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After four consecutive years of events that have become more and more surprising, you can be sure the momentum will continue. It may be difficult for some people to believe, but 2019 will be even more filled with surprises than the last four years.
This means that all of us should set our assumptions and “expert knowledge“ to one side and approach the new year with a sense of humility and curiosity. The world is bigger than we are, and its potential for surprising us is greater than our potential for understanding enough to predict these surprises.
Start with New Year’s Eve 2015. Who would have predicted that Senator Bernie Sanders would emerge as the “youth” candidate galvanizing college campuses and building an online fundraising machine capable of supporting a serious insurgency? Who would have predicted that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would combine four huge mistakes to undermine her own campaign (building a weak campaign team; developing no new exciting issues beyond the sense that it was her turn; failing to attract new people; and making security mistakes with her email accounts, servers, and devices that would haunt her up to election day)? Who, on that New Year’s Eve four years ago would have confidently predicted that first-time candidate Donald J. Trump would lead in the polls nearly all year, dominate the debates, and end the year as a clear frontrunner over 16 other Republicans?
On New Year’s Eve 2016, who would have predicted that Trump would beating Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in their home state? Who would have predicted Trump could run a successful national convention, pick a solid vice-presidential choice in Governor Mike Pence, and avoid the kind of party split that destroyed Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964 (with enormous effort by RNC Chair Reince Priebus)? Who could have predicted that Trump would build the biggest rally system ever seen in a presidential race? Then, who could have predicted FBI Director James Comey’s weird maneuvers, the Access Hollywood scandal, or Trump countering the scandal by bringing President Bill Clinton’s female accusers to a national debate?
Who could have imagined on December 31, 2015, that Secretary Clinton would win the majority of the vote (only due to an enormous California landslide) and then lose the electoral vote because Trump appealed to blue collar workers and swept Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin? Finally, who could have imagined that the shock of Trump’s victory would immediately lead Democrats to blame Clinton’s loss on supposed Russian interference – since it was inconceivable to them that Trump could have been the better candidate?
By December 31, 2016, who would have guessed that anti-Trump forces would mount a massive rally the day after the inaugural or that Republican Congressional leaders would spend much of the year failing to repeal Obamacare? Then, who could have predicted Republicans would turn around and pass a huge tax cut, that Trump’s tweeting would continue to dominate the political news media (for better or worse), or that the Trump base would remain amazingly loyal despite 92 percent negative news coverage? Who could have guessed that Republicans would lose Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat, and finally that political pressure would lead Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself and create a deep conflict with the President?
On December 31, 2017, who could have predicted a Trump-Kim Jong-un summit, a successful renegotiation of NAFTA, or Senate approval of a huge number of federal judges (including a second Supreme Court nominee, which is perhaps Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s greatest achievement)? Who would have predicted that French President Emmanuel Macron would collapse in popularity and face riots because of his policies? Who could have guessed that China would find itself under increasing scrutiny from most of the world, or that Putin would answer sanctions by becoming even more confrontational and risk-taking?
Who could have possibly predicted that one of Trump’s biggest bipartisan achievements would be criminal justice reform (after eight years of Obama’s failure to achieve it)? Who would have said that Mueller would still be casting a wider investigative net since he could find no Trump collusion with Russia (but apparently not including Reid Hoffman’s $750,000 investment in a group involved in a misinformation campaign to win the 2017 Senate special election in Alabama)? Who could have predicted that the worst Christmas Eve stock market drop in history would be followed by the biggest one-day gain in history (they would surely be rich today)?
I cite these four years to remind all of us that all the year-end predictions you will see, hear, or read are about as likely to be accurate as the last four years’ predictions — meaning not at all.
The entire planet is on a wild ride (ask Macron, Angela Merkle, Theresa May, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Xi Jinping).
Be sure: It is going to be a wild, unpredictable 2019.
This is the only prediction I will stand by.