I Got A Lot Right in 2021, But I Overestimated Biden

December 30, 2021

It’s time to tally my right and wrong predictions for 2021 and offer fresh prognostications for the New Year. The split was 17½ right to 7½ wrong. This 70% accuracy sounds adequate—but when I was wrong, I was really wrong.

Here’s what I got right: The economy grew more than 3.5%. Donald Trump didn’t declare for president in 2024 and kept his options open. He needed (and got) better lawyers than the firm of Giuliani, Powell, Wood & Ne’er-Do-Wells. The Manhattan district attorney and New York attorney general doggedly pursued him. Republicans maneuvered to define themselves, debating conservatism’s future.

Congress didn’t approve a major tax increase or Green New Deal measure (Farewell, Build Back Better!). The Supreme Court reined in Biden regulatory actions, e.g., reinstating Mr. Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy and suspending President Biden’s extension of the Covid eviction moratorium. Urban violent crime grew so much that even San Francisco’s mayor embraced law and order.

Iran ramped up its nuclear program, and there’s less difference between the Biden and Trump Mideast and China policies than many expected.

There are split decisions. Congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill and one aimed at securing U.S. trade in semiconductors, but no bipartisan Covid legislation. By July, more than 50% of Americans adults were fully vaccinated, but by the end of the year there were three—not four—Covid vaccines. China offered an emissions reduction but not in exchange for ending U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. North Korea tested an intercontinental missile, but it was hypersonic, not ballistic. While traditional Democrats and the party’s progressives argued about policy, personnel and bipartisanship, Mr. Biden didn’t govern as a normal liberal.

The last came from my mistaken belief that Mr. Biden would be at least minimally effective in the Oval Office, leading to my four biggest miscalls. His approval rating is 43% today, not 51%. There’s no U.S.-U.K. trade deal, nor is the West effectively countering Chinese intellectual property theft or its Belt and Road Initiative. One cabinet nominee was formally withdrawn from consideration, not two.

On sports and culture, I went 5-1: Alabama again ruled college football; Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame; and Aaron Rodgers was the National Football League’s most valuable player. Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” won a Grammy and “The Crown” won an Emmy. My mistake: Tampa Bay, not Kansas City, won the Super Bowl.

Now my bets for 2022. Republicans take the House, picking up slightly fewer seats than the post-World War II midterm average of 30—but only because they got a head start by gaining 13 seats in 2020. The Senate becomes Republican by a seat or two.

Democrats gain governor’s offices but lose ground in state legislative races. Republican secretary of state candidates lose in at least three of these states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. Mr. Biden’s approval rating at year’s end is 45% or below. Today, about 30% of Americans say our country is on the right track while 62% say it’s going in the wrong direction. That improves but is still upside down at year’s end.

Inflation falls slightly from today’s 6.8% yet rises faster than wages. Growth softens from 2021’s 5.6%. Unemployment ends 2022 slightly lower than the current 4.2%. Covid persists with more variants, but will be a dramatically less significant issue by year’s end. Public-school enrollment won’t reach pre-pandemic levels.

The Supreme Court will significantly weaken Roe v. Wade but not overturn it outright; states will be allowed to define more of their abortion policies. “Abortion rights” becomes the left’s rallying cry but is only a minor electoral advantage.

The Jan. 6 Committee finds that groups deliberately planned violence for that day and the Willard Hotel Trump command center knew in advance there would be violence. Hundreds of defendants plead guilty or are convicted; few are acquitted. The Supreme Court slaps down Mr. Trump’s attempt to hide documents.

Russia doesn’t subjugate Ukraine but keeps applying enormous pressure on Kyiv and the West, since Vladimir Putin views the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an existential threat and convenient villain to rally support at home. China and North Korea perceive American weakness and increase hostile actions in the far Pacific. Taiwan becomes a flashpoint. The left-wing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wins the Brazilian presidency.

Al Michaels is replaced by Mike Tirico on “Sunday Night Football” but lands at Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football.” Alabama is the college football champ, Golden State wins the National Basketball Association title, Brazil takes the World Cup, and the U.S. collects the most medals in the Winter Olympics. Jane Campion wins an Oscar for directing “The Power of the Dog,” and HBO’s “Succession” wins another Drama Series Emmy.

One prediction I know will come true: I get a new dog in January. An English cocker, his name will be Doc Holliday.


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