NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – It’s been my habit, as the year draws in the day, to offer my predictions for the coming year, but only after doing what every commentator should do — assessing my predictions for the year just ending. So before I get to my predictions for 2020, in the second half of this column, let’s see how I did in 2019.
Let’s put one of last year’s prediction right up top:
“The Washington Nationals will overcome the loss of superstar Bryce Harper in free agency and win the World Series over the Houston Astros.”
Nailed it precisely! If you need end-of-the-year help, Las Vegas or ESPN, give me a call.
The 2019 scorecard
Now, as to the others, I predicted:
That Amazon would react to bad publicity during its 2018 HQ2 search by promising to put another headquarters in an economically distressed part of the country. Instead, the company is donating millions of dollars for “affordable housing” in Northern Virginia, where its new campus is planned. Mostly false, but I did get Amazon’s motive right.
That U.S. President Donald Trump would achieve neither his border wall nor a Fed hewing more closely to his views. True. That the level of CO2 in the atmosphere would continue to rise. Although final figures for 2019 are not in, this one will almost certainly wind up in the “true” column. That the melting Arctic ice cap would continue to pour thousands of gallons of water per second into the oceans. True, and true again.
That significant numbers of U.S. armed forces would remain in both Afghanistan and Syria. True, despite the president’s efforts in Syria. That the New England Patriots would win Super Bowl LIII. True. Not a hard prediction but still true.
That allegations of fraud in the settlement fund established to pay former professional football players who have suffered neurocognitive damage would turn out to be a big story. Sadly, true.
Last month’s federal indictments were big news. That despite investigations of Trump’s conduct, no resolution of impeachment would reach the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote in 2019. False, but so, so close. If they had but waited two more weeks!
That special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report would find no clear evidence that Trump committed a crime (true) and that NeverTrumpers would try to raise $1 billion to pay the president to resign. (I was mostly kidding but I wasn’t wrong.)
That homeschoolers would turn to virtual reality as a principal educational tool, and that over time others would embrace the idea. Still feels inevitable, but much too early to tell.
That during the summer of 2019, Marvel would finally announce a release date for the second “Black Panther” movie (true, right down to the time of year); that the highest-grossing film of the year would be “Avengers: Endgame,” if we count actual revenues during calendar 2019 (true, both worldwide and domestic); and that if we were instead to count all revenues for the movie’s run, the late-December-premiering “Star Wars: Episode IX” would win (I thought this was a slam dunk, but between tepid reviews and fissures in the fan base, I now believe this one may not work out.)
That despite the openly expressed skepticism of the federal judge overseeing the case, the $69 billion merger of CVS and Aetna would go forward. True.
That wealthy progressives who continue to sneer at the Republican tax cut as a giveaway to the rich would not offer the U.S. Treasury their gains from the rate reductions. True — and now members of Congress from high-tax blue states are demanding that their well-heeled supporters get an even bigger cut. And that — sorry, but I can’t resist repeating — the Washington Nationals would win the World Series over the Houston Astros!
Now we come to my predictions for 2020. As always, not all are seriously meant but some are meant more seriously than they might appear. I will leave it to the reader to figure out which are which.
1. Except for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidates will condemn the Secure Act’s new limits on the ability of non-spouses who inherit retirement accounts to stretch their disbursements over a long period of time. In particular, the candidates will agree that adult children who inherit should be able to leave the money invested for as long as they like. (Those who voted for the new rules will say they didn’t understand the implications.) Most of the candidates will stop short of promising repeal, however, and will instead promise unspecified adjustments.
2. Due less to government spying than to the growing popularity of Amazon’s Ring and similar devices, the number of surveillance cameras in the world will blow swiftly past recent estimates of one billion. By the end of 2020, all but a fraction of the outdoor spaces in most cities around the world will be recorded on video somewhere, and significant inroads will have been made in suburbs and towns. (Say goodbye to the “shadow map.”)
3. Speaking of technology, for the second year in a row, the final appropriation for NASA will be insufficient to allow any significant progress on its goal of returning to the moon by 2024. Rather than surrender the dream, proponents will push the realization a couple of years further down the road.
4. Despite concerns by consumer activists, the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint will survive judicial scrutiny.
5. The New England Patriots will win Super Bowl LIV in February. No, I’m not a particular Patriots fan. But I pick them every year anyway, because … well, come on. Even if you’re a Patriot hater, you know I’m right.
6. Due to global warming, the rate at which the Arctic ice cap is melting will continue to increase. (This has become an even easier prediction than picking the Patriots.) Meanwhile, such innovative ideas for mitigation as pumping river water southward instead of letting it flow north will be rejected by climate change skeptics as too expensive and by climate change activists as a distraction from the urgent need to sign lots of treaties.
7. Swirling rumors that Russia might annex its longtime ally Belarus will drive dictator Alexander Lukashenko to seek rapprochement with the U.S. and the West. Already Belarus imports nearly half a billion dollars worth of goods from the U.S. annually, with fertilizer leading the way. Russian boss Vladimir Putin will view closer ties between Washington and Minsk as a strategic threat and begin to rattle his sabers. Trump will assure everyone that his “good friend” Putin will “allow Belarus to go its own way.” Pundits will jump not only on “good friend” but also on “allow.”
8. The highest grossing film of the year will be Warner Brothers’ “Wonder Woman 1984.” People will look around and say, “Wait, this intellectual property isn’t owned by Disney? Is that even allowed?” Disney, wondering the same thing, will take swift measures to fix the problem.
9. A congressional near-ban on vaping products will pass and be signed into law by Trump, well in advance of serious clinical studies about potential health hazards.
10. Despite news reports to the contrary, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, accused of rape by two black women, will announce unequivocally that he will not be seeking the governorship of the state, or even another term in office.
11. The U.S. stock market will continue to rise through the first half of the year, bringing several new highs. As the political conventions approach during the summer, the market will begin to stutter. When the election season reaches full swing, we will see a significant drop, which the left will call a collapse and the right will call a correction. After the election, the markets will rise sharply.
12. The Los Angeles Angels will be the surprise team of the baseball season, but will lose in the playoffs to the Houston Astros, who will go on to defeat the Atlanta Braves (the other surprise team) in the World Series. (Bonus prediction: If Braves star Josh Donaldson jumps to the Washington Nationals, then the Nationals will reach the World Series once again, where the Astros will get revenge for 2019.)
13. Speaking of sports, nobody in the news media will offer any but the most half-hearted apology for the cravenness and stupidity of running all those photos of the Army-Navy game and asking whether the cadets who circled thumbs and forefingers were flashing white power signs.
14. Despite concerns raised in other countries, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will adhere to its position that there is no scientific evidence of any health problem from the trace amounts of nitrosamines in some prescription medications.
15. In the presidential election, the Democrats will flip Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin but the Republicans will flip New Hampshire. The result will be a tie in the electoral college. Under Article II, section 1, of the Constitution, the choice must then be made by the House of Representatives. Democrats cheer the perspicacity of the Framers until they realize that when the House sits to break an electoral tie, each state gets one vote. At that point Democrats remember that the Framers were white supremacists trying to protect slavery, and that the opinions of such monsters should play no role in contemporary governance.
The 26 states that have a majority red House delegation will vote Republican; the 22 states that have a majority blue delegation vote Democratic. The other two states, where the delegations are divided, will cast no vote, resulting in another tie.
The issue will be thrown to the courts. A letter signed by several hundred law professors will argue that all judges and justices appointed by Trump should recuse themselves, as they are likely to be biased. Television commentators will take up the cry. Conservative bloggers will reply that the argument is “another” attempted coup d’etat.
Before the courts can rule, the political parties will agree to hold a new presidential election in February of 2021. Under the agreement, Trump will remains in office until that time but can take no action without the concurrence of Congress. Lawsuits will immediately be filed to block the plan, including by Trump himself, who will claim that not having been defeated in the election, he should win by default.
Alas, we don’t know how the lawsuits will come out, because my crystal ball runs only through 2020.
Those are my predictions for 2020. For you, my loyal readers, I wish a new year full of awe, joy, rationality, civility, and love.
Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster.”