On this first day of the new year — the last of the second decade of the 21st century — let’s see if we can come up with a prediction or two about what lies ahead.
First, a bit of perspective on how far we’ve come in the century that separates us from those who had recently returned from what President Woodrow Wilson called “The War to End all War.” In 1919, 675,000 Americans died in the “Spanish Flu” pandemic — four times as many as died in the First World War. Measles was an endemic, deadly disease; polio was a death sentence; the smallest cut, burn or ear infection could be fatal, since effective antibiotics were a quarter-century in the future.
Economically, the nation was just beginning to escape the near-depression that followed the war. Politically, the nation was in chaos at the end of an incapacitated Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and riven by disputes over the 18th and 19th Amendments. Race riots broke out in major U.S. cities, claiming hundreds of black lives; lynching spread its sinister terror in earnest across the states of the old confederacy, aided and abetted by the rise of the new Ku Klux Klan, whose growing influence elected legislators and governors across the country.
By comparison, the ocean of tribulations threatening to swamp us is shallow indeed: if only we were to stand, we would find our troubles to be ankle-deep. But when one is harried to distraction by the evils of “microagression” and flees to a safe space at the slightest hint of dissent from the orthodoxies of the moment, one tends to lose this perspective.
So, to the future, or at least 12 months of it.
Politics will doubtless be the central ring of our three-ring futurepalooza, and will feature a nonstop clown show. From the ongoing demolition derby of the Democrat party’s nominating process, where all candidates try for the inside track by turning harder and harder to the left; to the ultimate failure of the hatred-driven impeachment process, in which those piously wrapping themselves in the constitution forget that the executive is an independent branch of government; to those howling that secure borders and election processes are racist; there is humor in the offing. Unfortunately, the joke’s on us.
Internationally things will probably continue to go our way more often than not. Although European NATO leaders will snicker about the president’s foibles behind his back, they will continue to ante up as promised. In Latin America, one socialist leader has recently fallen, another is hanging by his fingernails, his state in tatters around him. In the Persian Gulf, Iran’s piratical activities have fallen off with the arrival of fresh Western forces in the region, while the Mullahs are once again being challenged at home. And if North Korea’s “L’il Rocket Man” believes threats will get him what he wants from this administration, he may find himself unpleasantly surprised. Britain will finally escape the grip of Brussels’ Eurocrats, which promises good things for our United States, both politically and economically.
Our economy will continue to percolate well; how long is difficult to tell. Surprisingly, with the unemployment rate so low and wages climbing steadily, inflation seems to be tame. So along we will go with steady growth and good prospects until there’s some kerfuffle with China, with Russia, in Korea, in the Gulf, or God knows where.
Socially, we will continue to deteriorate as the authoritarian tendencies of those who look to the state to compel acceptance, decency and behavior they consider proper from the rest of us will grow with greater use. 2020 is an election year so expect demagogues to trade on this taste for force as well as their stock tools of envy, disdain, greed and the shifting of blame for their supporters’ misfortune onto those who have done well. This will further alienate the majority of the population who understand that there is no such thing as a “free” college education, and who still realize that “we’re from the government, and we’re here to help you” is the punch line of a joke. It will drive away those who are told that they are racist, sexist, homophobic or worse for not fully and enthusiastically embracing whatever self-abnegation is currently fashionable among the smart set of the bicoastal elites. Largely due to these factors, we will see the re-election of Donald Trump as president, followed by much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Oh, come on. It’s a little funny…