgram. 

Sign up to receive the CAFE Brief, a weekly newsletter featuring analysis by Elie Honig, a weekly roundup of politically charged legal news, and historical lookbacks that help inform our current political challenges.

As always, tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 to leave a voicemail.

Stay Tuned with Preet is produced by CAFE Studios. 

Executive Producer: Tamara Sepper; Senior Editorial Producer: Adam Waller; Senior Audio Producer: David Tatasciore; Audio Producer: Matthew Billy; Editorial Producers: David Kurlander, Sam Ozer-Staton, and Noa Azulai.

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

INTERVIEW 

  • Kasparov’s first Stay Tuned appearance: “Putin, Pawns and Propaganda,” CAFE.com, 12/7/2017
  • Maddy French, “Chess champion Garry Kasparov granted Croatian citizenship,” The Guardian, 2/28/2014
  • Peter Doggers, “Kasparov To Make Chess960 Debut,” Chess.com, 8/24/2018
  • Masha Gessen, “Garry Kasparov Says We Are Living in Chaos, But Remains an Incorrigible Optimist,” The New Yorker, 12/4/2018

THE ELECTION

  • Kasparov Tweet on 2016 Election Eve, Twitter, 11/7/2016
  • Kasparov on Anderson Cooper 360, CNN, 10/27/2020
  • Garry Kasparov, “A Popular Front to Stop Trump,” New York Book Review, 1/28/2020
  • Anne Applebaum, Alexander Vindman, and Garry Kasparov, “Is American Democracy Dying?” Persuasion, 10/24/2020

TRUMP AND PUTIN

  • Garry Kasparov, “Russian democracy is a farce. Putin wants the same fate for America,” CNN, 7/5/20
  • Garry Kasparov, “The Helsinki summit marks a new low in the history of the U.S. presidency,” Washington Post, 7/17/2018
  • Jordain Carney, “Russia sanctions deal clears key Senate hurdle,” The Hill, 6/14/2017
  • “Senate Republicans break with Trump on Russia sanctions,” CNN, 1/16/2019
  • “Lesley Stahl: Trump said he bashes press to ‘demean’ and ‘discredit’ them,” CBS News, 5/23/2018

COVID-19

  • Garry Kasparov, “Trump is weakening America’s immune system,” CNN, 4/20/2020
  • Garry Kasparov, “We must break the fever: After this week, defeating Donald Trump is only more imperative,” New York Daily News, 10/3/2020
  • Kasparov Tweet on Russian Mask Mandate, Twitter, 10/27/2020
  • Jamie Ross, “Putin Orders New National Mask Mandate as Russia Sees Second COVID-19 Spike,” The Daily Beast, 10/27/2020

MOVING FORWARD

  • Garry Kasparov, “Garry Kasparov on the need to improve our politics with technology,” The Economist, 10/12/20
  • Nicholas Kristof, “To Beat Trump, Mock Him,” New York Times, 9/26/2020
  • Oleg Yeverov, “These popular Stalin jokes might have been the last words you said,” Russia Beyond, 6/21/2019
  • David Rotman, “We’re not prepared for the end of Moore’s Law,” MIT Technology Review, 2/24/2020
  • Felicia Ceban, “The productivity paradox,” The Strand, 9/29/2020
  • Elaina Plott, “Win or Lose, It’s Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” New York Times, 10/27/2020
  • Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene, “Scoop: Trump’s post-election execution list,” Axios, 10/25/2020
  • Aaron Blake, “A politically thorny split-screen of two of Trump’s Supreme Court justices,” Washington Post, 10/27/2020

Preet Bharara:

From CAFE, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.

Garry Kasparov:

He has been trying the same things for months. Always saying the US is turning the corner, to the virus disappearing, to a miracle cure, to a vaccine. But if you keep turning corners, you are actually going in circles.

Preet Bharara:

That’s Garry Kasparov. He’s perhaps the greatest chess player of all time. He’s also a human rights activist, an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and the chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to defend liberal democracies around the world. In December of 2017, Garry joined me on Stay Tuned to discuss his unusual journey from world chess champion to Russian dissident, to his life in the US as an exile. We also spoke at length about Vladimir Putin and the tactics that he used to sow chaos around the globe. So as we approach this incredibly important presidential election, I wanted to have Garry back on the program to discuss the state of American democracy and what we can expect in the days and weeks to come. Garry Kasparov, welcome back to the show.

Garry Kasparov:

Thanks for inviting me again, Preet.

Preet Bharara:

It’s been awhile. It’s been almost three years since you’ve been on, and it feels like yesterday.

Garry Kasparov:

I don’t know. The last few months, they just changed my assessment of time, because first time in many, many, not years, in many decades, I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, because COVID has changed our lives. Routine is no longer what it used to be. I never had so much time spent on the ground without flying and traveling since I was 12. I had only two trips this year.

Preet Bharara:

Just two. Back in the winter?

Garry Kasparov:

Yeah. One was in the winter. It’s before the pandemic. I went to Europe for two conferences. Had two appearances and keynotes. And then was another trip in June when I flew from New York to Croatia with my family, and we’re still staying here. It’s unlikely that we’ll move again this year.

Preet Bharara:

This might make some people who are less accomplished than you feel better, but do you sometimes forget what day it is?

Garry Kasparov:

Yes. I have to say that my wife very often reminds me about appointments and about birthdays, and especially this year, I discovered that for us, definitely for me, the time was always connected to a move. It’s like time and space, they were sort of interdependent. And since we’re no longer moving, all the days, it’s one gray color. Whether it’s Wednesday, whether it’s Thursday, whether it’s Friday, I mean, who cares, because we’re not going anywhere.

Preet Bharara:

Anywhere.

Garry Kasparov:

Yes. One day just is being replaced by another, and the calendar works just it’s all the same.

Preet Bharara:

Are you playing chess during this time?

Garry Kasparov:

Yeah. I always do a little bit of chess, and now spend so much time online. I even played Fischer random chess, so called 960chess with reshuffled pieces in the opening position. It’s organized by St. Louis Chess Club. Faced all the top players, including world champion. Did quite poorly, but I was quite happy that I could practice my chess and enjoy it. I’m an amateur now in chess. But yeah, I follow chess events, and it’s very difficult, I mean, not to look at the game of chess played online while you are online almost all day.

Preet Bharara:

Garry, I don’t know if you’re aware of this. We’re recording this on Wednesday, October 28th. Next week in the United States, there’s an election. Are you familiar? I don’t know, because you said, space and time, and you’re forgetting things.

Garry Kasparov:

No.

Preet Bharara:

There’s an election next week. Are you aware of this?

Garry Kasparov:

Yes, I am aware of this. Yes. Yeah. If there’s one event that everybody probably on the planet is aware of is elections in the United States. I keep writing about it on my social media. Yesterday, I was on Anderson Cooper on CNN. Also, I did few more interviews yesterday, job interviews. Everything now just [inaudible 00:04:40] elections. All the roads lead to Rome. Every geopolitical issue you discuss, what is Russia, Belarus, European Union, Asian affairs, war in Nagorno-Karabakh, it ends up with, okay, who will be in charge after November 3rd?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. I want to remind you of something you posted on social media the day before the election in 2016. I actually quote from you in my book. And you said the day before, ‘that nervous feeling you have about tomorrow, Americans, that’s democracy working. Unpredictable elections, what a luxury.’ And then after Trump won in a surprise victory, you wrote ‘Trump’s election is greatest proof of democracy. You don’t know the results in advance.’ Are you having that same feeling of nervousness?

Garry Kasparov:

Oh yeah, nervous, but it’s a different reason now. In 2016, I wanted to remind Americans about the priceless value of free elections. I think it was quite a disappointment that nearly 100 million Americans decided not to vote. Actually, this number could be greater than the votes received by Hillary or by Trump. If no vote was a candidate, it would have won a landslide victory in 2016. Hopefully, this year situation is changing.

Garry Kasparov:

But now I feel this nervousness because what we saw over the last four years, and you can definitely look at some of my tweets and comments made after Trump’s election, where I warn Americans about Trumpism, not just Trump, but Trumpism as a political style threatening the very foundation of American democracy, because as I warned Americans, most of these American institutions, actually all institutions, they have been relying on some kind of a code of honor on traditions, on political customs. People did things because everyone did it before, and they didn’t make certain things because nobody has done it before, and it was considered to be inconceivable that somebody could break these 200-plus-year tradition.

Garry Kasparov:

Trump actually, he was not shy to exploit all these loopholes and the weaknesses of the system, because his attitude was simple, sue me. As long as it’s not unconstitutional, I can move forward. Sometimes it could be even unconstitutional, but as long as you can have this cover of political protection provided to Trump by his GOP enablers in the house first and now in the Senate, he felt that he would be immune to any serious political risk. And now my nervousness is based on fear that if 2016 election proved or confirmed Trump’s political style to start the 2020 elections, if God forbid Trump wins could exonerate his political practices. And that might have a serious consequence for American democracy.

Garry Kasparov:

As much as I appreciated the surprising result of elections 2016 as a sign that democracy is alive, I’m afraid that Trump’s victory might take this surprise from new elections to come.

Preet Bharara:

You deal in probabilities, and you’re a very keen observer of American politics, even if you’re in Croatia at the moment. Do you dare to make any prediction about next week?

Garry Kasparov:

There are three options, as everybody says. Just one I think I don’t like that Trump wins, not the popular vote, but Electoral College, I think is highly unlikely, and I don’t think it’s something that we should be seriously afraid of. Though of course, we remember 2016. We understand that the polls may not be as accurate as we thought, but I think now these surprise element already had been incorporated in all these forecasts. I think the two most likely outcomes, one is that Biden wins landslide. And by the end of that night of November 3rd to November 4th, we’ll know the outcome, especially if he carries Arizona and Florida, two States, or at least one of them, two states where the absentee ballots and early votes are being counted as we speak. That’s the best outcome.

Garry Kasparov:

Another one is that it’s close. Biden’s still winning, but it’s not as convincing, and his victory will be hanging on the balance of the votes that will be counted later, as in many states where Republicans succeeded in blocking the beginning of the counting process until after polling stations close. That’s a likely outcome, and that’s the most dangerous one. Here we have actually two possible scenarios of this outcome. One is that Trump claims that he won the elections. I bet you he’ll do it no matter what. That’s the way he operates. But the question is whether the mood among his enablers in the Republican Party will be quite dark and they will see the results of the Senate races, for instance, and they’ll understand that supporting Trump and backing him in this ludicrous claims, it’s suicidal, and that’s a good outcome.

Garry Kasparov:

Or elections is close enough, like in 2016 or in year 2000, and Trump will have enough clouds with Republicans in Senate and with the judges at different levels on top, of course, in Supreme Court. And then the American democracy could be in real danger if not in jeopardy, because it will be very difficult to actually find some reliable sources, reliable institutions that could preserve the peaceful transfer of power.

Preet Bharara:

Garry, given the uphill battle for Trump in this election and his general lack of popularity with people beyond his base, are you surprised at the tactics he’s using to try to discredit mail-in voting? And is that what you would have expected from someone say in the Soviet Union?

Garry Kasparov:

First of all, when we’re talking about Trump, Preet, let’s agree that the word surprise, it’s a piece of antique. Yeah. You should not be surprised of Trump doing everything to win, because he doesn’t care about the cost. And that’s what happens with all autocrats. At the end of the day, he cares about the outcome. Winning is everything. Losing is a disaster. So how he wins, he doesn’t care. If he has to reshuffle the deck and just get all the aces in his sleeve, fine. I think people should stop be surprised, and they should stop saying, wow, no, it’s never happened before. Does he understand how bad it looks? It’s because this argument has been used for many years when I criticize Putin, and warned about Putin’s threat, not only to Russia or Russia neighbors, immediate neighbors, but to the rest of the world, including America.

Garry Kasparov:

Oh, it looks bad. No, nothing looks bad for people like Putin or Trump if they believe they can win by using this bad technique or these bad moves or something dishonest to stay afloat and to win. That’s why I believe that Trump will use every trick in the book and he will go beyond that. Our fantasy may not be sufficient to recognize all sorts of tricks and the dirty tricks that he will employ to win the battle. And of course, dirty campaign is, I mean, for him it’s like oxygen. His problem this time is that he’s campaigning against the person that is not as vulnerable, is not as a looming target as Hillary Clinton was. And that definitely makes Trump so, so angry.

Garry Kasparov:

He had two, probably more unfortunate factors to this campaign. One, as I mentioned, his opponent is not viewed by majority of Americans as someone who is corrupt, who is abrasive, condescending, so it doesn’t work against Biden. And second is of course Trump’s disastrous handling of COVID pandemics, destroyed his gains, as he thought in economy, that would be a decisive factor. That was his plan for his reelection. And being pushed to the ropes, he’s desperate and he’s willing to say whatever. Of course, if you’re a thief, you want to blame your opponent of stealing, and if you’re corrupt, you want to blame your opponent of being even more corrupt. But of course all the stories, they are just not landing on Biden the same way they could land on Hillary Clinton four years ago.

Preet Bharara:

Right. I guess it’s true Trump is capable of anything, and we shouldn’t be surprised. I guess the question is, we’ll go back in time in a moment, but as far as next week is concerned, when Trump pulls all these tricks and makes these statements about victory even though he may not have won, what is the American media supposed to do in fairness?

Garry Kasparov:

No. American media should hold its ground. I mean, you cannot simply report it for the sake of reporting. That’s one of the Trump’s advantages, that he’s playing this press neutrality, so there’s objectivity, so the fairness. He’s always having an upper hand because his lies and his horrible statements are given, in theory, the same value as the very decent comments from the opposite side. I think it should be a very clear message from the mainstream media that as long as the votes are being counted, all Trump claims should be disregarded as an attempt to steal elections. He should be viciously attacked. I think that the Democrats could probably even go to the courts just to have an injunction on any…

Garry Kasparov:

It’s more like a show, but it’s very important to demonstrate to Americans that election is not over until all votes have been counted. And remind them that there is a chance that Republicans may try to claim the victory before every vote cast by American citizen is counted, or to protract the agony, because I understand there’s a five-weeks period for election results to be certified. If the chaos rolls over, there is a chance that in some states, results will not be announced and then it goes to legislation. In some states, Republicans could hope to win elections by acclamation rather than by counting votes.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think that over the four years of the Trump presidency, the American press has gotten better at dealing with him? My recollection is that at the start, there was a lot of just mindless repetition of what the president said, and there’s still some of that, as you say. But more recently, there are mainstream press outlets who fact check the president, who use the word lie and lying, which there was a great debate about in the first couple of years of the presidency. How do you rate the press in America in dealing with the shenanigans of Donald Trump over the course of the four years?

Garry Kasparov:

If you’re asking about me rating the performance, I would say it came from F to probably B minus.

Preet Bharara:

Oh, that’s not bad. B minus, that’s very generous of you.

Garry Kasparov:

But four years, and look at the damage that Trump cost to American democracy, to American alliances around the world, to American people. Press is doing better, but I think now that the great test will be on the night of November 3rd. If the second outcome that I described, that’s this relatively close elections, Biden is winning. We all understand he’s winning, but it yet takes time to count all the votes. And Trump is mobilizing his support, rallying his support in all government branches, yeah, that would be the time to show that it’s not just media report, but it’s, we’ll need some kind of statesmanship, the sense of citizenry, because we even haven’t even spoken yet about the [inaudible 00:17:28] for Trump.

Garry Kasparov:

Four years ago, he received this help from Putin in form of brainwashing of American public or attacking some small pockets, crucial pockets of voters in battleground states using the data that was acquired by Cambridge Analytica from Facebook. They picked up the… Correctly actually, I believe that was the essence of Trump’s collusioning with Russians. They correctly picked up these hotspots on the electoral map and it worked.

Garry Kasparov:

This time, I don’t think Putin is bothering even just to work with groups of voters. It will be a direct attack on election infrastructure, and they will definitely help Trump to sow the discord and spread chaos by simply hacking the counting infrastructure online. Any sign of chaos will help Trump because it will create more uncertainty, and naturally, uncertainty is what Trump needs if he’s losing. That’s why press will have to take a stand and they will have to not just inform American public, but to educate the American public and to warn them about all these dangers, and to defend democracy. That might be the challenge that every media outlet, American outlet will be facing five years from now.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think that it is Putin’s intention to directly favor Trump, or merely to sow chaos? Or are those two things similar?

Garry Kasparov:

Putin’s intention is to survive, and his survival depends on his ability to spread chaos internationally because Russian economy is in free fall, pandemics numbers are horrible. Even official numbers are not good. But speaking to people back there in Russia or reading the Russian internet, you can understand that Russia is in terrible shape. Russian healthcare system has been ruined during 20 years of Putin’s rule. Putin needs foreign policy, call it adventure. He needs to continue his aggressive foreign policy, and his only chance to continue it and to stay afloat, not to be defeated decisively is to have friendly administration, friendly president.

Garry Kasparov:

Even without discussing reasons why Trump was over so friendly to Putin as to many other dictators, Putin knows that with Biden in the Oval Office, the situation will change quite dramatically, and America will be back at the world stage as a leader of the free world, and with American-led coalition that will include European nations that have also lost their patience with Putin’s aggressive acts and interference in their affairs, Putin will not be able to achieve his foreign policy goals. So Trump’s victory for Putin is the best chance to survive. And I think he will be helping Trump with every resource that he can mobilize, and unfortunately, I have to say that Putin is not shy to use this resources.

Preet Bharara:

That’s true. Can we go back to something you said a second ago, the issue of why it is that Trump is so kind rhetorically about Putin, never criticizes him, do you have an explanation for that? Do you think there might come a time where we will hear some revelations about why that is?

Garry Kasparov:

Oh, I sincerely hope so. I think it’s very important for us to understand what is the essence of this Trump, Putin friend relations. We know Trump is friendly to all dictators because he seems to envy them. It’s his autocratic mentality, he’s eager to implement the same techniques of governance as being used by Putin, Chinese Communist Party, North Korean dictator, Erdogan, you name it.

Preet Bharara:

Right. But what’s very odd about that, Garry, is he could go about his business and privately admire them and try to emulate them, but I don’t see how it is in his domestic political interest to be so friendly in his rhetoric to these dictators. Or is there some basis on what you think that maybe even his base likes that?

Garry Kasparov:

I don’t know about his base, but he doesn’t care. I think it’s his nature. Somehow, he’s very frank in his admiration to dictators. So he doesn’t believe he has to hide it. That’s how he leads his life. It always works for him. He’s telling you exactly what he’s going to do. He’s going to tell you that, I’m going to steal, I’m going to benefit from my positions. For him, the moment he is sitting at the same table with dictators, with authoritarian leaders, he feels much better and he cannot hide it. But still I would separate Putin from the pack. While he could be friendly with Erdogan’s of this world or with Xi Jinpings or Kim Jong-uns, but the relations with Putin I think are fundamentally different.

Garry Kasparov:

We saw it at many occasions, especially while in Helsinki when at the press conference, Trump, who is, I don’t know, he’s towering Putin, he’s so much taller, but it seemed to me that Putin looked at him as a giant looks at a dwarf. I met enough KGB officers in my life and I know the way, this grin on their face when they look at their assets. For some reasons, Putin believes Trump is his asset. We’ll find out more when Trump is out of the office and we’ll know more about his taxes and about who really owns Trump’s empire, and all of these Trump financial dealings will become public hopefully one day. And I have no doubt that we’ll see plenty of Russian traces from dealings. But now, without going too far, it’s very clear to me that Trump cannot escape his dependence on Putin, and that’s why he tried desperately to minimize the negative effects of American sanctions.

Garry Kasparov:

Donald Trump says, Oh, look, my administration did this. No, no, no. The sanctions happened not because of Trump, but despite of Trump, because sanctions imposed by the Senate had, I think 97% support since Republicans who are with Trump on domestic affairs, internationally tried to keep distance. While Democrats now support the sanctions, it’s almost unanimous. Trump knew that he couldn’t escape it, but he did absolutely everything in his power to downgrade the effect of the sanctions. Also just following Putin’s words and and Russian propaganda, they are all behind Trump. As much as they worked for Trump four years ago, but four years ago, they didn’t expect Trump to win, frankly speaking. I think the expectations were that Trump could spread chaos. He could badly damage Hillary Clinton, who they expected to be the next president, and maybe the Trump’s campaign against Hillary would make her weak and more open to deals with Russia just not to compromise her international position.

Garry Kasparov:

But this time, it’s not just expecting Trump to spread chaos. They want him to win. I’m not surprised finding out that the whole story spread by Giuliani has been fabricated by Russian intelligence.

Preet Bharara:

And you don’t think, just to repeat, that Trump’s general admiration for autocrats is sufficient explanation for his conduct and behavior towards Putin?

Garry Kasparov:

No. I think it’s not enough, because Putin in my view is separate from that pack. The way Trump talks to Putin, the way Trump deals with Russia and with Putin’s personal interests, it’s quite different from the way Trump has been dealing with other autocrats. And that’s why I think there’s something more there. It’s more nefarious. There are more secrets. There are the secrets that hopefully will be revealed when Trump is out of the office.

Preet Bharara:

Yesterday, it was reported that Putin ordered a national mask mandate because coronavirus cases were spiking. And then you tweeted the following, ‘Perhaps this is what will convince Trumpists that Putin really is a bad guy, or maybe it will convince them to wear masks. Good in either case.’ Is Trump wondering how my friend and mentor, Vladimir Putin, has issued a nationwide mask mandate, what do I do?

Garry Kasparov:

Look, the national mask mandate in Russia is a demonstration of utter failure of Putin’s regime to deal with pandemics. As you remember, they have been trumpeting their successes at early stage of the virus saying, it was minor, and Russian healthcare system was on top of that. Then they had to accept now that in some mega policies mainly in Moscow there were problems, but in summer, they were back to their unfounded optimism. And now they are dealing with this unmitigated disaster, and even official numbers are terrible. All stories about vaccine, it’s a miracle cure, though they have officially claimed that they have a vaccine, but they know that it’s not working. While Putin now declared this nationwide mask mandate, he’s hiding. He has been hiding since the very beginning of the pandemics, and that’s the best demonstration of the real situation on the ground in Russia. How bad it is, and so how helpless are Russian authorities by trying to not to eradicate it, but to contain its spread.

Preet Bharara:

You comment on the autocratic playbook. We didn’t have occasion to speak back in January or February, but if we had, and I had asked you the question, let’s suppose this pandemic becomes a very big deal and lots of people are at risk and lots of people begin dying, what is your prediction as to how Donald Trump who believes more in PR than in leadership, how would he conduct himself in the face of science, in the face of actual reports of deaths? Did he follow through and do what you would have predicted or something different?

Garry Kasparov:

No. There’s nothing surprising about Trump’s contempt for science, because science is a solid knowledge. Science is something that cannot be changed tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Trump’s algorithm is exactly the opposite. Trump believes that the true story is what he’s telling today. And the fact is that he is met by an opponent, in this case COVID, that cannot be talked away, cannot be destroyed through a pointed PR campaign, made him puzzled and then furious. He’s trying to pretend that it’s all just bad luck. It’s going to disappear next day. He has been trying the same things for months. Always saying the US is turning the corner to the virus disappearing, to a miracle cure, to a vaccine. But if you keep turning corners, you are actually going in circles.

Preet Bharara:

That’s very profound. If you keep turning corners, you’re going in circles.

Garry Kasparov:

That’s what’s happening with Trump, that it always worked with everything else. That’s why Trump is so now so angry. He’s enraged because his traditional tactics that worked so well, now actually backfiring both with COVID and with Joe Biden as his opponent.

Preet Bharara:

Are they really backfiring? I mean, the example you just gave reminds me of something else he does and seems to get away with, the number of times he has said, I have a health plan. It’s coming out in two weeks. That’s been going on for months and months and months. And then two weeks go by and some reporter says, what happened? He says, oh, it’s coming in two weeks. And yet he has a persistent base of support. It never leaves him.

Garry Kasparov:

Yes. Now, we’re not discussing healthcare. We’re talking about Trump’s all lock on his support, whether it’s 30, 35 percent, but it’s considerable portion of American population. Trump is not the reason these people believe in Trump. I think Trump is a symptom that they… It’s the American politics has been shifted from competitive democracy into tribal fights. Trump embodies, I want to say the right of American politics. Though I think Trump is, he’s now on the right side, but I’m afraid that you can equally have Trump on the far left. Trump embodies the like a dream politician for radicals on either side, someone who could actually move forward with their agenda, paying no respect and ignoring the rationale, and playing with some kind of religious feelings, not necessarily religious as a faith, but it’s belief that our side is always right.

Preet Bharara:

But we usually don’t think of radicals being 40% of the population, right? He has a persistent base of that number. You said the following as a theory a few weeks ago as to the persistence of the support, which I thought was interesting. You said, ‘We marvel at the steady 40% Trump support despite his cascade of failures and scandals. And it’s not just the people are locked in, and then you write, they relish the damage itself. They think it’s hurting people they don’t like more than it hurts them. Divisive and toxic i.e. Trumpism.’ What do you mean by that?

Garry Kasparov:

Absolutely. But I would divide this 40% into groups. I think there is a smaller group, the lawless group. This is the true radicals. That they want just the country to move their direction at any cost. Make it 10, 15 percent. This is let’s say less than one third of this 40%. But the rest is the, it’s the traditional Republicans. They’re enraged by other things, and also they move with the current. They just look at this noisy group and they look at the other side, and somehow they are convinced that the opposition, the opposite numbers on the Democratic side, they are absolute evil. And that creates this synergy. And that’s why this 40% just behind Trump. And as I say, probably one third, this is true believers, while the rest is just those who are going with this tide.

Garry Kasparov:

Naturally the right-wing media is plagued with many fears that have been raised by race throughout these protests and of course looting and unrest in the last several months, and it works. Again, it’s about tribalism. It’s about tribalism, and we all know well that we can find many people on the other side, on the left side that are equally distrustful are hateful about the opposition from the right. That’s what benefits Trump, the very climate that has been created. That’s where Trump thrives. That’s why it’s very important for us to move away from that, because even if we bit Trump, it’s not enough. We have to bit Trumpism as a philosophy, as the way of governing the country and rallying his supporters.

Preet Bharara:

Is it a philosophy or just a way of being?

Garry Kasparov:

Yeah. Maybe philosophy is-

Preet Bharara:

Is giving it too much credit, even though it’s powerful?

Garry Kasparov:

Giving too much credit, but somehow it’s a political philosophy, because it’s very savvy way of using the political landscape.

Preet Bharara:

Right. I guess nihilism is a philosophy, is it not?

Garry Kasparov:

Yes. Exactly. But Trump is aiming at the very foundation of American democracy that was based on traditions, and these traditions were deeply rooted in the documents designed by founding fathers. But of course they couldn’t foresee everything at the end of the 18th century. Those documents cannot be used as a Holy scripture to answer every question. That’s why it’s very dangerous just to hear these arguments today from some originalists, oh, it’s not unconstitutional. Of course it’s not unconstitutional because so many things are unconstitutional. The constitution couldn’t answer every question, but if we look at the spirit of the law, definitely the spirit of the law and the spirit of American democracy has been in great danger. Every day Trump is on campaign trail, and if God forbid he stays in the office for four more years, the spirit could be gone.

Preet Bharara:

I’m want to talk a little bit more about the difference between Trump and Trumpism, because you pointed something out about Trump, and I don’t know if it’s a feature of the ‘philosophy’ or just about him that’s unique. There are other people who are demagogues or other people who aspire to be autocrats, who trample on institutions and norms and everything else. The difference with Trump as you point out is he tells you exactly what he’s going to do. He says, I’m going to steal. He says, I’m going to fire people. He says, he’s going to do all these things.

Preet Bharara:

I’ll give you an example that was brought back to attention in the last week when he walked out on that interview with Leslie Stahl at CBS. He said to Leslie Stahl four or five years ago, he said to her, “You know why I do it,” meaning attack the press, he said, “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” He gives you the playbook. There’s not a lot of hide the tactics here. Do you think in the future someone who wants to walk in the footsteps of Donald Trump will be like that? It seems to me that it’s a unique thing in a politician to tell you he wants to obstruct as he’s trying to obstruct. And these other people who may follow in his footsteps, I think may have some of the other tendencies he has. But how odd is it that he forecasts all of it in advance? Is that unique or not? Because I don’t think Putin does that, does he?

Garry Kasparov:

No. But Putin rules Russia. It’s a very different country. Trump had the most difficult task of all because he has been trying to impose this autocratic style and methods in the country that enjoyed democracy for nearly 250 years. The country that cherishes individual freedoms, and was built, the institutions of this country had been built on the idea of separation of powers, of checks and balances. And Trump recognized that the way to accomplish it, it’s to make him immune to free press. That’s why he attacked free press and he keeps attacking free press, because as long as he can split the country, as long as he can have us versus them, he can succeed in pushing against the fundamental ideas behind American democracy.

Garry Kasparov:

But while Trump is unique since we never seen any Trump-like politician before, he’s also symptom because Trump would have never succeeded in 2016 if conditions were not ripe, because the country already had this very bitter partisanship. We all understand that nominating Hillary Clinton in 2016, it definitely helped Trump immensely. I have no doubt that Joe Biden four years ago would have won handily against Trump. So Trump needed someone who had a negative rating of nearly 55% or 60% to win elections while his negative rating was even higher.

Preet Bharara:

What are some ways you deal with this? And I guess we’ll have a better idea of who we’re going to be dealing with in the future. You and I, before we started taping were discussing a piece by Nicholas Kristof, where he talks about the power of humor in resisting autocrats. He writes among other things, ‘Shaking one’s fist at a leader doesn’t win people over as much as making that leader a laughingstock.’ And then he gives examples from other protest movements around the world. What do you make of that idea that in some ways you can resist autocratic movements and leaders with humor?

Garry Kasparov:

Look, you’re asking someone who was born and raised in the Soviet Union. We knew that humor, we call it kitchen humor because nobody could talk about it publicly on the streets, this humor was our only way to reflect the awful reality of communist Russia. The idea that humor is something that helps us to deal with this reality and to exchange our views, people like me, we were fed with mother’s milk. I think it’s all these comments, they’re over simplistic, because Americans are learning about this humor to become part of the political campaign, but it’s still a different kind of humor because it’s on television. You can have all these shows, and Saturday Live Show, for instance, or Bill Maher, or just many others, you name them. Their name is legion on American TV, on radio, online, of course. But I’m talking about more subtle kind of humor that is just, it’s points at the very core problem of the regime.

Garry Kasparov:

I mean, I can recall the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jokes in the Soviet Union. One of them is just, for instance, in the school or in the college, they’re debating why Napoleon failed to return to power in 1815. And the answer is he failed because he didn’t have newspaper Pravda. If he had a Pravda newspaper, nobody would have learned that he lost the battle at Waterloo. Again, it’s just we already knew that the propaganda could do a good job by brainwashing people. Now with social media, it could create miracles. This is one of the biggest issues, how we find way to use our technology, the technology invented in the free world, the technology that helps us to communicate and just to change information, to do many great things, how we can use this technology to advance democracy and not democracy to be challenged and destroyed by undemocratic forces that are quite handy with using social media to undermine our democratic freedom.

Preet Bharara:

I’m not sure how you do that. I mean, technology, one form of new technology is social media, Facebook, Twitter, and those platforms are right in the crosshairs of the debate where I think people of good faith thought that those outlets would help a lot of people, not just in America, but around the world to engage in the free exchange of ideas and for democratic impulses to flourish. And we see the opposite, right? Because you can so much miss truth if they’re not monitored. You think it’s possible to fix that?

Garry Kasparov:

Look, I think it’s possible, but we have to acknowledge the problem first. And it’s just we’re very slow acknowledging it. In technology, you’re the Moore’s law. And on the side of bureaucracy, stating solutions, you have a Parkinson law.

Preet Bharara:

Moore’s law, if I recall correctly-

Garry Kasparov:

Is steady double [inaudible 00:41:10].

Preet Bharara:

… is the processing power of a chip doubles every 18 months.

Garry Kasparov:

Yeah. Exactly. You can call this Moore’s law for technology. You have more and more technology that helps us to communicate faster, more effectively, but it creates a very different space, and people expect governments to respond also quickly. But the government’s response is based on Parkinson law. So you have more and more bureaucracy layers to respond to new problems. Those are just the two opposite trends. And that’s why people are losing their faith in government’s ability to deal with these problems. Obviously, it opens doors for populists who are saying, oh, the old form of government is just obsolete. It’s not working. Forget about it. Let’s find the direct communication. That’s what Trump accomplished with his Twitter. Now I talk to you guys. We don’t need all the institutions of representative democracy, because they’re no longer capable of meeting your needs and demands on time.

Garry Kasparov:

A couple of weeks ago, I had my article in The Economist, and I talked about these challenges, and I think it’s very important conversation, maybe the most important one we should have after November 3rd, of course. How can we mobilize new technology to help us adjusting the traditional democratic institutions build on the documents designed by founding fathers to the challenges of the 21st century? One of the ideas that I fancy is to look for new coalitions that one can create at the local level, because we know that people are losing their radicalism if you downgrade the issues from geopolitics to nationwide political agenda, and then to the local. People who live in the same neighborhood, they are more likely to open for negotiation, looking for consensus, and being less radical, even if they have different views about American foreign policy. It’s a long and painful process. Unfortunately, no decision can satisfy people who are looking for immediate answers, but that’s I believe the way to go. We have to defuse the [inaudible 00:43:20] radicalism, these minefields that benefit Trump and his potential followers.

Preet Bharara:

Is the opposite of radicalism, centrism?

Garry Kasparov:

Centrism sounds a bit dull.

Preet Bharara:

I was going to say that. I mean, is part of the problem in modern society where we have social media and video games and constant need of stimulation? Is the main problem not one of ideology with centrism, but of dullness?

Garry Kasparov:

Yeah. But it says why it’s dullness. You can make it more exciting with new challenges. I think it’s not just about dullness of centrism, I think it’s about our loss of a future target. What do we desire? What do we expect to achieve? It’s just humanity always move forward by having great goals, exploration, science, breakthrough innovations. American nation that celebrated 51 years ago the landing on the moon, last year was ecstatic about new iPhone, but Apollo 11 is not iPhone 11. It’s very important for us to recover the spirit of innovations and exploration. We need to move the nation and the world that could follow to new heights or to new depths if we’re talking about exploration of the oceans. We have Elon Musk, but he’s virtually alone in just doing these great things.

Garry Kasparov:

I think that’s the way to energize people. As long as we don’t have it, so people are just, they’re consumed with this routine, and it’s so easy now to be hijacked by Trumps of this world because they attack the center. They attack the mainstream politics as being dull and boring and unattractive. And also at a time of social media, the numbers in the middle, and they’re still dominant. I still believe more Americans are just they’re comfortable with being in the middle, but when you have 10, 15 percent on both sides using social media and being so vocal, aggressive and rallying a relatively small, but aggressive and noisy crowds behind them, it creates an illusion that they represent the country. They do not.

Preet Bharara:

Right. I have to ask you this before we go, contemplate a Trump victory, whether it’s close or not, what does that mean for America, paint the picture, and what does it mean for America’s place in the world if Trump is president for another four years? I note the long pause.

Garry Kasparov:

Yeah. It’s a long pause. Did you say Trump president for four more years?

Preet Bharara:

I did.

Garry Kasparov:

Okay. I’m not sure it’s four more years because there are younger Trumps. So it might be more than four years of President Trump because in the next four years, Trump will succeed in ruining the checks and balances system in the United States. He will take full control of GOP, of course. That to say it will be Trump’s party. Forget about Lincoln, Reagan and other great Republican presidents. And having this machine behind him, he will be able to move American political life away from traditional, democratic competition. As we saw during his first four years, he will be very consistent in replacing key members of us agencies.

Preet Bharara:

Oh yeah. The FBI director, the CIA director already reportedly on the chopping block, right?

Garry Kasparov:

Absolutely. No, no, no. It’s not enough to be neutral. It will be only Trump loyalists. You remember how many people on the GOP side said, okay, Trump is novice. He may be too impulsive, but look, we have General McMaster, General Mattis. We have General Kelly. They will be able to contain Trump’s negative energy. So where are these guys? The way Trump pushed for Amy Barrett and the way the Republicans accommodated him tells you that he will not be shy to pack all branches of government with his loyalists. And I think by the way, that was a big problem, a big mistake by Democrats, the way they handled Kavanaugh and Barrett, they talked about everything, about sexual scandal, about health care and about Roe v. Wade, it’s important, but the problem with these two, they’re Trump’s loyalists and they didn’t even hide it.

Garry Kasparov:

It’s the first time in my memory we have the Supreme Court judges that were not shy of playing in the hands of the president who appointed them. The first thing Amy Barret did, she participated in Trump’s rally. Oh, it’s accidental, but it’s a fact. I think that the next four years could be, I don’t want to say graveyard of American democracy, but American democracy will have to do so much to survive. I think the divide of American society will be widened. Trump will enjoy it, and I think it might lead to dramatic conflicts between blue states and Trump’s administration.

Garry Kasparov:

As for America’s status in the world, it will be further downgraded. America will no longer play a role because the way America is acting now, it’s not typical because Trump’s interests very often is replacing American interests. In the next four years, it will be a banana republic with nuclear weapon and massive economy. But Trump’s interest will be a dominant factor of US foreign politics. American allies in Europe will be definitely looking for the other directions to survive in this world. I feel very uncomfortable by spending the last minutes of our conversation painting this dystopian future.

Preet Bharara:

Well, I’m going to make you feel better because my next question is the reverse. Now paint the picture of what happens, how much damage can be undone if Biden wins. Let’s assume for this hypothetical to make you feel better that he wins by a large margin.

Garry Kasparov:

It will be important because it’s not about beating Trump, as I already said, but beating Trumpism. Trumpism as let’s not argue about what philosophy. Beaten convincingly, so hopefully it will help America to revive its normal political competition, and it might have a good effect with what’s left of the Republican party. My belief is that the real job begins on the next day because it’s not just about Trump, Biden elections. It’s not about Biden winning and doing many things that will help us to reverse the negative effect of Trump’s actions.

Garry Kasparov:

Naturally, it will be felt immediately in foreign politics. American allies will be reassured that America is there and America is back to normalcy, but it’s also important to understand how we can manage the extremist influence in both major political parties. I think that it will lead us to gradual reform of the current political system, because we already know that many Republicans [inaudible 00:50:41] conservatives, they departed Republican party and now are actively supporting Biden. I think these people will be looking for a new home.

Garry Kasparov:

There might be eventually a conflict within Democratic party because I can hardly imagine what brings together moderate Democrats like Joe Biden, for instance, and Bernie Sanders’ followers. Many of them are very reluctant, by the way, to vote for Biden even today. It’s hard work. It’s not going to happen overnight. I think it’s very important to remember that voting for Biden on November 3rd or earlier, and even celebrating his victory should not make us complacent. Using the chess analogy, if your king is under a threat of being made into moves, you have to worry about the safety of the king. You have to protect it, because otherwise, the game is over, and that for me could be a metaphor of Trump’s victory.

Garry Kasparov:

But even if you’re succeeding in defending your king, you still have to make sure that in the long run, in the end game, you can win the game. And it means that you have to think about more important factors, positional factors like pawn structure, activity of your pieces, control of the center and so on. That’s what will be in our agenda after November 3rd as we expect common sense and historical optimism will win

Preet Bharara:

Garry Kasparov, thanks again for joining us. I hope to talk to you on the other side of the election.

Garry Kasparov:

Yeah. Absolutely. I will be delighted. Hopefully, we’ll talk while raising the glasses.

Preet Bharara:

I hope so. Thanks, Garry.

Garry Kasparov:

Thank you. Thank you, please. Okay. Bye-bye.

Preet Bharara:

My conversation with Garry Kasparov continues for members of the CAFE Insider Community. To try out the membership free for two weeks, head to cafe.com/insider. Again, that’s cafe.com/insider. Folks, here we are. The election is not upon us. The end of the election is upon us. I don’t have anything particularly profound to say this last opportunity to speak to all of you before the November 3rd election day. Mostly, I just want to commiserate, maybe tell you how I’m feeling. I’m anxious like a lot of you are. Last night at about 11:30, I posted a simple tweet asking you guys hanging in there. And I got thousands of responses. The tweet has been viewed over a million times, which to me kind of says it all. If you’re feeling anxious, you’re feeling stressed out, you’re feeling concerned, you don’t know what the future holds, you’re not alone.

Preet Bharara:

Part of my living is trying to be balanced and calm and as neutral as possible. I don’t have many of those feelings at this moment. I’m as nervous and anxious as the rest of you given what’s at stake in this election. By the way, the interview you just heard with Garry Kasparov has not made me more calm as he points out very eloquently what the stakes are if Donald Trump is reelected. So it’s an important election more so than I can say in the Twitter feed, more so than I can say at the end of the podcast.

Preet Bharara:

I remember the last time voting in an election that I thought was incredibly important and perhaps transformative, and that was in 2008. My family and I were living in Bethesda, Maryland at the time, and all of my kids who were too young to vote, far too young to vote, they came here with us. We wanted them to see what voting was like. I think I’ve mentioned this before. We went into the line, voted for the first black president, and I remember there was a feeling of lightness and joy in casting that vote. I remember saying to my daughter who at the time was seven that it didn’t matter to me who she voted for in the future. But when she was of age to be able to cast a ballot, the important thing was that she vote. And she said to me, because she was precocious, she said, “Daddy, do I have to vote for a Democrat?” I said, “No, you don’t. You can vote for whoever you want just as long as you vote.”

Preet Bharara:

Fast forward to this past weekend, where early voting for the first time was available in New York state, and my daughter now 19 has become fairly politically active herself. She happens to be interning for grassroots political organization and has been very, very excited to vote for the first time in a presidential election. I wanted to vote on the first day early voting was available, this past Saturday, and my daughter who has been doing college online because such as life now had plans with her friends on Saturday, so we couldn’t go the first day, so we went the second day. My wife and my daughter and I stood in line for about a couple of hours before we could cast our vote, and it was very different from 2008. I think it’s an even more important vote, it’s an even more important election, but it didn’t feel light and it didn’t feel joyous. It felt kind of somber, and people in line looked somber too.

Preet Bharara:

I’m not going to exhort you all here to vote. I think you know that at this point, and you know that it’s important to have a plan, and you know that it’s important to get your friends to vote and your family members to vote, and for making sure that they have plans.

Preet Bharara:

The last thing I’m going to leave you with is a memory that I have from before the 2016 election. Some days before election day in 2016, my youngest son who was then 11, who had heard me use this phrase in speeches and in other contexts asked me the question. He said, “Daddy, is America the greatest country on earth?” And I didn’t hesitate. And I responded, “Yeah. America is the greatest country on earth.” And then he had a follow-up question, which was, “Daddy, if Donald Trump gets elected, will we still be the greatest country on earth?” And I said without hesitation, and I looked him in the eye and I said, “Yes.” And I repeated the sentence. I said, “Even if Donald Trump wins, America is great and the best country on earth.” He seemed satisfied by that, and I meant that.

Preet Bharara:

Now, he has not yet asked me that question this time around in the days leading up to the 2020 election. And if he asks me the question, if Donald Trump gets reelected, will America still be the best and greatest country on earth? I might hesitate to answer that question. I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that all the good people who listen here and who have voted, even if their votes are not enough to replace Donald Trump and members of the press and brave politicians and activists and people who care about the values that are important in this country, I’d like to think that all of their combined efforts, even in the second Trump term will keep this country as great as it has been in the past and true to its values and its standards and its finest traditions, but I’m not sure, I’m really not.

Preet Bharara:

I do have confidence that we’ll get through it as people who love our country no matter what happens after the election, but I am worried that the country will be fundamentally changed and not for the better. So it is my fervent hope and wish that when next I speak to you from the basement of my home into my podcast microphone that it will be to celebrate good news. Until then, hang in there.

Preet Bharara:

Well, that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guest, Garry Kasparov. If you like what we do, rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news, politics and justice. Tweet them to me at Preet Bharara with #askPreet, or you can call and leave me a message at (669) 247-7338. That’s (669) 24 Preet. Or you can send an email to [email protected] Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE Studios. Your host is Preet Bharara. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior producer is Adam Waller. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore, and the CAFE team is Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Sam Ozer-Staton, Noa Azulai, Nat Wiener, Jake Kaplan, Calvin Lord, Geoff Isenman, Chris Boylan, Sean Walsh and Margot Malley. Our music is by Andrew Durst. I’m Preet Bharara. Stay tuned.

 

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