The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Predictions for 2019, Reflections on 2018

(Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

This is the last Morning Jolt of the year. National Review will still be posting new articles and Corner posts over the weekend, and if news breaks — on the shutdown, presidential actions, scandals, terrorism, war, whatever — rest assured, NR’s writers will weigh in on what’s happening. The next Morning Jolt will be on January 2, 2019.

The Hard-News Predictions for 2019

The “serious” predictions for 2019:

  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not retire or meet her maker and ends 2019 on the court. The 85-year-old justice has recently endured three broken ribs and had a lobe of her lung removed. She’s beaten cancer twice and had a stent put in her right coronary artery in 2014.
  • Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito come under increasing pressure from conservative legal minds to retire, so that a GOP-controlled Senate can replace them with younger, like-minded judges. Thomas turns 71 in June, Alito turns 69 in April.
  • Scared of both a hard exit and denying the results of the referendum, the U.K. government and the European Union will, near the last minute, announce an extension of negotiations about the details of the departure, and when that fails, announce a second “Are you sure you want to leave the EU?” referendum for 2020. Certain British officials and media voices begin openly and explicitly making arguments that “Some issues are too important to be left to the people.”
  • The vast majority of Democratic presidential campaigns fizzle out quickly.
  • Joe Biden will run for president, but stumble by showing his irritated side and remind primary voters more of the unsuccessful candidate from 1988 and 2008 and less of the goofy, easily likeable vice president for eight years.
  • Bernie Sanders learns, much to his disappointment, that a significant chunk of his support in 2016 stemmed from the fact that he wasn’t Hillary Clinton, and those supporters are more interested in other options this cycle.
  • Michael Bloomberg and Howard Schultz spend a lot of money on perfectly marketed, image-driven campaigns that are beloved by the national media but have no real appeal to Democratic presidential-primary voters. Tom Steyer’s impeachment-centered messaging is more popular but few Democrats see him as a potential option.
  • Hillary Clinton does not run for president.
  • Cory Booker is “just kind of there” in the presidential field for most of 2019.
  • As the year ends, the conventional wisdom is that it is a four-person race, with Biden, Beto O’Rourke running surprisingly strong, Kamala Harris running a less combative campaign than everyone expected, and Amy Klobuchar emerging as the dark-horse candidate.
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report finds no evidence of Donald Trump colluding with Russia but showcases a long history of possibly illegal and indisputably unethical behavior from before he ran for president. This sets off serious arguments about whether a sitting president can be indicted. The Department of Justice concludes he cannot be indicted during his presidency, but a prosecutor could pick up the case afterwards (presuming the statute of limitations hasn’t expired). That decision generates furious outrage among Trump foes and prompts House Democrats to pursue impeachment. On an almost entirely party-line vote, the House impeaches the president. The Senate declines to convict Trump on another almost entirely party-line vote.
  • Beyond the impeachment effort, not much gets done on Capitol Hill. Despite Republican hopes that the new chairmen of the committees become an angry, partisan freakshow, there’s just too much else going on to get the public to pay attention to Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, or Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey.
  • Even beyond the impeachment effort, President Trump has a difficult year. His White House ignores many subpoenas from House Democrats, setting up further legal battles. His relationship with Congressional Republicans is tense and angry, with even more unattributed quotes from lawmakers ripping the president. He experiences even more turnover in his cabinet, as former administration officials trash him in print as an insufferable, erratic, irresponsible, blame-shifting narcissist.
  • The economy has a mild bear market and not-quite recession. It’s not a terrible year, but many media voices are eager to blame it on President Trump. Trump blames the Democratic House.
  • Vladimir Putin will deny rumors of serious health issues.
  • Safest prediction possible: more war in the Middle East. Israel fights Hezbollah on its northern border; Syria has more massacres; Iran rattles its saber; and in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Sultan, far from being embarrassed by the Jamal Khashoggi killing, grows even more paranoid about internal threats.
  • North Korea’s leadership continues to be schizophrenic and contradictory — belligerent and threatening one moment, calling for more diplomatic summits and saying all the right things the next. The general status quo continues on the Korean Peninsula.

And the Lighter Stuff . . .

The fun predictions for 2019:

  • At least one major political scandal will come and go with no serious public reaction because it occurs at the same time as a Kardashian breakup.
  • The 2019 NBA Finals feature the Golden State Warriors beating the Boston Celtics in six games — the first finals to not feature LeBron James since 2010.
  • The 2019 NHL Finals feature the San Jose Sharks beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
  • The 2019 World Series features the Houston Astros beating the Chicago Cubs in seven games. Fox’s television coverage can be described as extensive shots of Kate Upton in the stands with some intermittent images of baseball mixed in.
  • With the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals select Nick Bosa, defensive end, Ohio State. With the second pick, the San Francisco 49ers select Devin White, linebacker, LSU. With the third pick, the New York Jets select offensive tackle Jonah Williams of Alabama.
  • Avengers: Endgame earns rave reviews as the way to end an epic story and set up a new era of Marvel films.
  • The trailer for the still-unnamed Star Wars Episode Nine has a subtext that practically begs fans to put the controversies of The Last Jedi aside and promises good old-fashioned Star Wars fun. When it’s released, critics compare it to Return of the Jedi and complain that J. J. Abrams played it safe and stuck to the old formulas, but audiences are pleased again.

Looking Back at 2018 with Gratitude . . .

I don’t know how your year went, but mine was phenomenal.

Thank you to the Leadership Program of the Rockies for inviting me out to speak in February. This past year brought me to Palm Springs for the Koch Seminar Network winter meeting and Dallas for the NRA Convention, encountering plenty of smart and friendly folks who I don’t get to see often enough. Thank you to the Leadership Institute for inviting me out to help with “Conservative Podcasting School,” and thanks to all who attended.

The Trump administration is willing to invite those who are not always its cheerleaders to events like the Opioid Summit at the White House — and despite all of the drama and circus surrounding this administration, good people who are deeply concerned about this crisis are indeed working hard, across multiple federal agencies and departments, fighting the scourges of addiction and overdose. I appreciate the invitation and hope these efforts receive more consistent attention and succeed in their imperative goal.

Thank you to Greg Corombos, for making the Three Martini Lunch podcast so easy — I just show up and talk. I understand our listenership has grown dramatically over 2018, and so I thank you for listening. Mickey and I restarted the pop-culture podcast, and more will be coming in 2019.

Cruisegoers, thank you for joining me for another year — I hope to see you again, in August around New England, if the rumors are correct.

Without getting into specific numbers, it’s been a great year for readership of NR as a whole and of my work, and so I thank you for reading. Readers seemed to particularly enjoy the deep-dive profile of Devin Nunes, retired FBI agents reacting to former FBI Director Jim Comey becoming a celebrity, sorting out the truth from the rumors about George Soros, America’s long-overdue reckoning with the Kennedy family, updates on the construction of security fencing on the southern border, and “The Beatification of Beto.” In a year when conservatives spent a lot of time fighting with each other, Rush Limbaugh, Townhall, and Newsbusters had some appreciated kind words for my work, and the year found my writings discussed by the Smithsonian Institution, and the New York Times, and not in a “this guy stinks” context.

It’s been a mostly disappointing football season for Jets fans, but I’ve gotten the chance to dip my toes into sports talk, thanks to Scott Mason and the guys at TurnOnTheJets.com. Just wait until next year!

Our family trip to Germany and Austria was enlivened by a surprise dinner with Jay Nordlinger.

Through South Carolina and closer to home, none of the snakes we ran into on our walks bit us. (That is not metaphorical.) I managed to not kill myself despite some serious falls on the ice in broomball. My sons were left jaws agape by the feats of American Ninja Warrior in Philadelphia.

And of course, like so many men, I’d be nowhere without my family.

ADDENDUM: While we’re expressing end-of-the-year gratitude, for most of this year the Jolt was and is edited by Marlo Safi — thank her for clarifying my sometimes-written-before-the-coffee-kicks-in prose, and when she’s not around, Mark Wright steps back into his old shoes. Thanks to Teddy Kupfer for when he steps in during my travels, and everyone who helps make this newsletter what it is.

See you in 2019.

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