Here are things I think will happen in 2016: Some are happy, some are sad, some are serious, some are whimsical. And to borrow from my friend Gregg Easterbrook, all predictions guaranteed, or your money back.
▪ No presidential candidate will make very much of recent Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration, while spying on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also listened in on members of Congress and leaders of U.S. Jewish organizations. The story should be explosive, but it will remain too hot even for our politics.
▪ Democratic and Republican candidates for president will fight to outdo one another in their determination to destroy Islamic State, but the only actual promise any of them will make is not to put boots on the ground.
▪ Donald Trump will not be the Republican presidential nominee.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
▪ Having reached peak coffee and passed peak cupcakes and peak meatballs and (evidently) peak kale, in 2016 we will find ourselves passing peak acai.
▪ As faith in government and other established institutions continues to fall, more people will be attracted to the idea of a currency that exists in large measure beyond government control. Thus Bitcoins will finally enjoy the price surge that advocates have been predicting for years.
▪ Critics will decry film quality as usual, and no movie released in 2016 will challenge box office records, but there will still be huge blockbusters. The "Independence Day" sequel/reboot will outdraw both "Captain America: Civil War" and "Star Trek Beyond," which will battle the surprisingly successful "BFG" (Big Friendly Giant) for second place.
▪ Activist college students will try to make it a disciplinary offense to express open support for any Republican running for any office. Not a few professors will think this is a great idea.
▪ Russia will increase the tempo of its territorial incursions in the Baltic nations, and the world will mumble in outrage but not actually do anything.
▪ The Republican Party will continue to behave as if anger is a policy.
▪ As the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro nears, the news media will run story after story about the risk of terror attacks and the unprecedented security measures in place. In fact, there will be no attacks or violence of any kind, demonstrating once more that terrorists are capable of responding rationally to incentives.
▪ Republicans will continue to celebrate candidates who essentially contend that because some aspects of climate models are unsettled or challenged, the entire thing must be a scam. Democrats will be unable to take advantage of this head-in-the-sand tendency because their inability to resist rhetorical and regulatory overreach will drive away moderates who might otherwise support measures to reduce carbon use.
▪ No important gun control measures will be passed.
▪ The New England Patriots will (yawn) win another Super Bowl. Quarterback Tom Brady will play the 2016 season and then retire. The National Football League will continue to contribute millions of dollars to domestic violence awareness programs.
Beneath the radar, everyone will understand that the league's zero-tolerance policy applies only to those who are convicted of a felony or caught on video.
▪ The Nobel committee will continue its now 22-year-old tradition of forgetting that great literature is also written in the U.S.
▪ The concentration of refugees in the Balkans will strengthen nationalist regimes throughout Europe. But as it becomes apparent that the refugees by and large aren't out to cause trouble, business as usual will return.
▪ In the U.S., self-styled progressives, while claiming to worry about inequality, will continue to support a cruel status quo under which their own children are free to attend whatever school their families can afford, but poor children must go where the state tells them.
The same self-styled progressives will vigorously oppose the use of tax dollars to give poor parents the same range of choices they themselves enjoy.
▪ Except among elites, the question of Supreme Court appointments will play no role in the presidential campaign.
▪ Across all the major sports, the championship drought in the nation's capital will stretch into a 23rd year.
▪ Having learned that there is no political price to be paid for tampering with the still-unpopular Affordable Care Act, Democrats and Republicans will join to repeal the “Cadillac tax” - the single most sensible thing in the legislation.
▪ Voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election will be the lowest since the 1990s. Rather than blaming the stridency and hostility of partisan activists, talking heads will blame the voters.
▪ The Chess Olympiad, the biennial team championship currently scheduled for 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan, will be postponed. If the event is held after all, the U.S. team, which could potentially include three of the top 10 players in the world, will not finish first.
▪ Social conservatives will realize that gay rights and same-sex marriage are here to stay and will move on to other issues. Social liberals will decide that the occasional dissenting caterer does not after all amount to anything like the sort of massive resistance that necessitated the zero-tolerance crackdown during the Civil Rights Movement. (Sadly, this is one of my whimsical predictions.)
▪ There won't be peace on Earth, the lion won't lie down with the lamb, and television will continue to bring the world's horrors into our homes. But because we're human, we'll keep trying to find islands of contentment and joy and beauty in life.
And we will remember, with Thoreau, that high up in the air is exactly where our castles should be.
Stephen Carter is a Bloomberg View columnist and a law professor at Yale.