The twelve-month period under investigation here began with the 2018 midterm congressional elections that delivered a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives for the Congress that began in January, 2019.
In the first year of the newly elected Congress, with the House under Democratic control and the Senate under continued Republican control, legislative activity was essentially symbolic and designed to display party positions. In 2019, the Democratic House passed about 70 major bills, on subjects a variety of subjects including climate change, gun control, voting rights, minimum wage, equal pay, prescription drug prices and mental health. None of these bills were taken up by the Senate, which also refused to heed intelligence community warnings and thus act on legislation to protect the country’s election system against predicted Russian interference.
Economy strong, but
social policy declining
social policy declining
In terms of the SGI, the United States continues to receive high scores in some areas of long-term strength, including economic policy, labor market efficiency and innovation. Indeed, the U.S. economy continued to perform well throughout 2018. However, as a consequence of the policy agendas of the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, the United States performed worse throughout the period under review in those policy areas addressing social inclusion, the integration of new immigrants, elementary education, family policy, environmental protection and fiscal sustainability.
Democracy quality shows serious deficits
With respect to the quality of democracy, the United States continues to exhibit some strengths when it comes to ensuring generally equal political rights, fairness in candidate and party access to the ballot, and relatively balanced news media coverage. However, as evinced by the 2018 midterm elections, there are increasingly important deficits in several areas. Many Republican-controlled state governments have raised barriers to voter participation by, for example, introducing demands for multiple forms of identification that primarily affect black, Latino and lower-income citizens. Although both parties are more or less on par in terms of campaign funding resources, accountability with respect to campaign funding has suffered as a result of growing contributions from extremely wealthy individuals. The worst scores in this assessment – some dramatically lower than those during the Obama administration – are in the areas of governance and in “steering capability” in particular.
Trump scrutiny dominates political scene; impeachment runs into Senate blockade
American politics in 2019 was dominated not by policy issues, but by the investigations into President Trump and his actions. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that Trump and his campaign aides, on multiple occasions, had invited and encouraged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Although Mueller refrained from formally accusing the president of crimes, his findings made it entirely clear that Trump had on multiple occasions obstructed justice in trying to block the investigation. As the House was deliberating whether to proceed with impeachment, entirely new revelations demonstrated that Trump had withheld $400 million of military aid in order to force Ukraine to conduct an investigation into Trump’s possible 2020 Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden, clearly for the purpose of improving Trump’s re-election prospects. President Trump’s actions were widely condemned as an abuse of the power of his office which, by facilitating foreign interference in a U.S. election for his personal political benefit, were harmful to American national security interests. Within a few months, the House investigated the revelations extensively and in mid-December approved two articles of impeachment–calling for the president’s removal from office for his abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The impeachment (comparable to an indictment in a criminal trial) led to a January 2020 trial in the Senate, where the Republican majority refused to hear witness testimony or subpoena documents, holding firm against Trump’s removal.