New Year’s predictions are always perilous. The only thing that’s truly predictable is that unpredicted events will upset the most-careful plans and surprise the most-seasoned professionals. Look no further than Donald Trump’s shocking rise and enduring popularity as proof that pundits and consultants often don’t know half as much as we think we know.
But it takes more than a few surprises to drive us out of the prediction business. So with full knowledge that everything I say is liable to be proven wrong within days or weeks, here goes with a few, modest predictions for 2016:
GOP “electability” will be less important than Hillary Clinton’s corruption. I think pundits are under-estimating Ted Cruz’s electability (and Donald Trump’s, for that matter) because they’re missing perhaps the most sure-thing prediction for the New Year — Clinton’s e-mail scandal is the beginning, not the end, of the Clinton corruption stories. The Clintons are corrupt. It’s in their political and personal DNA. If they couldn’t conceal their corruption during the Old Media nineties, good luck concealing their petty favoritism, pay-to-play, and personal decadence from the voracious and omnipresent New Media.
Donald Trump will leave a largely positive legacy with the GOP. I don’t think Trump wins the nomination. My current handicapping places Cruz with the best chance to win, followed by Trump, then by Rubio (leaving open the outside chance that political lightning strikes and Christie/Bush/Fiorina surges to victory), but I think the long-term effect of the Trump phenomenon will be an increased fearlessness on the part of GOP politicians, a heightened awareness of the genuine concerns of the blue-collar conservative base, and an understanding that political correctness holds true power only with progressives.
Democrats will suddenly remember that Hillary’s loss in 2008 had as much to do with Hillary as it did with the “magic” of Barack Obama. The Democrats’ story of the ’08 primary goes something like this: Hillary was caught flat-footed by a once-in-a-lifetime progressive, by the force of nature that was the Obama campaign. While she made mistakes, no one could have beaten The One. But she learned from her loss, moved smartly left, and is ready to ride the “coalition of the ascendant” to the White House. Yet while Obama surely ran an outstanding primary campaign, he got a lot of help from an opponent who often sucks the charisma right out of any room she enters. Never forget that in 2008 she finished third in the Iowa caucuses, behind even the execrable John Edwards.
Meanwhile, in the world of sports, the Arizona Cardinals will win the Super Bowl, and the San Antonio Spurs will beat LeBron James once again to claim the NBA championship. The Cardinals (along with the Chiefs) own the longest winning streak in the NFL and possess the largest point differential, and the Patriots have suffered injuries to approximately 150 percent of their roster. I still don’t quite believe in the Panthers. As for the NBA, the Spurs are built from the ground up to beat the Warriors, and only Kawhi Leonard (or injury) can slow down Steph Curry. The Spurs will beat the Warriors in seven and then go on to beat the Cleveland LeBrons to claim their sixth title in the Tim Duncan era.
Jon Snow is alive, and before season six is over, Tyrion Lannister will ride a Targaryen dragon. At this point, most Game of Thrones fans simply assume Snow is alive. The only question is how. But the more interesting inquiry involves Daenerys’s dragons. Who will ride the other two? Before the season is over, the second rider will emerge, and it will be none other than the hard-to-kill fan favorite, Tyrion. He’s been every bit as central to the overall Game of Thrones story arc as Jon Snow and the Khaleesi, and this is the season when he starts to assert his dominance. In related news, George R. R. Martin will release the latest book before season six. Too much money is at stake.Finally, when in doubt, bet on the pendulum. You may notice that I’m predicting a bit of conservative correction in 2016, a return to the center right after the progressive triumphalism of the Obama era. American politics often swings back and forth, with one party rarely dominating for long. I could be wrong, but my sense is that the Left over-promised and under-delivered in the Obama era. Wars still rage, and incomes are still stagnant (or falling) for all too many in the middle class. The hectoring, sneering political correctness of the progressive Left repels more than it inspires.
Happy New Year, conservatives. Expect to win a few in 2016.
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.