At the end of 2016, social media buzzed with Americans intentionally sharing their unpopular opinions. While I wasn’t aware that anyone on Twitter or Facebook ever held back their thoughts and feelings, now is as good a time as any to make a few political predictions for 2017.
- Political correctness will die a cold lonely death in a safe space on a liberal college campus. Here’s a novel concept: We shouldn’t let the media and cultural police dictate the kinds of conversations we’re allowed to have, words we use or places we’re permitted to speak. Donald Trump might not always have all the best words, but he shrewdly recognized that America is sick of being shamed for essentially not being liberal. The flipside to our newfound rhetorical freedom is that we shouldn’t be jerks and must extend a measure of grace when we ourselves are offended. That’s going to be a challenge.
- Republicans will pull a Harry Reid and use the nuclear option to confirm a conservative Supreme Court justice with a simple majority of the Senate. When we allowed for the direct election of senators with the 17thAmendment, we began the process of turning the Senate into a more august House of Representatives. Republican senators can bank on losing upcoming primaries if they fail to replace Antonin Scalia with a staunch conservative. Oh, they’ll wax poetic about process and respecting the rights of the minority. Mitch McConnell won’t put that process over a major political win at the Supreme Court if Democrats force the issue.
- Democrats will oppose Donald Trump’s policies on trade protections and infrastructure spending even though they are more aligned with him in those areas than most Republicans. It was almost impossible for Republicans to say nice things about President Barack Obama’s unapologetic support for free trade. It’s hard to admit agreement with the political opposition, and Democrats will continue the trend. Trump’s opposition to free trade sounds a lot like Clinton’s rhetoric and his trillion-dollar infrastructure spending ideas are based on the same premise as Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill. Nevertheless, Democrats will find a reason why Trump’s trade protectionism and stimulus aren’t sufficient to win their support.
- Donald Trump will have more tweets than appearances at White House press briefings in 2017. According to incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Trump’s Twitter account “will be a really exciting part of the job.” That means those lovely tweets aren’t going anywhere. Why should they? Trump is communicating directly with his most passionate supporters and keeping the media tied in knots. It’s hard to ignore a tweet from the president-elect taking credit for stock market advances and bringing hope to a previously gloomy nation. We’ve never had a real social media president. Well…we sure have one now.
- Republicans will find out that they can’t keep the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Conservatives hate the ACA’s individual mandate. It also happens to be the cornerstone of the whole health-care scheme the law creates. The ACA puts heavy restraints on the health insurance marketplace in exchange for requiring young healthy Americans to buy insurance policies that they otherwise wouldn’t. It’s cost shifting at its finest. If Republicans want to keep many of the popular aspects of the ACA—like requiring coverage for preexisting conditions—and end the individual mandate, insurers will lose their shirts and the model will collapse. Repealing and replacing the ACA will be a huge lift, but Republicans can’t simply keep what people like and remove the parts the GOP finds objectionable.
- America will begin to wrestle with the public policy implications of automation technology. We love technology in America. Innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship are hallmarks of our culture. To this point, advances in technology have largely provided us an array of tools that made us more efficient and expanded our economic opportunities. But what happens when machines replace humans in major sectors of our economy? Automated trains, cars, trucks and boats will increasingly supplant transportation workers. Retail, manufacturing and food service automation is happening at a similar pace. We shouldn’t limit technological progress, but we must retool education toward a lifetime of learning and routine reskilling for adults as well as children. That’s going to be a monumental task, but we need to tackle it sooner rather than later. Otherwise we’re going to be talking much higher taxes and commensurate social program spending to deal with higher unemployment.
- With Attorney General Jeff Sessions enforcing federal marijuana law, Congress passes legislation leaving the issue to the states. Whether voters support marijuana legalization or not, it’s likely going to become an issue that Congress leaves to the states to decide. With the patchwork of state laws in clear conflict with federal law, either Sessions starts going after inconsistent state laws or Congress addresses the issue first. Democrats would gladly move the issue to the states and enough federalist Republicans will join them in the name of empowering states. This move will undoubtedly put pressure on remaining states to regulate and tax marijuana as another revenue stream likely subject to high “sin” taxes.
With a new president riding a populist wave, basic partisan assumptions may not hold true this year. The political consequences will be interesting to put it mildly. You might like politics in 2017; you might not. Thankfully 2016 taught us that you don’t need to keep your feelings about it to yourself.
Image by Shebeko