No One Predicted 2020. But How About 2021?

Once again, I offer my predictions for the year to come. But first I will perform the ritual that every prognosticator should: reviewing how I did at predicting the year now ending. So before I get to my predictions for 2021, let’s see how I did in 2020. (Scroll down if you just want to see what I think about the coming year.)

  1. I predicted that most of the Democratic presidential candidates would condemn the Secure Act’s limits on non-spouses who inherit retirement accounts. Evaluation: False. The unfortunate limits are still there – why not treat everyone who inherits a retirement account the same? – but they weren’t an issue during the election.    
  2. I predicted that the number of surveillance cameras in the world would swiftly surpass one billion. Evaluation: Probably true. Nobody knows the number – recent estimates put it at close to 800 million – but the popularity of private surveillance devices for home and business needs to be factored in.
  3. I predicted that due to insufficient appropriations, NASA would push back its 2024 target for returning human beings to the Moon. Evaluation: Partly true, partly false. The appropriation is much smaller than needed, but for now NASA is sticking to the 2024 target.  
  4. I predicted that the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would survive judicial scrutiny. Evaluation: True.
  5. I predicted that the New England Patriots would win Super Bowl LIV last February. Evaluation: False. I hereby declare an end to my tradition of picking the now-woeful Patriots every year.
  6. I predicted that the rate at which Arctic ice is melting would continue to increase, and that climate activists would continue to argue against technological mitigation. Evaluation: Alas, both true.  
  7. I predicted a rapprochement between the U.S. and Belarus dictator Alyeksandr Lukashenko. Evaluation: A brief glimmer of promise, but now looks as if the better term is false.
  8. I predicted that the highest grossing film of the year would be “Wonder Woman 1984.” Evaluation: Although the film is doing fairly well, all things considered, this prediction will turn out to be extremely false – but, come on, did you predict a global pandemic?
  9. I predicted that a near-ban on vaping products would pass Congress and be signed into law. Evaluation: Mostly true. The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (you know, the one with Covid-19 relief) redefines nearly all vaping products as cigarette products, subjecting them to lots of new regulation.
  10. I predicted that Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, facing allegations of rape by two Black women, would decline to run for governor. Evaluation: Extremely false. The Washington Post reports that the scandals “have largely faded” – forgetting, perhaps, that it is usually up to the news media to decide which ones stay alive.
  11. I predicted that the U.S. stock market would hit several new highs in the first half of the year, then fall in the run-up to the presidential election, before ending the year on a sharp upswing. Evaluation: Largely true, although the driver was not politics but news about the pandemic.  
  12. I predicted that the Houston Astros would defeat the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Evaluation: About as false as it could be.
  13. I predicted that journalists wouldn’t apologize for their craven stupidity in asking whether cadets who circled thumbs and forefingers during the Army-Navy game were sharing white power signs. (As the Anti-Defamation League among others has pointed out, the OK symbol is almost always just an OK symbol.) Evaluation: True.
  14. I predicted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would maintain its position that trace amounts of nitrosamines in some prescription medications were safe. Evaluation: Somewhat false. The FDA has joined other countries in setting daily limits for nitorsamines and has warned patients and doctors to be cautious.
  15. Finally, to recapitulate my tongue-in-cheek prediction on the presidential contest, I predicted that the Democrats would flip Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin but the Republicans would flip New Hampshire, leading to a tie in the Electoral College and litigation from President Trump. Evaluation: On the litigation part, I was right. I was also right in picking four states the Democrats would flip. I was wrong about the Electoral College tie, but that part was obviously farce.

Now we come to my predictions for 2021. Do bear in mind that not all are seriously meant:

  1. In January, President Donald Trump will finally invite President-elect Joe Biden to the White House. Trump will even attend the inaugural, albeit with poor grace. After leaving office, Trump will become a resident of Florida. He will place his New York triplex on the market, but it will take over a year, and several price cuts, before it sells.
  2. In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden will be as charitable toward Trump as Trump was toward his predecessor, President Barack Obama. (Trump, as you may recall, was able to bestir himself to thank Obama for “gracious aid throughout this transition” – that is, for helping Trump – and that was it.)
  3. Alas, within the first six months of Biden’s administration, much of the progressive left will turn on him, labeling him too cautious and forgetting that it’s a big and complex country which will be holding a congressional election in 2022. (Some predictions are easy.)
  4. Other countries will begin to follow the lead of Japan, which is making ambitious plans to use GPS to track every visitor who enters the country
  5. The rich world’s V-shaped recovery will strengthen but poorer nations will struggle with the pandemic’s second wave, leading to more accusations that wealthy nations are most interested in vaccinating their own people.
  6. In other Covid-19 news, at least three governors, having grown enamored of ruling by decree, will extend their states’ declared emergencies through the end of 2021.
  7. Due to pandemic restrictions, Super Bowl LVI in Tampa Bay will be played before no more than 15,000 fans in a stadium that can seat more than four times that number. The Green Pay Packers will win.
  8. A significant number of top jobs in the financial sector will move from New York to Connecticut, now that Darien seems again to make “loads of sense.”
  9. In climate news, additional measurements will tend to confirm recent speculation that the Antarctic ice sheet is much less stable than thought
  10. As the news media struggle to figure out how closely to scrutinize the new administration, “bothsidesing” will become a popular verb – and your humble Grammar Curmudgeon promises to weigh in.
  11. Despite the Covid-19 vaccine, audiences will remain leery of movie theaters, and at least one major chain will declare bankruptcy. Nevertheless, many more people than in 2020 will go to the movies – admit it, popcorn is never quite the same at home – and the top grossing film of 2021 will be “Fast and Furious 9,” but nostalgia-seeking baby boomers will boost “Top Gun: Maverick” into the top three. The darling of the critics will be “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”
  12. While we’re on the subject, no later than summer of 2021, the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, having read the handwriting on the wall, will vote to make permanent its “temporary” rule permitting Academy Award consideration for certain films that skip theatrical release and go straight to video.
  13. In other pop culture news, to the dismay of the fan base, Grogu, better known as Baby Yoda, will not show up until midway through season 3 of “The Mandalorian.” Bonus prediction: We’ll see Kylo Ren’s turn to the dark side.
  14. Although the antitrust suit against Facebook will generate tens of millions of dollars for law firms, it will become increasingly clear that the case is thin.
  15. The World Series will feature surprise teams from both leagues, with the Atlanta Braves defeating the Oakland Athletics.
  16. College administrators, having had a sudden transplant of backbone, will become resolute in standing up for faculty members under attack for taking unpopular positions. (Well, yes, one can always dream ...)

That’s what I think will happen in 2021. Whether I’m right or wrong, I wish for all my readers a year full of joy and delight and thoughtfulness and companionship and love.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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