2021 Politics Roundup: The biggest stories in US politics
13th of December 2021
2021 was a mesmerising and consequential year in US politics. Here are some of the biggest stories of the year summarised:
After a substantially controversial and polarising election, the United States of America sat on the precipice of total civil disunion and chaos with the streets of Washington boarded up in fears of attacks from protestors.
Hordes of disgruntled Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol building with deluded hopes of overturning the election result. The “deplorables” went to the streets to seeking white-washed revenge against the changing face of America and vengeance against a system they felt had long forgotten them.
Rioters occupied the building for several hours whilst senators fled for safety in the lower quarters of the Capitol Complex. Pipe bombs were later found but had failed to detonate. One hundred thirty-eight police officers were injured, and five people died.
The president failed to take accountability for the insurrection and would later be impeached for a historic second time.
After a successful run for the White House, Joe Biden was inaugurated with a minuscule crowd on Capitol Hill due to Covid-19 related restrictions.
His inauguration speech was solidarity focused but ushered in the themes of what the administration would ultimately represent. Across its 2411 words, the theme of “unity” featured the most. The incoming president would face many tough challenges: China, truth decay, mass unemployment – If Trump were Herbert Hoover, he would have to be Roosevelt.
Biden would immediately become the oldest sitting US president upon inauguration, at the steady age of seventy-eight. Kamala Harris also makes history as the first female Vice President of the United States.
Texas suffered a major power crisis, due to three severe winter storms sweeping across the state. This led to massive electric grid failure and the White House approving a major disaster declaration for all 254 counties.
Texas senator Ted Cruz (Republican) is rebuked by critics for choosing to vacation during this time. He later remarked his trip to Cancun was “obviously a mistake”.
The House of Representatives gave the green light to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a 220-212 vote on 4th March. Racial profiling at every level of law enforcement would be prohibited, and any form of chokehold outlawed at the federal level. The qualified immunity for officers’ systems is also overhauled. The bill receives no Republican votes.
On 6th March, the Senate voted 50-49 to approve the COVID-19 relief bill: the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The legislation features $1400 stimulus checks for Americans and amounts to a total of $1.9 trillion of government spending – the most ever in US history. Biden signed the act into law on 11th March, and it became an early victory for the administration. The bill, again, received no Republican votes.
In March, US authorities picked up almost 19,000 unaccompanied children at the southwest border, the highest monthly number on record. This comes following the Biden administration’s rolling back of many Trump-era immigration policies, such as the immediate expulsion of unaccompanied minors.
Vice President Harris receives the most flack for the humanitarian crisis, as she had been put in charge of the situation in February. Images circulate on social media of children being dropped from extraordinary heights over the border wall by traffickers and further perpetuate the idea of chaos at the US-Mexico border.
On June 7th and 8th, Kamala Harris travels to Guatemala and Mexico to help rectify the immigration situation with Presidents Alejandro Giammattei Falla and Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden attends the G7 summit in Cornwall on 8th June. Whilst the conference mostly centred around uniting western Europe against authoritarian regimes such as Russia (following the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny), talks of a global minimum corporation tax also prove constructive. The US applies pressure on countries such as Hungary and Ireland to increase their tax rate to 15% to create a fairer market environment.
Despite some early successes, the US has begun to trail other countries in vaccine uptake. By July, roughly 50% of the population is fully vaccinated, with growth in numbers slowing week on week. The new “delta” variant also proves problematic for America’s recovery from Covid.
The Biden administration pushes several incentives and mandates as a result, such as states providing $100 incentives for jabs and instructing federal workers to show proof of vaccination when coming into offices. Some of these measures prove unpopular and contribute to Biden’s now flagging approval rating.
The state of West Virginia also chooses to raffle off hunting rifles to vaccine recipients during this time.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces his resignation, effective two weeks later, following a state Attorney General report on his sexual misconduct. His fall from grace is significant considering his rise to mainstream stardom the year previous, during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. His concise and direct press conferences received widespread praise in contrast with the Trump administration’s haphazardness and had some even calling for Cuomo to run for president in 2024.
A year later, Cuomo resigns in disgrace. Democrat Kathy Hochul replaces him as governor.
On the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, the final US troops withdraw from Afghanistan. However, any sentimentality about the catastrophic event is completely clouded by the disastrous exit, which saw the Taliban recapturing the country within a few days.
A military embarrassment witnessed on the global stage; Biden’s poll rating reaches new lows. He received mass condemnation for his handling of the troop removal, with critics comparing the events to Saigon in 1975. Despite twenty years of US occupation, the wheel comes full circle for the region and is left just as unstable as when American troops first landed.
Also, this month saw new laws restricting abortion introduced in Texas. These limitations include removing abortion care beyond six weeks of pregnancy (and possibly earlier).
US coal and fuel prices have reached their highest level since 2009 as inflation continues to plague the rebounding economy. This has been driven by more robust electricity demand and a doubling of natural gas prices in 2021, leading some power generators to switch to fuel. High international prices have also propelled US coal exports.
The Department of Energy later announces a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help tackle rising prices.
World leaders attend the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Progress is made in critical areas such as cutting greenhouse emission gases and coal usage, but there is the noticeable absence of crucial superpowers China and Russia. Other global powers Iran and India, also choose not to attend.
Photos of Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson asleep at the conference also go viral.
EU and NATO allies get behind America’s assessment that Russia is preparing for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
This follows a significant escalation of US-Russia relations which sees the Biden administration directly warning the Kremlin of the ramifications for such an attack.
Debates around the consequential Roe v Wade ruling also resurface this month, following signals that the Supreme Court is preparing to overturn it as part of an ongoing legal battle with Mississippi lawmakers.