Looking back at my 2014 predictions . . .
Greetings and holiday cheer to my regular readers and new ones alike. My apologies for missing last month, which, I believe, was the first month I’ve missed since 2011. To make it up to everyone, here’s a link to a site with back editions of an international relations themed show where I was the featured guest for two episodes earlier this month. As public access goes, it’s pretty professionally done. Unfortunately, due to the holidays perhaps, it seems like they are taking a bit in actually putting my appearance up – so, if you want to see me stammering my way through 45 or so minutes of television, you might have to check back in a week or two.
Onto the yearly tradition of looking back at the predictions I made in January about how 2014 would unfold. I have to admit, this year had some real clunkers. It’s easier to predict trends in politics than it is specific events, and this year was full of surprises. So, without further ado . . .
Prediction 1: Congressional Republicans will only hold 50 seats in the Senate after the election.
Outcome: Republicans absolutely routed the Democrats on Election Day. There will be 54 Republicans in the new Senate, a number higher than almost any relative objective prognosticator predicted. Since the White House and Congress are still divided by party, most people probably won’t notice much of a change beyond the growing willingness of the President to use executive actions to accomplish things in areas like climate change (or immigration reform, as we have already witnessed).
Prediction 2: Obamacare will still be a lightning rod politically and have lingering problems signing up younger people due to a weak mandate.
Outcome: It’s still unclear how many “young invicincibles” have signed up for Obamacare, but, happily, the whole thing is going much better than an optimist like me even expected.
Of course, none of the emerging success of the program prevented Democrats from running away from it before the election, and it will be interesting to see whether anti-health care crusaders manage to threaten the whole edifice this year when the Supreme Court decides whether or not to eliminate federal support for state insurance exchanges based on a typographical oversight.
Prediction 3: Republicans stop threatening to crash the nation’s economy through debt ceiling shenanigans.
Outcome: Got this one right. My guess is that Republicans realized that threatening financial ruin in order to achieve ideological aims was a bad idea in an election year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this insanity repeated in the future, though.
Prediction 4: The US GDP will grow by about 3% and unemployment will be about 6.3%.
Outcome: The growth number for this year is tricky. Due to the brutal winter, US GDP declined on a -2.9% annual pace during the first quarter, followed by impressive 3.9% and 4.6% annual growth rates in the second and third quarter. This averages out to almost 2.9% growth, with the fourth quarter yet to be determined (although I’ve seen some early predictions that it will likely be quite good). I was worried my unemployment estimate was too optimistic, but robust job growth has seen that number drop to 5.8%.
Prediction 5: Immigration legislation still doesn’t pass.
Outcome: Here my pessimism was justified. Under intense, and somewhat understandable criticism, President Obama took what measures he could into his own hands on this one.
Prediction 6: Hillary Clinton will announce in December that she’s not running for President.
Outcome: Yet to be determined. I don’t really have much faith that I’m right on this one – but who knows? I’m still shocked Mario Cuomo didn’t run in 1992.
Prediction 7: Moderates will have the upper-hand in Syria and negotiations with the government will be taking place.
Outcome: That prediction represented the triumph of optimism over good sense, although there are apparently potential negotiations between the government and opposition in store for early 2014. Unfortunately, though, there are hardly moderate factions left in Syria these days and ISIS, well . . .
Prediction 8: Radical militants will control Northern Iraq and brutalize the civilian population
Outcome: . . . ISIS, along with the Ukrainian conflict, has dominated the news this year. Sadly, this pessimistic prediction came true, but I have hope that efforts in the region will lead to the reestablishment of Iraqi control over much of northern Iraq in 2015.
Prediction 9: Despite complications in the final days of negotiations, the US and Iraq will strike a nuclear deal.
Outcome: The US-Iranian talks came within reach of the finish line, only to encounter unbridgeable differences in the final days. I’m still cautiously optimistic about this one, as the negotiations have been extended into 2015 and both sides REALLY seem to want an agreement.
Prediction 10: Thailand’s military takes over in a coup
Outcome: Thailand’s military launched a coup in May and took over the government. There’s no timetable as yet for future elections.
Predictions 11: China’s economy does worse than expected and protests increase.
Outcome: China’s economy didn’t necessarily do worse than expected (depends on who was doing the expecting), but it did witness its slowest growth since 1999. As for protests, Hong’s Kong protestors’ would be “Umbrella Revolution” dominated the news much of the last half of 2014, but have ultimately petered out. The restraint shown toward the protestors by the Chinese government was admirable, but makes me wonder whether the lack of repression might encourage future protests in other areas of China.
Prediction 12: Google Glass and smartwatches become more mainstream, but people prefer the watch idea more.
Outcome: I think I was spot-on in terms of the futuristic watch technology catching on with the public, although it remains to be seen how much success next year’s Applewatch meets. As for Google Glass, I may not have been skeptical enough.
Prediction 13: Pope Francis’ popularity leads to high-profile celebrity conversions to Catholicism
Outcome: Does Shia Lebeouf count?
Prediction 14: 12 Years a Slave will win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Outcome: Bingo. My Oscar predictions since 2012 (before the nominations have come out each year, I might add) are now three-for-three. Check out my new blog next month, woodwellonhollywood.net.
Just kidding about the last part, by the way. Hopefully, however, this blog will continue in some fashion next year. For those of you who don’t know, the International Studies Association has asked me to be one of their official bloggers starting in January. Whether I can cross-post or how that will work out is yet to be determined. Whatever the web address ends up being, though, I’ll still be writing somewhere in 2015. Best wishes to all!