The end of any year provides the opportunity to reflect on where we are and where we’re going. Here are a few random thoughts that may spur some of your own:
o As with most revolutions, the one that is currently unfolding against sexual abuse may run a destructive course before it achieves its goal of freeing women from victimization.
Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” comes to mind with respect to the current revolution against sexual abuse. The guillotine of this revolution is the careers of those accused, and it falls quickly on those who acknowledge their transgressions. But did Al Franken really deserve to be damned as much as Harvey Weinstein was? Yes, they all may be guilty of some form of abusive conduct, but even homicide crimes vary in terms of degree, as do the punishments exacted for those guilty of the various forms (First and Second Degree Murder, Voluntary, Involuntary, and Motor-vehicular Manslaughter).
o North Korea has become the mouse that can roar.
By establishing its ability to launch nuclear armed missiles that can strike the United States (and any other part of the world), the regime of Kim Jong-un will soon secure its permanent existence. The country may be a mess, with its masses living in abject poverty and lacking any of the basic freedoms of modern civilization, but it will endure and ultimately be as much a part of the world community as it wants to be. Kim has proven that if you refuse to negotiate and just stick to your program, once you are able to start a nuclear war (even one you would ultimately lose) no one messes with you.
o ISIS is gone and it is here to stay.
ISIS has been largely subdued, if not defeated militarily. The caliphate is all but eradicated. The leaders are trying to maintain a semblance of a geographic presence in parts of the Middle East and North Africa, but the days of governing large swaths of territory are history. But ISIS is here to stay as a generator of terror and as an identity for angry, disenchanted, zealously misguided Muslims who have learned, and are learning through social media messages, that the fight still continues as long as anyone chooses to carry it on. And so, even though the battlefields are largely bereft of soldiers, the streets are the new zones of danger and lone wolves are the new threat. ISIS has been killed, but its ghost is monstrous.
o American football is as popular as any sport in American history has ever been, and it is in a death spiral.
The NFL is the reigning king of American sports. It is responsible for more sports advertising than all the other sports combined. It occupies far more time on Sundays in the fall than do church services in the lives of most Americans, and its Super Bowl is the biggest (by far) television event of the year, with advertisers paying over one million bucks for a 30-second ad. But the NFL, and all of American-style football, is killing itself by maintaining the level of violence it contains and promotes. As more former players develop brain disease and die prematurely, as more current players are severely injured every week, and as more reports of the long term adverse effects on brain and body become common knowledge, football is going to lose its popularity. It may take a while (my guess would be 25 years), but football will be replaced by something else as America’s pastime.
o Marijuana is about to replace tobacco as the inhaled drug of choice in social settings.
Smoking is now just about illegal in many parts of the country. At least that is how smokers are made to feel when they have to secret themselves in dark alleys or in secluded spaces to light up a Marlboro. But all that clean air may be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future as marijuana, the “safe and healthy alternative,” gains popular acceptance in our culture. The laws are already changing and its open use in public will be the next step. No one smokes in a social setting anymore, but soon many will be toking in those same settings.
o The Republican party is now the party of Donald Trump.
He has intimidated those who serve in Congress, and his base has done the same to those at the local level. The result is that the Republican Party is now in the process of being completely remade in the image of Donald Trump. As unpopular as he is to the majority of Americans, he is immensely popular to his base, and that base now controls the Party. Trump has, in just one year, transformed the GOP into a mix of xenophobic, racist, anti-Muslim, anti-government outliers who will do whatever Trump decides will maintain his grip on the base that elected him. The party still looks conservative, but this is a different kind of conservatism, one that Ronald Reagan would not have recognized.
o The Democrats will soon become Ike’s Republican party and a new third party will replace it on the left.
The Democrats are adrift in the age of Trump, but they, too, will ultimately succumb to the influence he maintains on the media and the emerging identity of the country. As a result, it will move inexorably to the right, nominating individuals who would have been comfortable in the old GOP – the one that Dwight Eisenhower presided over before it shifted, first under Reagan, and now under Trump. And as the national Democrats search for new leadership, a new millennial version of Bill Clinton will proclaim the need to move to the center (where the old right used to be) and he or she will beat the old-line Democrat who seeks to keep it left of center (where it tries to be now). And that shift will lead to the creation of a new party, which will represent the views of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. That party will splinter the election results in 2024 (the rift will start in 2020), and the result of that election will definitively resolve which two parties will endure.
o Trump will serve his full term.
Robert Mueller may uncover the stuff to get Trump impeached, but even if the Democrats retake control of the House in 2019 (my guess is they won’t), they still won’t have the votes in the Senate to convict him of “high crimes or misdemeanors.” And it may not even get to that point. Despite all the headlines in the New York Times, Mueller might ultimately conclude that Trump didn’t do anything that rose to the level of criminal conduct, or he may get canned before he has the chance. Either way, look for Trump to serve his full term and then be nominated by his party for a second.
o Inflation could be the downfall of Trump’s presidency.
The biggest threat to Trump’s presidency isn’t Russia-gate. It’s the economy. And it won’t be a major recession this time. Instead, Trump may preside in the second half of his term over runaway inflation. The cyclical nature of our economy suggests it is coming, and the massive tax cuts that are imminent will only fuel the flames. Like the fires that have raged across California this fall, it wouldn’t take much to get the ball rolling. Just a sudden spike in gas prices could do it, or a severe drought, or another crazy bank-driven free-money grab-bag with speculators creating shell investment vehicles that create the sense of maximum liquidity. And, pow, before you know it double-digit inflation is making Trump the most hated man in America.
o If the next presidential election were held today, Donald Trump would lose the popular vote by a wider margin than he did last year and still be re-elected by the Electoral College.
But for now, Mr. Trump is sitting pretty, which brings me to my last thought. He would lose the popular vote by upwards of five or six million votes because voters in the liberal bastions (all major cities and the northeast and west coasts) would vote against him in record numbers. But he’d still maintain narrow majorities in the rust belt states that swung the 2016 election and he’d run the table in the south and mid-west. Check it out, Trump’s popularity is steady at somewhere around 40%, give or take a few points. That’s enough to get swamped in the general election, but it’s also enough to trump (pardon the pun) the Electoral College. Hey, don’t blame me; it’s what we call democracy.