A Fortune Teller’s Reckoning in 2018
Batting .633 in baseball is terrific, but merely adequate in the forecasting game. On Jan. 4 of last year, I made 30 predictions for 2017. Nineteen were correct. A gimme: President Trump tweeted often (more than 2,300 times). He held only one full-scale solo press conference. A hefty number of senior aides—including Michael Flynn, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Sean Spicer —were fired or resigned.
A constitutionalist, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Tax reform passed under budget reconciliation. The tax cut was smaller than Mr. Trump’s campaign plan ($1 trillion versus $5.9 trillion over 10 years) and ended double taxation of U.S. companies’ foreign profits.
Tensions emerged between congressional Republicans and Mr. Trump. They wanted him to quit talking about the Russia investigation and take tough action against Vladimir Putin. They opposed his flirtation with ending the North American Free Trade Agreement. They didn’t have to draft an infrastructure bill because he lacked a specific proposal.
Arrests of criminal illegal immigrants rose in fiscal 2017. The border wall is still “virtual” and Mexico refuses to pick up the tab. Russia remains mired in the Syrian civil war. It continues trying to destabilize Ukraine, undermine NATO and weaken U.S. influence. Angela Merkel was narrowly re-elected Germany’s chancellor. At the Oscars, “Moonlight” won best picture and Casey Affleck took best actor.
A few of my calls were close enough to count. Congress raised the debt ceiling in an ugly vote, but in March, not April. The populist wave fell short in Europe and Marine Le Pen lost in France, but to Emmanuel Macron, not François Fillon. The Dutch Party of Freedom is not in government, but it came in second (not first) in national elections.
The most disappointing of my 11 missed predictions was the Senate’s failure by a single vote to repeal ObamaCare. Also, the courts did not strike down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding mechanism. Sanctuary cities haven’t been forced to turn over criminal aliens. There was no compromise on “Dreamers.” My friend Ed Gillespie wasn’t elected Virginia’s governor.
Six busted calls involved sports and movies. Clemson beat Alabama; the Patriots defeated the Falcons (my pick, the Cowboys, didn’t even win a playoff game); the Astros beat the Dodgers (who’d ousted my selection, the Cubs); and Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double (I thought he’d fall short). Emma Stone, not Natalie Portman, won best actress, and “Thor” outclassed “Wonder Woman” at the box office.
Now to 2018. Republicans will modestly expand their Senate ranks, picking up two or three seats. Although the party in power has lost an average of 21 House seats since 1982, the GOP will retain the lower chamber by the narrowest of margins, with just over 220 seats. Republicans will drop to under 30 governorships and shed several hundred state legislative seats.
The Russia investigation won’t produce evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, but more indictments will come. Robert Mueller won’t be fired. His probe will largely wind down by year’s end but he won’t yet have formally concluded it. The report from the Senate Intelligence Committee will reveal the Obama administration’s fecklessness on Russian election meddling, leading to new legislation requiring a comprehensive response from the federal government to such interference.
China will sign more trade deals than the U.S. does. Nafta will hang on, but barely. No trade deal will be concluded between the U.S. and Britain. America’s economy will expand by more than 3%.
After delays, Mr. Trump will sign a “Dreamer” fix this spring including significant resources for border enforcement. No $1 trillion infrastructure program will pass, but Congress will approve something more modest. Substantive entitlement reform will sputter out, though lawmakers will approve helpful small-ball welfare improvements.
Two or more areas of new or renewed geopolitical conflict will arise. China will grow more aggressive. Islamic State will increase large-scale terror attacks. War with North Korea won’t come, but by year’s end the Hermit Kingdom will have nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of reliably delivering them. A re-elected Mr. Putin will cause more problems for the West, including a major incident in Ukraine.
More research will emerge on the adverse effects of smartphones and social media on mental health and child development.
Mr. Trump’s approval rating will end 2018 lower than it is today. Nikki Haley’s star will keep rising. Jared Kushner will finish the year in worse legal shape. Key White House aides and at least one cabinet secretary will depart.
Christopher Plummer will win best supporting actor for portraying J. Paul Getty in “All the Money the World.” Gary Oldman will be best actor as Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” which should get best picture but will lose to “The Shape of Water.” New Year’s resolution: I’m swearing off sports predictions (except “Roll Tide!”).
Now make your own list of prophecies. Happy 2018!
Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).