Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back/Looking Forward

It’s time for my annual crystal ball gazing and retrospective. A year ago I made some predictions, so let’s see how I did.

On December 31, 2010, I wrote:

– If you thought 2010 was the year of gridlock, Hell No You Can’t, and strange pronouncements from political characters and punditry, that was only the curtain raiser. With the House in the hands of the far-right and the Tea Party unmoved and unimpressed with reality, we’re going to be constantly entertained, horrified, disgusted, and gob-smacked. Speaker of the House John Boehner will be dealing with a group of people who resemble a classroom full of sugared-up eight-year-olds. All the attempts to repeal every bill passed by a Democratic president since 1960 will energize the base only to have them ground to a fine powder and blown away by the Senate or a veto pen. There will be heroic, if not Pyrrhic, attempts to cut spending and bring down the deficit, but the crazies are driving the bus and as long as they do, it’s going to look more like a pie fight than civil discourse. The DREAM Act will not pass; Republicans need someone to beat up on, and immigrants, like Muslims, are easy pickings since they know that they’ll never vote for the GOP. Meanwhile, they’ll keep up the kinderspiel of doing things like reading the Constitution while constantly trying to subvert it and re-write it, especially when they get to the part about “equal rights under the law.” Of course they believe in that… as long as you’re white, straight, and Christian. There will be hundreds of subpoenas issued by House committees to investigate everything in the Obama White House, up to and including the bidding process for the swing set built for the Obama children. If you want to make a fortune in this economy, graduate law school in January, pass the bar exam, and move to Washington.

Nailed it. That was kind of an easy one, because if there’s one thing that’s easy to predict, it’s the behavior of the Republicans. They dug in their heels on simple things like passing bills to support the responders to September 11, 2001 and autism research just because the president supported them, while out at the state level, newly-elected governors took their elections as mandates to enact new bills that overreached and angered even their own supporters. It was a year of hostage-taking and childish tantrums, hypocrisy and schadenfreude, race-baiting, women-hating, and gay-bashing, and we haven’t even gotten past the candidates who are running for the GOP nomination.

More below the fold.

– The economy will continue to improve, albeit slowly. That’s how they do it; they go in cycles, and especially after this last Great Recession, there will be a lot of changes, just as there was after every economic downturn. A year from now the unemployment number will be around 8%, which is still high, but on the track to be lower by the time the 2012 election comes around.

I give myself a B on that one. The unemployment rate is allegedly at 8.6% nationally, but it’s still in the teens for black men, and it’s still higher than that in some states. Here in Florida it’s getting a little better in spite of Gov. Rick Scott’s gutting of many programs and throwing a lot of state workers out of jobs.

– Of course Sarah Palin will announce she’s running for president. We’ve known that since the day after the 2008 election. Her competition will include Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and just for the fun of it, John Bolton. A year from now, we’ll be weeks away from the Iowa caucuses. President Obama will not have a serious primary challenger. The “professional left” is a pale shadow of a threat compared to the hard-core on the right; when they form a circular firing squad, they usually end up winging it.

Half right on that in that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich would be in the running, but I should have known that Sarah Palin had neither the attention span or the maturity to make a valid attempt to run for office. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that her replacements — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain — would be just as entertaining.

– We’re going to see more progress on gay equality, but at about the same pace as this year. Court cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act will make it to the federal level, and Perry vs. Schwarzenegger will be appealed to the Supreme Court no matter the outcome of the current appeal, and it should land on the steps in Washington in time for the 2012 term. By then, perhaps, Antonin Scalia will be retired and living in Sicily. Based on the make-up of the House and Senate, you can forget about passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

I give myself an A- on that; the Prop 8 case hasn’t made it to the U.S. Supreme Court yet, but a lot more progress is being made, including the Senate voting out a bill to repeal DOMA. The end of DADT in September was a huge achievement.

– Florida politics will be fun to watch. Gov. Rick Scott will get a lot of stuff through the legislature since they’re all Republicans, but it will be interesting to see what he does with the economy since it’s the only thing bigger than his personal wealth. At some point even he and the legislature will figure out that cutting taxes and services will hit the wall, and even Republicans send their kids to public schools and take prescription medicines. I give it until June before some kind of scandal about cronyism and questionable dealings hits the state; it’s in their DNA. And in Miami-Dade politics, it would be an event if there wasn’t a scandal, threats of recalls, and some people doing the Miranda macarena.

That Rick Scott isn’t under indictment isn’t a surprise, but neither is his approval level, which is about the same as that of the ebola virus. His regime of voter registration laws and drug testing for welfare benefits are facing lawsuits, and his slashing of education funding in favor of corporate tax relief and charter schools has decimated public education to the point that he’s rapidly trying to recover. Locally, Miami went through a recall and run-off election for the county mayor, and the cronyism at the high levels got so rampant that even the Miami Herald wrote about it. In other words, just another year in South Florida.

– Another perennial favorite: This will be the year that Cuba will see some big changes, through the passing of one or more of the Castro brothers and the de facto relaxation of the U.S. embargo to the point that by next year, Cuba will be like Vietnam; nominally Communist but practically capitalist. (I’ve been saying that privately since 1989, though.)

Right prediction, wrong region: what I wanted for Cuba landed in the Middle East, so we got rid of dictators in Tunis, Libya, Egypt, and we’re working on Syria and Yemen. Next year in Havana….

– Personal predictions… the same, I hope, as last year: I will keep writing, I will continue to go to Inge and to Stratford, I’ll still be driving the Mustang, the Pontiac will still be in the garage. If I upgrade my technology, it will be to get a Samsung 42″ flat screen HDTV, assuming I can come up with the money for it.

I am nothing if not predictable. All came true, with the exception that the HDTV is 32″.

Okay, now I’ll boldly go into 2012.

– Barack Obama will narrowly win re-election against Mitt Romney. It will be a campaign of fear, loathing, excess, and outrage… and that’s just on the GOP side until the inevitable coronation of Mr. Romney. The amount of money to be spent on both sides will be enough to run several mid-sized countries. Re-election campaigns are, of course, a vote on the performance of the incumbent, and Mr. Obama will have to defend his record, but the Republicans have, by their own actions, inactions, and lurch to the right in response to their hatred of all things Obama, made the choice in the election pretty clear. The stated GOP agenda has been to deny Barack Obama a second term, but other than that, they have offered nothing of substance if they win the election. That’s not surprising; they never do. They live on bumper sticker slogans and ten-word answers — Repeal Obamacare; Ban Abortion; Deport the Brown People; No More Taxes; Kill the Queers — but they offer no solutions, unless you want to go back to revive the bold and new ideas from the administration of William McKinley. The campaign will resemble that of the one in 1948 where Harry Truman, coming back from dismal approval ratings, beat the patrician and automatonic Thomas E. Dewey. Mr. Truman ran against an intransigent and right-wing-whacky Republican Congress, and Mr. Obama has pretty much the same situation. It won’t be a landslide, but unless there’s a complete meltdown of the Obama campaign juggernaut, he’ll win and might even win back Congress for the Democrats. It will not be the end of the right-wingers by any means; if anything, the re-election of Barack Obama will drive them even further over the cliff, and we will find out that the level of lunacy is infinite.

– The Supreme Court, by a vote of 5 to 4, will uphold the new healthcare law, and the California Prop 8 case will get on their docket for 2013.

– Despite the best efforts of the Republicans, the economy will continue to improve, but at about the same pace as it currently is, meaning that by Election Day the unemployment rate will be around 8%. Consumer confidence will continue to grow, and while the housing market will still be soft, bigger ticket items like cars and appliances will start to sell; those old cars can’t run forever.

– Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be recalled, which will send a shiver through right-wing governors from Ohio and Michigan to Florida. As the thousands of people in the streets from Madison to Wall Street proved, you mess with the middle class at your peril, and that sleeping giant has been awakened.

– Here in Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will win another term in a tight race against Rep. Connie Mack (R), and Rep. Allen West (R) will be tossed out on his ass by the good people of Broward County. Alan Grayson (D), who lost in 2010, will win back a seat in Congress, and this will send a strong message to the Florida Democrats that if they can find some good people to run for office, they can beat Rick Scott in 2014.

– The Tigers will go all the way this year. They got very close this year, and there’s always next year.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

– Personally, some things never change. I’ll go to the William Inge Festival in April — my 21st time — where we’ll honor David Henry Hwang. I’ll go to Stratford in July with my parents, and I’ll go back to work on Tuesday. I’ve done some tinkering with the Pontiac as it verges on becoming a certified antique, which happens when the 2013 models go on sale. I have no plans to move or change jobs, and the only momentous thing that will happen is that I turn 60 in September. Big whoop.

– 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.