Saturday, December 31, 2005

So Long Until Next Year

Unless there’s some late-breaking news, this is the final post for the year 2005. I don’t have any big plans other than watching Blazing Saddles on HBO Comedy, and I’ll probably hit the sack before midnight. You’ve seen one New Years, you’ve seen ’em all.

As in the fashion of some eminent pundits, I’ll go out making a few predictions. I have no real basis for these other than my many years of observing life and just plan hunches.

  • George W. Bush will still be president at the end of 2006. All of the talk about impeachment and Congressional hearings into recent revelations could make him wish he had another job, but history is on his side; no president has ever been impeached when the party he belongs to is in the majority in the House. The Republicans who preach the rule of law and rail against situational morality also have a well-entrenched instinct for protecting their own, so they will obfuscate and rationalize their way out of anything that could weaken Mr. Bush. Even if the Democrats win back the House (see below), they won’t assume power until January 2007. So unless Mr. Bush either resigns or the 25th Amendment is invoked, he’s safe for 2006.
  • The Democrats will make substantial gains in the House and Senate in the 2006 elections, but probably not win enough seats to take over either of them. History has shown that the party out of power wins seats in the midterm election of the second term of a president, but it’s not ironclad, and past performance is no prediction of future results. Polling shows that Republicans are in trouble in a lot of districts and Mr. Bush’s “political capital” is more like the federal deficit, but incumbency, like inertia, is hard to overcome. Unless the Democrats can field fifty strong candidates in a variety of districts from Maine to New Mexico, come up with an agenda that will actually be heard over the din and distortions of Fox News and the chattering classes, and get the voters to switch parties, there won’t be a huge change in the House and Senate. Some well-known Republicans are in trouble — Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Rep. Heather Wilson in New Mexico come to mind — but unless the wiretap case blows up into Watergate proportions or the Abramoff plea bargain takes out twenty legislators, the Republicans will still be the majority party a year from now, but not by much.
  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will win re-election to the Senate from New York by a landslide. She will take her seat and defer all questions about 2008 as speculation; the line will be that she has work to do in New York. Uh huh. Her website will be accepting campaign contributions by Thanksgiving 2006.
  • Meanwhile, the Republicans will start quietly scrambling to find someone to succeed Bush in the White House, and you’re going to see more trial balloons floating than at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Everyone from Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (by way of Michigan and Utah), George Allen of Virginia, and a host of the old tried-and-true names like Bill Frist, John McCain, and Gary Bauer will be popping up on the Sunday talk shows and cable channels; profiles will start to appear in news magazines, nightly news programs will have “a closer look” at some of them like Condi Rice. By this time next year desperation will have set in; the Republicans haven’t had this empty a bench since 1940 when they ran Wendell Willkie. Look for a lot of furtive phone calls to Tallahassee.
  • I have no clue as to what will happen in Iraq, but I’m in good company; neither do the people who are running the war.
  • Several pretty white women will vanish and will become the heart and soul of cable TV news coverage and “Larry King Live” for several weeks each. Several hundred other people will also vanish without a trace, but they’re not in the demographic so no one other than their families will care.
  • Florida will get hit by hurricanes again. This time, though, with elections around the corner, FEMA will actually show up within the week and they’ll spend more money on helping people than buying generators for gas stations. Speaking of hurricanes, there will be a lot of commemorations of the one-year anniversary of Katrina in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in August with a lot of serious introspection about what has been lost, what has been recovered, and there will be a lot of “Then and Now” stories. Look for a lot of clips of people pulling the slot machines in the newly-reopened Hard Rock Cafe and Casino in Mississippi; that’s where the money is going. Meanwhile, the Lower 9th Ward will still be uninhabitable.
  • A lot of famous people will die and there will be nostalgic memorials to them, and a lot of not-so-famous people will also leave us and touch us personally. The trick is to appreciate them while they’re still here.
  • Blogging will finally reach a saturation level that all mass media achieves: it will become so commonplace that it will lose its cool factor and people who got into it just to say they have a blog will quietly abandon them, leaving it to the dedicated, the persistent, or the creative ones to stay with it. That’s not to say we won’t lose some damn good people who go their own way (farmer, I wish you were still here), but you’ll see a leveling off and, I believe, and improvement in the quality of on-line journalism/writing/catharsis that enriches us and expands our vision. You’ll still see a lot of crap, but you’ll also know where to look.
  • Personal predictions: I’ll finish Small Town Boys. A good friend and mentor will retire from my office and make it very hard to fill his place, but he’s trained me well and I’ll manage. Someone, somewhere, will stage a full production of Can’t Live Without You. The 25th Annual William Inge Festival will be the best ever until the one in 2007. I’ll actually get to work on the restoration of my Pontiac station wagon.
  • One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.”
  • See you tomorrow.