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2020 Hindsight and A Look Ahead

December 31, 2020
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Let’s bid farewell to a horrible year by reviewing my 2020 predictions and offering prophecies for the coming year.

Overall, I made 20 correct forecasts—nine incorrect and three are up in the air.

What I got right: Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the Iowa caucuses, Joe Biden secured the Democratic nomination, President Trump trailed in the popular vote and carried Florida and Ohio while attracting more African-American and Hispanic voters than in 2016. The presidential election came down to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, settled by a wider margin than Mr. Trump’s combined 77,736-vote edge in 2016. Mr. Biden took them by 257,025 votes and won the election. As forecast, Democrats kept the House but with a reduced margin.

There was a second U.S.-China trade deal—and it wasn’t comprehensive. Nor did China buy the $141.7 billion in American goods it promised; by November, Beijing had bought only $82 billion.

Middle East refugee flows increased but were mostly contained within the region. Libya became more chaotic, and the Islamist threat in the sub-Sahara grew. Iran continued disrupting Iraq, but Iraq’s government appears more stable.

The New England Patriots didn’t make it to the American Football Conference title game—they lost in the first round to wild-card Tennessee—and the “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo, was the National Basketball Association’s most valuable player.

Now my 2020 prediction bloopers. Climate guesses were a mixed bag: As predicted, U.S. carbon emissions dropped, but mostly because of the unpredicted Covid-induced economic contraction, not innovation. Global recession forced Paris climate accord signatories (including China and India) to reduce CO2 emissions, the opposite of what I predicted.

The Democratic convention took one ballot, not more. Iowa didn’t go Democratic in November. Because of Covid, there was recession instead of 2.3% growth, and jobs and wages didn’t increase for workers. No U.S.-U.K. trade agreement. The Ravens didn’t win Super Bowl LIV, and their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, wasn’t MVP.

Three predictions are unresolved. Special counsel John Durham’s investigation is pending. I stand by my forecast that the U.S. dominates the competition for medals at what are now the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The question of who controls the Senate will be settled in Tuesday’s Georgia runoffs: I still believe Republicans retain a narrow majority. They better, since some of my new prognostications hinge on it.

So for 2021 predictions: Mr. Biden’s approval rating a year from now is at least the 51% he received in November because the economy grows at better than 3.5%. Mr. Trump doesn’t declare for president next year because he doesn’t want the personal financial-reporting and contribution limits that would impose, but he keeps all options open for 2024 so he’s kingmaker even if he doesn’t run again.

As a private citizen, Mr. Trump needs better lawyers than Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Lin Wood. The Manhattan district attorney and New York state attorney general will dog him over personal finances.

Republicans maneuver to define themselves with Mr. Trump out of the White house but still on Twitter. Mr. Biden’s traditional Democrats and his party’s socialist wing argue about policy, personnel and bipartisanship, but by year’s end Mr. Biden is still governing as a normal liberal.

At least two Biden cabinet nominees aren’t confirmed. No major tax increase or Green New Deal-type climate measure passes. The Supreme Court reins in several of the new administration’s regulatory actions. There’s bipartisan legislation on Covid, infrastructure and trade. Violent urban crime grows. By July there are at least four effective coronavirus vaccines used by more than half the country.

North Korea launches an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile or conducts another nuclear test. Iran ramps up its nuclear program. China offers a big emissions reduction for ending U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson strike that U.S.-U.K. trade deal. The West decides how to counter Chinese intellectual-property theft and foreign-aid manipulation through its Belt and Road Initiative. There’s less difference than expected between the Biden and Trump policies on the Mideast and China.

Alabama is crowned college-football champion. The Kansas City Chiefs win another Super Bowl, but Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is NFL MVP. Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and a receiver— Reggie Wayne, Torry Holt or Calvin Johnson —are inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” album wins a Grammy and “The Crown” an Emmy.

These are my guesses for 2021, but life often takes us by surprise. May 2021 do so less cruelly than this year did.

Read more at WSJ.com

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