Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back / Looking Forward

It’s time once again for my annual look back at what I predicted for the year 2009, see what I got right in this post a year ago and boldly blunder into the predictions for the coming year.

On December 31, 2008, I wrote:

– President Obama will get a honeymoon for a few months where he will actually get some things done. He knows he has only eighteen months at the most to do his most effective work; by June 2010 Congress will be gearing up for the mid-terms, then before you know it, it will be 2012. So expect a big economic stimulus package like FDR’s New Deal and a middle-class tax cut, and expect a lot of blow-back from the GOP who will scream about socialism and boondoggles. There will be set-backs and issues taken off the front burner, including health care reform, and getting out of Iraq will be harder than we thought. Of course some foreign government will test the new administration — like they’re not already — and we will be surprised at how the new president handles it. The economy will show signs of recovery by September, thanks in part to the stimulus by the government but also from the ingenuity and resilience of the American people.

I’ll give myself a B on that one. I was right about the stimulus and right beyond measure on the blow-back from the GOP. I was wrong about healthcare being put on the back burner and about Iraq, although that seems to be having issues today. I was close on the foreign governments testing him; it was actually Somali pirates and his response to them that surprised folks. And surprise, surprise, especially for someone who is not an economist, I was pretty damn close on the start of the economic recovery in September except for the jobs figures.

– In spite of setbacks like Prop 8 and Amendment 2, the march toward equality for the queer community will continue. I think we’ll see the repeal of DADT within the first year of the Obama administration and a continued shift in public attitudes about the treatment of gay and lesbian citizens. There will be bumps, bruises, hurt feelings, and setbacks, but the tide is turning.

I wish I was right on this one, but we’re not making much progress on a large scale; it’s small victories like electing an openly gay mayor in Houston that are happening rather than on the federal level. President Obama has made a lot of nice talk and he actually welcomed LGBT people into the White House and into his administration, but maybe we need a new metaphor — glacial progress rather than tidal.

– The rest of the world will welcome us back like the prodigal child, and we will reach out to them, recognizing that we have a lot of atonement to do. This will be in part to try to bring peace, but also to help get our economy back on track; you can’t sell things to people when you’re calling them part of the axis of evil. In that vein, the Obama administration will take steps to ease the travel and money restrictions on Cuba, which will infuriate a few loudmouths on Calle Ocho in Little Havana and make farmers and auto parts distributors very happy.

That was easy; Don Rickles would have been a better world-wide ambassador than the previous administration. As for Cuba, Mr. Obama did lift some of the restrictions on travel and money, but only for Cuban-Americans. It’s time to do the whole thing.

– Jeb Bush will run for the Senate here in Florida and win in 2010. But he will become the Ted Kennedy of the Bush family; the Senate is as far as he will ever go in national politics; the only way he would ever get beyond that is if he changed his name to John Ellis Obama.

Wrong. But the way the race is going — Charlie Crist in a tight race with Marco Rubio in the GOP primary — Jeb Bush may wish he had decided to run after all.

– Meanwhile, Florida will still struggle with a lousy economy and the fall-off in the housing and tourist trade. The state legislature will refuse to consider raising taxes and will probably end up taking even more money from education, all the while wondering why test scores are falling. D’oh.

– The Detroit Lions will actually win a football game. And while I make no predictions about how the Tigers will do, they — along with the Yankees — proved that spending a lot of money on star players doesn’t buy you a winning season.

Right again, although those were low-hanging fruit. Actually, the Tigers did a lot better than I expected, missing out on winning the division by one bobbled catch in a tie-breaker with the Twins.

Okay, let’s boldly go into predictions for 2010:

– Healthcare reform passes after some wrangling and compromises that make it slightly palatable to both the left and moderates; a milquetoast version of the public option will be added somehow. The Republicans are out of the picture on it except for their plan to run in the mid-year elections on a platform of repealing it, which, as Steve Benen notes, hands the Democrats their own platform: “A vote for a Republican is a vote to let insurance companies screw over American families. Know those new protections that just became law? Republicans will take them away unless you vote Democratic.” The president will shift the focus back to the economy just in time to ride the inevitable upturn in the economy which will show growth by the end of the second quarter and at last a noticeable drop in the unemployment figures. That will be just in time for the mid-term election campaigns to go into full speed, and prevent more than the usual number of losses for the majority party that come in the first mid-term election of a new president. The House will stay Democratic but just barely, and the Senate will probably go 55-45 for the Democrats, making Senate rules reform, i.e. changing the filibuster rules a priority … and a non-starter.

– In Florida, the GOP primary race for the open U.S. Senate seat between Gov. Charlie Crist and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio will get really nasty; you can expect to see some ads put out by the teabaggers about Mr. Crist’s private life coming out of the, uh, closet. I predict that Mr. Crist will narrowly win the primary and it will make the general election race close between him and Rep. Kendrick Meek with Crist narrowly winning. Alex Sink (D) will beat Bill McCollum (R) for the governor’s race. I’m basing that purely on style and wishful thinking; Mr. McCollum is truly the tale from the dork side.

– Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will be repealed, not because the president pushes for it but because the Congress finally gets around to it. Marriage equality will still be an issue as the sex-obsessed homophobes and Jesus-shouters try to force it onto the ballot in other states that haven’t already dealt with it. This battle will be fought in the courts; Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal case filed in California by Theodore Olson and David Boies on behalf of same-sex marriage, is scheduled to go to trial on January 11, 2010. No matter the outcome there, it will inevitably get to the Supreme Court, where there will probably be at least one more appointment to the court by President Obama by the time the case gets there. Meanwhile, the glacial process will go on.

– It’s still a scary world out there. The war in Afghanistan and the president’s steps to wage it are giving me flashbacks to 1967, and, as I said earlier this year, not in a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band way. We are, like in Vietnam, butting into a civil war in a country with a weak and corrupt government and a population that doesn’t really care about abstract ideas like democracy and free elections; they want food, shelter, and peace in their valley. I hope that a year from now, the president will have the insight to get out. Terrorism will arise from every corner; this year it’s Yemen, next year it’s Colombia or Venezuela or North Korea or Alabama. Trying to preemptively stop terrorism is like trying to keep squirrels out of the bird feeder: no matter how well you plan or think you’ve got all the food safe, they still find a way to sneak in. You don’t stop feeding the birds, though; you just try to keep ahead of the squirrels.

– The Tigers will go all the way this year. (I say that every year.)

– There will be the usual silly distractions in the manner of balloon boys, ditzy pageant queens, celebrity melt-downs, hypocritical bluenose politicians getting busted for screwing around, and the usual hand-wringing over how technology is taking over the world and leaving no one with any privacy. That last missive will be twittered, by the way.

– I won’t get all ghoulish about predicting who will leave us this year; it was tough enough to see people like Ted Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, and Robert Anderson go. I just hope we remember to cherish and honor them while they’re still with us.

– Personal predictions: I will finish that novel that I’ve been working on since I put Small Town Boys on hiatus. Can’t Live Without You will get another production, this time in a bigger theatre. It’s going to be another interesting year at work but things are looking up as the SAP rises. This year will be my 20th trip to the William Inge Theatre Festival in April, and this year will be the best yet…until next year. I will not get an iPhone, a Twitter account, or even text messaging on my cell phone. I will still be driving the same car this time next year, and the Pontiac will still be in the garage, an orphan but still loved.

– And of course, the usual prediction: One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.