The beginning of a new year is a traditional time for pundits to test their mettle by forecasting future political events. My predictions will be less flashy than what most sites offer, but they’re also likely to be more accurate.
The beginning of a new year is a traditional time, among political commentators, for predicting the future. This task is often easier than one might think, especially when it comes to forecasting the outcomes of elections. Nevertheless, the internet is littered with the wrong predictions of even the most respectable pundits: you may remember how nearly everyone in the media, Karl Rove and Nate Silver included, thought that Donald Trump was going to lose back in 2016.
Accurate predictions rely on an understanding and acceptance of some basic facts: history isn’t linear, it usually moves either chaotically or in cycles, yesterday’s winners tend to rest on their laurels and become today’s losers, what can’t be sustained won’t be sustained, and proving your own righteousness to people who already like you isn’t what political victories are made of.
Also, the events of the upcoming year probably won’t be any more dramatic than those of any other year.
Granted, you won’t hear much of that perspective in the mainstream news, either right wing or left wing. People like to think that the present is a uniquely important time and that we’re all living just moments away from some sort of happening. Just what it is that will happen depends on who you ask: perhaps the President will be removed from office merely because one party doesn’t like him, or maybe America’s right-wingers will rise up en masse to make good on fifty years of talk about restoring the Constitution. Then again, the whole American experiment could just up and come to a fiery end under a rain of Iranian or North Korean warheads.
My predictions, on the other hand, will be less exciting. I refuse to fill the pages of my blog with talk of brokered conventions, unprecedented electoral landslides, sudden economic crashes, wars between nuclear powers, and other flashy events that don’t get around to happening in real life. But if you want a more mundane (hence more realistic) portrait of the future, then read on.
Normally, I would begin this post by evaluating last year’s predictions. But since I created Twilight Patriot in February of 2019, the current post is my first on this theme. Nonetheless, I must admit that if you look at my one serious attempt so far to foretell the future, my record is mixed.
Last March, I successfully predicted that the British parliament would find excuses to dodge multiple Brexit deadlines, and I explained this in terms of a larger trend, ongoing for a century or so, where the intelligentsia across the English-speaking world has exercised a newfound freedom to roundly ignore election outcomes, secure in the knowledge that spurning the voters will no longer spark civil unrest the way it did in the past.
What I didn’t expect is that the Tories would win again in the 2019 elections, with a bigger majority than they’ve had at any time since 1987.
Perhaps Brexit will still get scuppered. Donald Trump’s weasel Congress, even when it was officially controlled by his party, refused to pass most of his agenda; for all we know Boris Johnson’s new parliament will do the same thing. Even so, I think the odds are slightly in favor of an independent Britain by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile in the United States, Joe Biden is probably going to win the Democratic nomination for President. He’s a weak candidate, but he’s always held the lead in the polls, and none of the men or women running against him have shown any capacity to unite the progressive wing of the party.
Bernie Sanders comes close, but he has a big problem. Despite his voodoo economics, Bernie is ultimately a patriot who believes in his ideals and refuses to serve monied interests. The dirty secret of the Democratic party is that, despite all its talk about being the party of the poor, every policy it pursues is ultimately catering to the interests of affluent coastal liberals. And this class of people, which forms the spine of the American left, will make sure that Bernie Sanders doesn’t get the nomination in 2020, just like they made sure he didn’t get it four years ago.
Joe Biden will then lose the general election to Donald Trump. Actually, it’s a forgone conclusion that anyone the Democrats nominate will lose to Trump. History shows that it is very difficult to win against a party which has only been in the White House for four years. It has happened only once in the modern (post 1900) era, when Reagan beat Carter in 1980. (Other presidents who failed to get re-elected had just succeeded someone from their own party, i.e. Taft, Hoover, Ford, and Bush I).
Ronald Reagan, the one guy who did pull off a win under this adverse condition, did it by reaching out to forgotten middle Americans and convincing them that his party wouldn’t let them down the way the other party had. Today’s Democrats, on the other hand, seem to think that the key to success is to call the other side’s voters a bunch of racists. You don’t win elections by doing that.
The Republicans will keep the Senate, as nearly all of the seats they’re defending this year are in states which a Democrat has no realistic chance of winning. Also, they’re nearly certain to recover the Alabama seat which Doug Jones won by accident back in 2017.
Republicans will probably also take back the House of Representatives, as the party that wins the Presidential election tends to get the most votes down ballot as well. (The Democrats would have won the House in 2012 if the districts weren’t gerrymandered against them, a disadvantage which still exists today).
Nevertheless, the new Republican Congress will not build the wall, repeal Obamacare, or defund Planned Parenthood.
Officially, the US economy will probably grow somewhat in 2020. But if you replace the phoney consumer price index with an inflation estimate based on actual commodity prices, then America’s per-capita GDP will continue the downward trend that it’s been following since the beginning of the century.
Vladimir Putin will still be President of Russia at the end of the year, and Xi Jinping will still be President of China. Neither Russia nor China will go to war with the United States, nor will there be a war between the United States and Iran, or between Iran and Israel, as every one of those countries is led by a level-headed man who knows that he has nothing to gain from such a turn of events.
The protests in Hong Kong will eventually fizzle out. The Chinese government understands the commercial importance of Hong Kong, and will find a way to de-escalate the situation peacefully. Meanwhile, the western world will continue to ignore the much worse human rights abuses going on in Uyghuristan.
Nothing significant will come of Donald Trump’s trade war with China. Both sides know that America has lost too much of its domestic manufacturing capacity to function without cheap imports, so even though Trump may continue to throw a bone to his voters every now and then, he’ll be careful not to make any dents in the trade deficit.
The Yuan will continue to gain importance as an international currency, and the process of dedollarization will continue slowly but steadily throughout Eurasia. However, none of this will happen fast enough to threaten America’s trade dominance during the coming year.
The major country which I believe runs that largest risk of collapse in 2020 is Saudi Arabia. But I would have said the same thing last year. The odds of King Salman or his son Mohammad sitting on the Saudi throne on 31 December are still better than even money.
In conclusion: electoral cycles will keep cycling, steady trends will keep steadily trending, and both America and its rivals will do their best to avoid dramatic conflicts from which they have nothing to gain. Meanwhile, most Americans will remain indifferent to the serious threats that undermine their country’s long-term stability.
Despite its near-term placidity, 2020 will bring us one year closer to the end of the present phase of our national history, the one which is known as Decline and Fall. But because Decline and Fall is typically followed by a rebirth of some sort, and because I am keenly aware of the severe injustices of the present order, I do not choose to be despondent about what the future will bring.