Politics & Policy

Crystal Ball 2013

Looking ahead.

What’s in store in 2013? National Review Online contributors weigh in.


Paul Ryan becomes speaker of the House.

First, serious skirmishing takes place between the education establishment and conservatives for control of the high ground in Internet-based education at every level.

The idea of the U.S. joining the euro zone begins floating around left-liberal circles as U.S. Dems (otherwise out of ideas) continue their best efforts to become European.

Putin starts, at last, to rebuild the Russian Empire. Obama shrugs.

U.S. culture falls increasingly into the hands of the post-religious, globalist intellectuals. But parrots surge to become the No. 1 U.S. pet!

— David Gelernter is author of America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats).


There will be no grand bargain, save perhaps in name only. There will be another trillion-dollar deficit. Although, by the end of the year, lower energy prices across the board will give people hope that real economic growth is still possible in America.

Greece will stay in the euro zone, but the euro zone will look ever more like one long meeting over the shape of the table. The U.S. will benefit from European capital flight.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie will win reelection. He will be pressured to become the spokesman for the allegedly “moderate” northeastern Republicans. He will wisely reject that role, knowing that being the “house scold” of the GOP is a great way to get booked on Morning Joe and a terrible way to get elected president.

Related: Someone in the House GOP will try to revive the “gypsy moth” Republican caucus. This Republican will get lavish media coverage for his (or her) efforts. In 2014, this same Republican will announce his retirement from Congress and his exciting new post at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Relations between Obama and the GOP will only get worse, as Obama continues to fail to understand that bullying and preening is not in fact the way to improve a relationship.

Paul Ryan will get his wonk on for most of the year, sparking conjecture that he doesn’t in fact want to run for president.

Marco Rubio will do nothing to suggest that he is not running for president.

The HHS mandate will be sharply curtailed on religious-freedom grounds.

The Pope will not use #YOLO on Twitter.

The second Hobbit movie will be much faster-paced.

No one will bomb Iran’s nuclear program.

The bloody implosion of Syria, as the death toll rises to nearly 100,000, will have destabilizing repercussions in Iran, for which the Obama administration will cynically take credit.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will end the year stronger than it began it.

I will figure out what my next book will be about.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and author of The Tyranny of Clichés.


Congress will only enact policies that are D.U.M.B. — Deeply Unsatisfying, Mickey-Mouse Bills.

By year’s end, the Senate will not have passed a budget, fundamental tax reform will have turned out to be a mirage, fundamental entitlement reform will remain an unfulfilled dream, and the health-insurance open-enrollment period will prove that Obamacare is melting down.

The administration will promise that a full explanation of the events in Benghazi is forthcoming.

Republicans will transition to a generation of younger leaders that will position it as the dynamic, vibrant party.

The Biden “commission” will announce the need for a national conversation about gun-related tragedies; Senate Democrats will propose a $60 billion emergency supplemental bill to fund it.

— Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum.


I don’t quite know what happened this past year, but the future is a piece of cake. Looking out to the next year, I clearly foresee:

We will not cheer up in 2013. The conservative funk will continue through the year.

Obamacare will experience “unexpected” glitches as the date of full implementation approaches. None of President Obama’s predictions about the beneficial effects of Obamacare will materialize. But that’s okay. We don’t remember what they were anyway.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln will win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Daniel Day-Lewis will win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the president. No one will observe that the film destroys the progressive critique of Lincoln first articulated by Richard Hofstadter in The American Political Tradition that virtually all bright high-school students in American-history classes absorb one way or another.

Sales of guns and ammunition will set new records. Despite the current political/media hysteria, rifles will remain among the least likely weapons of choice for murderers, trailing behind (according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports) knives, blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.), and personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.).

Scott Johnson is a Minneapolis attorney and contributor to Power Line.


Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Bobby Jindal will speak at a remarkable number of Lincoln Day dinners.

Kelly Ayotte’s profile will continue to rise.

Jeb Bush will take full advantage of presidential-speculation buzz.

Hillary Clinton will be on the cover of Vogue (again).

The metaphor of the circular firing squad will be commonly used to describe the right side of the aisle in Washington, D.C.

Immigration-policy discussions will get silly before they get serious.

Chuck Todd will be hired away by ABC to host This Week.

Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh will do things both consistent and innovative.

The pope will say something fundamental on Twitter that will become inexplicably controversial.

Catholics will confront the secularist threat within in a more meaningful way.

“Gangnam Style” will be replaced by another earworm.

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert will wisely resist offers for a lucrative reality-TV contract.

Religious liberty will continue to be redefined in the United States.

Dissidents under tyrannies abroad will sound alarms over our indifference.  

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.


As Republican leaders urge support for an immigration amnesty (which will pass, covering not just the arguably deserving children of illegal aliens but their parents as well), no one will explain what will remain of immigration enforcement under the newly bipartisan view that it is the laws, not the voluntary decisions to break them, that are to blame for “separating families.”

— Heather Mac Donald is a John M. Olin fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal.


Without the pressure to win another election, a self-absorbed President Obama will underestimate the importance of keeping his political fences mended. By the end of 2013, the punditry will be talking about the growing isolation of the White House.

— Charles Murray is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Coming Apart.


American presidential elections are usually followed by at least a short season of quiescence, as a weary electorate turns with relief to more parochial concerns. If the elected president is a new one, he is rewarded with a honeymoon of a perhaps few months’ duration.

In 2012 this catharsis has not occurred. The political temperature has not dropped since November 6. As the fiscal cliff approaches and the debate over gun regulation intensifies, the nation’s nerves appear, if anything, even more frayed than they already were. It seems safe to assume that the era of good feelings for which many Americans yearn is not about to transpire in the months ahead. Politically, the year 2013 looks likely to resemble 2009 or 2011.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” In the election of 2012, American conservatives lost control of the present and, thereby, both the past and the immediate future. They did so in part by losing a battle not just of parties but of narratives: history lessons that seek to explain how America got into its present predicament and how it might extricate itself. The recent election became in considerable measure a contest between two kinds of populism with deep roots in our history: left-wing populism, pitting the impoverished “people” against “corporations” and the “rich”; and right-wing populism, pitting citizens in the private economic sector against an elitist and intrusive government. One form of populism looks for inspiration to the Progressives, the New Deal, and the heyday of trade unionism. The other version takes its inspiration and rhetorical cues from the American Founders of 1776 and 1787. On November 6 the left-wing variant seemed more broadly persuasive.

But perhaps only momentarily. One can imagine any number of events in 2013 — in Iran, the European Union, the Far East, Wall Street, or Washington — that could scramble the world economy and reconfigure the ongoing battle of narratives. Still, conservatives cannot count on this happening. In 2013 they must — and I expect will — continue the painful task of reassessing in depth what William F. Buckley, more than 50 years ago, called “the failure of the conservative demonstration.”

If conservatives want 2013 to unfold more happily than 2012, they will have to refine their narrative and remember the bracing advice of the computer scientist Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

 George H. Nash is editor of Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath.


Well, I’ve just re-read my predictions for 2012, and — these are frugal times — I can use quite a few of them again . . . 

Let’s start with the euro. Last year I wrote that the euro would “stagger on for at least another year,” and I’ll repeat that for 2013, except that I think that it will do so more sure-footedly than in 2012 thanks to the interventions of the European Central Bank. I went on to say that the biggest risks to the single currency were (1) a major Greek bank run setting off a chain reaction elsewhere, (2) major social disorder in one of the PIIGS, and (3) a voter revolt in one of the lender countries. Despite large outflows from the banking systems in some of the PIIGS, the actions of the ECB have meant that (1) is now highly unlikely. So far as (3) is concerned, “northern” voters will continue to be outraged by the bailouts, but not quite enough so. That leaves the danger of (2), major social disorder in one of the PIIGS. That’s a threat that has not gone away.

Other predictions for last year included the possibility of an Argentine economic crisis (complete with saber-rattling over the Falklands). The country’s economic situation has indeed taken a sharp turn for the worse — as has the banditry of the Kirchner regime — and a major economic crunch (complete with yet more saber-rattling) could well be expected in 2013. If we want to throw in a fresh economic crisis for the new year, let’s add France to the mix, heading for the rocks under the direction of the thuggish President Hollande, an old-school socialist of traditional vindictiveness — and traditional destructiveness.

Back to 2012: “Brace yourselves for growing but ‘completely unexpected’ Islamist success in many of the lands of the Arab Spring. The Israelis and Palestinians will come no nearer to genuine peace, but Iran will come even closer to nuclear weapons.” Yup, that’ll work for 2013 too.

Turning to the U.S., this prediction from last year can be recycled, regardless of the excitements over the fiscal cliff: “No serious progress will be made in the direction of replacing the current federal tax system with one that is simpler, flatter, friendlier to thrift, and more equitably balanced between taxation on income and taxation on consumption. Too many taboos (on both left and right) stand in the way, reinforced by legions of legislators with tax loopholes to sell.”

And this can be reused too, although the headline numbers ought to look better in 2013 than 2012: “So far as unemployment is concerned, the picture will continue to be dismal. Any improvements in the headline numbers will have to be seen in the context of the long-term decline of the percentage of Americans holding jobs, a decline that will continue to be of little apparent concern to those (such as advocates of mass immigration) who continue to hymn the benefits of a rising population.” Incidentally, when it comes to the question of immigration, the GOP, having “learned” from its 2012 defeat, may well be tempted to yield quite a lot of ground. What it will not do — despite the fact that inequality will be a major feature of the 2013 political debate — is make the essential point that mass immigration has been (and will continue to be) one of the most significant agents of inequality that there is.

To conclude with something from the world of showbiz, there will be Oscar buzz over Lincoln, but none over Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Madness.

— Andrew Stuttaford writes from New York.


In foreign affairs, Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, either covertly or overtly. The United States will sit on the sidelines.

Here at home, the Supreme Court will strike down California’s ban on gay marriage.

In pop culture, viewers will finally start to turn off reality shows — real reality is more real.  “Call Me Maybe” will not be the song of summer 2013. Thank God.

John Yoo is a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

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