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. Compared to the situation prevailing during the Trump years, the United States performed better in 2021 in policy areas addressing social inclusion, the integration of new immigrants, elementary education, family policy, environmental protection, and fiscal sustainability.
Serious damage to
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. 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 Trump years damaged U.S. democracy in key ways and the first year of the Biden administration proved reassuring, as the Democratic president moved away from the most toxic tactics of the Trump presidency.
The COVID-19 crisis has dominated U.S. politics since March 2020. During the last year of Trump’s presidency, the federal response to the pandemic proved both divisive and confusing, as President Trump made often obscuring and untrue statements about the nature of the public health threats, while launching overtly partisan attacks against Democrats in Congress and in the states, a situation that exacerbated coordination problems stemming from federalism. In this context, racial divisions also proved central as the COVID-19 crisis stressed once again the deep inequalities reflected in both the public health situation and the healthcare system. These divisions marked the 2020 presidential campaign, during which COVID-19 became a major issue. In the end, President Trump lost but his refusal to concede and his baseless claims of massive electoral fraud undermined U.S. democracy and the ongoing response to the pandemic.
Impaired international cooperation
On the international front, President Trump’s nationalistic approach to pandemic mitigation seriously weakened cooperation with the rest of the world. This is particularly the case of his decision to have the United States withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the middle of a global pandemic. By blaming China and the WHO for the crisis, President Trump attempted to deflect blame for the deeply flawed response of his administration to COVID-19.
Major shift in
discourse and policy
discourse and policy
The first year of the Biden presidency marked a major shift in political discourse and public policy clearly apparent in the ongoing federal response to the pandemic, which is more straightforward and predictable now than under President Trump. As for President Biden’s progressive policy agenda, it faces obstacles in Congress despite the fact that both chambers of Congress are now under Democratic control. This is the case in part because the tiny Democratic majority in the Senate gives veto power to a small number of moderate Democrats who have stood in the way of major reforms such as the Built Back Better Act, which has still not been enacted. Under the Biden presidency, the institutional weight of checks and balances remains as strong as in the recent past, including during the Obama administration, from which Biden and his team are constantly drawing lessons.