USA. In early January, the new congress rallied, both
chambers of which were dominated by Democrats after the
November election. The President of the House of
Representatives was elected Nancy Pelosi, who thus became
the highest ranking woman to date in the country's history.
Although the Democrats 'electoral victory was largely due
to dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, President George W.
Bush decided in January to expand troops' presence in Iraq
by more than 20,000 soldiers. The Democrats and some
Republicans protested loudly and the House of
Representatives passed a non-binding resolution criticizing
Later, both chambers of Congress decided to set up a
troop retreat as a condition for granting a request for
additional war grants from the president. According to the
proposal, the majority of all soldiers would be home by the
summer of 2008. Bush did not want to accept any timetable
for a withdrawal and stopped as expected with a veto.
CountryAAH, a new school massacre shook the country in April, when a
23-year-old student shot dead 32 people at the University of
Virginia Tech before taking his own life. The perpetrator
had had mental problems.
It was troublesome for the government when Vice President
Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff Lewis Libby was
convicted for the perpetration and aggravation of criminal
investigation. He was believed to have lied to a federal
prosecution jury in connection with a vexing tantrum about
revealing a CIA agent's identity. Libby was sentenced in
June to 2.5 years in prison and $ 250,000 in fines and
community service. President Bush later transformed the
sentence so that Libby escaped prison but not the other
parts of the sentence.
Bush also suffered a stinging defeat when Congress in
June voted down a new immigration law that he had strongly
advocated. Many Republicans opposed his president on the
issue. The law would have meant stricter border protection
but also a chance for an estimated 12 million illegal
immigrants to obtain a residence permit.
Another setback for Bush came in August when his
influential adviser Karl Rove announced that he would step
down. Rove, sometimes called "Bush's brain," was considered
to have played a crucial role behind the victories in the
2000 and 2004 presidential elections.
Shortly afterwards, controversial Minister of Justice
Alberto Gonzales also resigned. Bush had defended Gonzales
in the final, which, however, became a political burden. At
the beginning of the year, it was revealed that he had
agreed to eight federal prosecutors being fired in 2006 for
not being considered sufficiently loyal to President Bush.
Gonzales tangled in his own statements in congressional
hearings, but was eventually forced to admit that he knew
the dismissals. Gonzales was also strongly questioned for
calling international law prohibition of torture-like
interrogation methods "outrageous". In congressional
hearings, Gonzales denied that he knew that the federal
police FBI violated civil rights in the pursuit of
terrorists. It later emerged that the Ministry of Justice
has given a clear sign for the use of torture.
For new Justice Minister, Bush appointed former Judge
Michael Mukasey. The Senate approved the nomination by an
unusually tight margin. Mukasey was also criticized for
slipping into the question of interrogation methods; he
considered, for example. not that abusive drinking was
In September, Bush halted a bill that would give poor
children better access to health care. He thus opposed many
of his party mates; the proposal had been adopted by a large
majority in both chambers of Congress. Bush vetoed the
proposal, his third veto during the year, and the fourth
during his entire presidency. In addition to the veto
against Iraq's troop retreat schedule, Bush had twice
blocked proposals to allow public funding for stem cell
Violent fires ravaged California during a week in October
when nearly one million people were forced to leave their
homes. About ten people were killed and large areas were
During the year, the starting field cleared for the
presidential election in 2008. The electoral movement was in
full swing already early in the year, despite the fact that
the first primary elections were not expected until the
beginning of the election year. Eight men sought the
nomination for Republicans, and seven men and one woman
sought to become the Democrats candidate. The New York
senator and former presidential wife Hillary Clinton led
widely in national opinion polls among Democrats and also
had the largest campaign fund. Barack Obama, Illinois
senator, was the most serious challenger. Among Republicans,
New York's former mayor Rudy Giuliani had the greatest
support in national polls. Four other Republicans were among
those considered to have a chance of getting the party's
The United States is a federation of states. The states
have their own political system and separate
responsibilities. The federal states have formally the same
system as the federation. The local "president" - who is
also elected by a separate, general election - holds the
title of governor, and the state assemblies - except for
Nebraska, which has one chamber - are divided in a similar
way to Congress, with the Senate and a House of
A wide range of cases - not least crime, local business,
development plans, etc. - are being adopted and implemented
at the state level. The governors of the central industrial
states also have some national influence, and this also
applies to some extent to the mayors of big cities -
especially in cities like New York and Chicago.
But central federal authorities are becoming increasingly
important. Not least because of their right to regulate all
communication and trade between the states. In many
important areas, the various federal ministries and
directorates have extensive powers to set rules and
thresholds that also apply locally.
However, enforcing these rules is a difficult and
under-prioritized task, and ensuring that key decisions are
implemented. Various profit interests go towards sabotaging
such rules. The United States today therefore has good rules
in many areas - which just do not work effectively.
The party system in the United States has never been
particularly strong, and today it is in many ways collapsing
as a basis for elections and voter appeal. It is not least
commercial television that has contributed to this
development. It is appealing to superficially accept the man
- or the few women - who are posing, and the marketing is
directed by PR firms and other media specialists.
Parties in the United States have traditionally primarily
been electoral machines that gather around the task of
getting their candidates elected. Although there are major
differences between the two major parties - the Democrats
and the Republicans - both in terms of historical
background, social recruitment and in a number of political
cases, none of them are consecutive national parties, as we
know it from Europe. There are major political differences
between the state parties and between the parties'
candidates in the northwest states and those in the southern
states. A Republican senator from the Northwest is much more
"leftist" in his view - on both foreign and domestic policy
issues - than a Democratic senator from the southern states.
Still, the center of gravity of the Republican Party is
undoubtedly politically to the right, and Republican
candidates receive relatively more support from big finances
and leading business circles. Democrats' electoral base is
to a much greater extent the working class and the liberal
sections of the middle class, and the party's policy is more
actively reform-oriented - e.g. when it comes to social
care. Yet there are currently only minimal differences in
the policies of the two parties.
Choice and participation
The turnout is generally low and it is declining. The
lowest turnout was in 1942, when only 32.5% took part in the
House of Representatives election. In 1978, the percentage
was second lowest, 37%. It was even lower than in the 1974
election, which was largely marked by the aftermath and
rejection of politicians following the Watergate scandal.
Participation in the presidential election has been somewhat
higher, but it was also low in 1976 (54%). Jimmy Carter was
elected president with a vote of only 28% of those who had
the right to vote in the United States.
It is estimated today that the United States has about
270 million residents. The weakness of the censuses is that
they do not include the most resource-poor in North American
society. In 1970, it was estimated that statistics had
"lost" about 2.5% of those actually in the country and 7.7%
The large and composed population has been created
through a series of immigrations and migrations westward.
Since the 1960's, a new migration is taking place in the
United States. It goes south and southwest, away from the
pollution, overpopulation and crisis conditions of the old
metropolitan areas - or the so-called metropolitan areas.
288 metropolitan areas count in official North American
statistics. The migration is towards a better climate and
newer industry. Not least the large relatively new
electronics industries in Texas, Arizona and California.
The move is a fundamental element of North American
society and can help explain the low political participation
in the United States. Another element is the strong social
concentration that characterizes the US political leadership
team and the experts associated with the state