Kolkmann, Michael: A complete victory for the Democrats? The US Congressional elections on November 3, 2020.
The 2020 US elections ended with quite some success of the Democrats. They did not only bring a Democrat to the White House but managed to keep their majority in the House of Representatives; however, the widely expected “blue wave” of huge Democratic wins did not materialize. In the Senate, following the two special elections in Georgia, each party claims 50 seats. In case of a tie, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote. For the first time since President Barack Obama’s first years in office, Democrats can claim a “unified government” in Washington. The 2020 election was in many ways influenced by the COVID-19-pandemic. The opening session of the 117th Congress was overshadowed by the riot on Capitol Hill on January 6th, 2021 and by President Donald Trump’s second Impeachment trial. As always, the re-election rate of Congressional incumbents was remarkably high. The current Congress is once again much more diverse in terms of its membership than previous Congresses. It remains an interesting question whether the process of “parliamentarization” will continue. The results of the 2022 midterm election will mainly depend on substantial legislative accomplishments of the Biden Administration and its Congressional counterparts in the upcoming year and a half. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 223 – 244]
Horst, Patrick: The US Democratic primaries 2020: A throwback to the pre-2016 sys- tem of party controlled candidate selection?
The presidential primaries of 2016 were seen as proof that the parties had finally lost con- trol over the nomination of their presidential candidates. The new rules for the selection process benefited unconventional, populist candidates such as Trump or Sanders. In contrast, the 2020 Democratic primaries showed, as argued by some, that party insiders did have the power to impose the candidate of their choice after all. Such a conclusion could be premature. The Democratic contest, documented here from beginning to end, revealed many of the same problems that plagued the Republicans four years earlier. It was thanks to two exceptional factors alone that party insiders finally took the reins: the existentially felt need to beat Trump, and the impossibility of forcing the public to vote in large droves in the midst of the pandemic. Had these constraints not existed, most probably Sanders would have emerged victorious in the primaries. This leaves primary election reform on the agenda, for which some suggestions are made in conclusion. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 245 – 263]
Kornelius, Bernhard: The US presidential election on November 3, 2020: Trump’s defeat.
The 59th US presidential election took place on November 3, 2020. Four years after his spectacular success, Republican Donald Trump was voted out of office – only the eleventh President in US history to not be re-elected. Democrats and their candidate Joe Biden not only recaptured the White House in a politically and socially divided country. They also succeeded in defending their majority in the House of Representatives and in pushing the Senate to a stalemate. The 46th President of the United States led with seven million votes in the popular vote. After a tight race in particularly decisive states, his result in the Electoral College was similar to Trump’s in the 2016 election. But President Biden owes his victory only to a limited extent to his own strength. Although he unfolded more traction than the previous Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, it was also the Anti- Trump-mood that led to a sharp rise in voter turnout, a high share of absentee-voting, and finally the defeat of the incumbent President. This shift was primarily triggered by highly volatile groups of politically moderate and non-partisan voters as well as by those who did not vote in 2016. At the same time, voters showed high loyalty for Trump. Highly mobilized core voter groups in both camps dug in even further, and the polarization has hardened. Similar to the previous two changes in the Presidency, there is no substantial realignment in the electorate. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 264 – 288]
Adorf, Philipp: The Republican Party after the 2020 elections: After or in the middle of the Trump era?
Donald Trump’s loss in conjunction with the outcome of congressional elections has left the Republican Party entirely removed from the political levers of power in Washington, D.C. – a mere four years after they had obtained unified control of government at the federal level. What are the lessons Republicans can draw from these results? How can a President who engaged in open efforts to overturn a democratic election result continue to elicit a degree of support among the party’s rank-and-file that has made him the current favorite to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024? Explanations are found both in the 45th President’s governing record as well as in the composition of today’s Republican electorate, which largely subscribes to Donald Trump’s nativist populist worldview. The attitudes present among Republican voters were one of the key reasons why most Republican officials in Washington ultimately decided to at least tacitly support Trump’s anti-democratic lie of a “stolen election”. This may only have been a harbinger of the future threat Republicans pose to US democracy. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 289 – 313]
Siewert, Markus B. and Florian Böller: Building back better? An evaluation of US President Joseph R. Biden’s first hundred days in office.
Biden’s first hundred days in office were marked by significant policy-changes, for example in the areas of the COVID-19 crisis management, environmental and anti-discrimination policies. From the beginning, the new administration sought to highlight the contrast to its predecessor – in style, rhetoric, and policy. This seems to confirm a trend in US politics: The ideological pendulum keeps swinging. While Trump’s policies shifted towards the right, the pendulum under Biden is now swinging back to the political spectrum’s left. Yet, there are also several continuities. For example, regarding the increasing use of unilateral instruments of policy-making, in terms of national interests on the global stage, and in the area of immigration policies, where progressive campaign promises remain unfulfilled. Partisan politics also persist. The American Rescue Plan, Biden’s signature legislation during his first hundred days in office, could not attract bipartisan support. At the same time, tensions within the Democratic Party reveal frictions between progressives and moderates, which may shape the party’s course, in particular in view of slim majorities in the Senate. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 314 – 337]
Krause, Joachim: The Transatlantic Relations after the US elections of November 2020: Perspectives of rapprochement.
After Joseph R. Biden became President of the United States, transatlantic relations have a good chance to improve considerably. This article asks how much this relationship will develop over the coming years, both in its security and its economic dimension. The trans-atlantic partnership has always been held together by the common interest of all sides in sticking to and in reforming a rules-based international order. Until 1990, this mainly meant the US security guarantee against Russia and the leading role of the US (together with other G7 nations) in maintaining a global trade and financial system. After the end of the Cold War, the degree of cohesion has become less, but with the re-emergence of a Russian military threat and the rise of China, transatlantic cooperation is more relevant than ever. However, there are two trends working against deeper cooperation: nationalism and the “Make America Great” ideology in the US, and the tendencies of European states – notably Germany – to avoid taking sides in great power competition and to pursue an independent and rather mercantilist policy. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 338 – 357]
Jäger, Martin: The registration of parties and the need for procedural reform: The Ger- man 2021 federal election.
If a political organization is not yet established (i.e., represented in federal or regional parliaments), it needs to go through a formal application process, led by the federal returning officer and the federal election committee, to prove the sincerity of its participation in the election and its status as a political party. As documented here the preparation process for federal elections is based purely on habits and lacks legal security and transparency. As a remedy, the author suggests multiple measures. For example, the president of the federal statistical office could be officially nominated as federal returning officer, as has been common practice without legal basis for the last 100 years. Furthermore, it is recommended to reform the proportional representation of the established political parties in the federal election committee. The number of members could be increased to include experts with interdisciplinary expertise. The undefined process for the formal application of non-established political parties ought to be improved by providing a clearly defined framework for the information and documents that are to be handed in for the application. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 358 – 372]
Gawehns, Florian: “A more perfect Union”: On the prospects of democracy reform in the United States.
American democracy is facing a series of grave challenges. The post Trump era begins with a public debate over democracy reforms as possible remedies. What are the prospects for these institutional changes? The reforms discussed here – a new Voting Rights Act and the admission of new states to the Union among other things – face strong Republican resistance. Reforming Senate rules is therefore a key challenge for the Democratic Party in this Congress. It is, however, doubtful whether Democrats have the necessary votes to enact an extensive reform agenda, despite President Biden’s openness for reform. State-level reforms on voting rights, electoral systems, and gerrymandering are considerably more likely. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 408 – 424]
Kannenberg, Oliver: Democracy pushed aside? An inventory of the Serbian party system after the parliamentary election in 2020.
Serbia’s 2020 parliamentary election, held amid a pandemic and an opposition boycott, received an unusual amount of international attention. It marked the temporary nadir of Serbia’s democratic development after the fall of the autocrat Slobodan Milošević and, at the same time, the zenith of the rise of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) under Aleksandar Vučić. In the twenty years in between, various governments faced numerous domestic and external challenges that have hampered sustainable democratization of the state, of parties, and society. From candidate selection to the management and control of elections as well as the formation of parliamentary parties, ubiquitous party potentates control political deci- sion-making in Serbia. The explanation for supposed paradoxes, such as the population’s low confidence in political parties while party membership is high, lies in the close-meshed connections between state institutions, businesses, and the ruling parties. The population’s hopes for democratic change rest less in the divided opposition parties than in social and civic organizations. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 2, pp. 425 – 448]