2014 Predictions Part 1: Politics

Recently, a friend of mine noted that not enough people–mainly pundits–actually put their reputation (and even money!) on the line and make hard predictions. He admired a lefty blogger for doing so last year when said blogger made a line-in-the-sand prediction that everyone would be sold on Obamacare by today. (Naturally, my friend disagrees with this lefty blogger on several issues, though not all.) That got me thinking to what predictions I would make, so, well, at the end of 2013, here are a few.

I’m probably not going to make anything definite, or super-hard; I always try to hedge my bets as there’s always a degree of uncertainty. You can never be 100% certain about something; if you are, you’re probably wrong. But then I’m not sure about that either.

And also, because this turned out to be longer than I expected, I’m breaking it up into parts. Part 1 is politics; part 2 will be science & technology; I may be a part 3 for society; with part 4 a catch-all for anything miscelleanous, if I get to that.

So, here are some predictions I have for 2014, along with some that go a little beyond that…

Right-wing “anger entrepreneurs” will run out of other people’s money

One of the more frustrating things about the American political right as of late have been those folks who I’ve termed (though I swear I’ve seen it elsewhere) “anger entrepreneurs.” Notable members of this group include talking heads like Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin, as well as organizations such as the Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action. These are people and groups whose revenue comes from getting very angry about Democrats and the “Establishment” doing bad things in Washington, and peddling a narrative where conservative values are always under assault and true red-blooded Americans are embroiled in a life-or-death struggled with the very forces of Satan–er, progressives–and, at the moment, are losing.

In short, these are people who have no incentive to actual do any winning, because their revenue comes from losing. If conservatives started winning big, these guys wouldn’t be able to push their narrative and make the same cases for getting people’s money. “Donate now or the progressives will kill all infants!” doesn’t really work when the progressives are out of power.

Tom Dougherty, a conservative–well, maybe conservatarian–political analyst at Practical Politicking has been following the actions of the Senate Conservative Fund and other “anger entrepreneurs” quite a bit. He noted the SCF’s battle plan of engaging Senator Mitch McConnell was actually undermining the GOP objective and getting in the way of winning. He also had a good analysis on John Boehner’s recent “line in the sand” over the new budget deal. (You should definitely read both pieces, as well as everything else over at that blog.) These are not groups that want to advance the ball down the field; these are groups that want to prevent that from happening. Or, if they do, they’re doing it in such a way that is completely ineffective. (Many of these types backed the Cruz-led “government shutdown” earlier this year, and effectively blew their political capital on a complete waste, something that may have actually hurt their message.) Dave Weigel at Slate calls these types “do-nothing fire starters.”

My prediction for 2014 is simple: people are going to get sick of these guys and they’re going to run out of their money. The big donor types actually want to see some progress on their causes; they don’t want just heat and light, they want results. Meanwhile, the more rank and file types are getting sick of giving all their money to these groups and not seeing anything either; they’re also annoyed with the ads, the mailers, etc. Oh, sure, there will still be many who will remain “true believers,” but this stuff has been going on since 2009. In 2014, it will have been 5 years straight, and that fire has burned through quite a lot of fuel. (One of these groups is already facing serious finanical trouble.) I expect the fire to be reduced to embers in 2014, especially as more centrist groups (like the Chamber of Commerce) start throwing their weight around.

The Tea Party movement will start to lose steam

I admit, at the outset, I was a fan of the Tea Party movement. It had a largely libertarian message–just stop spending, stop cranking up the debt, and to some degree let’s shrink the national security state and the military. But then it got taken over by more conservative elements, and it led to a split between the “Palinistas” and the “Ronulans”, or more broadly, conservatives vs libertarians. And then the more conservative elements gradually took over.

A lot of the heat and fire within the GOP comes from these guys. And just as I said above, I think the Tea Party will start to lose steam next year. They just haven’t been getting anywhere and the divisive politics will get more and more unpalatable as time goes on and Dems keep plugging along.

(Something to note: while I am saying that people aregoing to want the GOP to come to the center, and the more conservative elements will run out of steam, I’m not saying the GOP will become a centrist political party next year. That just won’t happen, not for awhile. I also think that the Tea Party will lose steam, except for the socially conservative/religious conservative types. Those will always keep going along.)

And I think a reason for both this and the previous point is…

GOP will retain House, might take Senate

Again, back to Tom Doughtery’s excellent political analysis: there’s a good chance that the GOP will take the Senate next year, based on the numbers that are coming in. Now, it is early, but Tom knows that. He makes all the right caveats and uses all the right data.

And that’s winning, which is not going to be good for the anger entrepreneurs. It will also probably hurt the Tea Paty a little bit, though not nearly as much as it will for the guys under #1.

Democrats will start to abandon Obamacare, which will crash & burn

It’s already starting to happen, but next year I see Democrats will really start to abandon Obamacare. This isn’t just the website; there are stories coming in from all over of people losing their health insurance. Like these Obamacare supporters in New York. Or these people in San Jose.

Many on the right have told me that once you pass a government program, it will never be repealed; they point to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other examples as proof. But I don’t think that applies to Obamacare. Obamacare is truly a disastrous policy that was rammed through Congress, written by pharmaceutical lobbyists, and has so many carve-outs and waivers and back-and-forths from Obama that nobody knows what the hell is going on. It’s a complete wreck. Alternatives are being proposed all the time, and I think some of them might gain traction. If conservatives allow Democrats to own the bill, it will sink them down to the bottom of the sea.

Make no mistake, Obamacare will not be repealed next year. That is far too optimistic; Obama will never sign a bill to repeal his signature act and there won’t be enough Democrats to push through an override of such a veto. But 2014 will see popular support for the act collapse. Those on the left will agitate for full-on single-payer; those on the right will make the case for consumer-driven healthcare options. Obamacare will be supported by a minority of leftist technocrats, but those numbers will dwindle as the horror stories mount.

And then Obamacare will go down in flames in 2017, no matter who wins the presidency. Nobody wants to have that around their neck.

Public will sour on Obama

I suspect next year will see the 44th president struggling to have better second-term approval ratings than the 43rd. Already the public is getting weary and tired of his antics, and the charm has long since worn off. The numerous scandals of this year–the IRS targeting, Snowdon, his lies on Obamacare being exposed, the targeting of journalists, etc–might very well be joined by more scandals next year, and even if they aren’t, the guy is tarnished goods by this stage. I really don’t think this needs too much explanation, but for a target, let’s say that by Thanksgiving 2014, national approval ratings of the president, as determined by Gallup, will be between 36%-40%.

The year of Bleeding Heart Libertarianism

While they definitely won’t take Congress next year, and indeed, they may not take even the libertarian movement, the fine folks over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians have had a stellar year. Begun in 2011 as a project to reconcile free market libertarianism with social justice, the BHL crowd have become the leaders of an “alt-libertarianism,” for those libertarians who can’t stomach some of the more conservative rhetoric that gets thrown around occasionally. They’ve become targets by fans of Hans-Herman Hoppe (who by all rights is a far-right-wing “libertarian” nutcase) and the Mises Institute’s paleo-Austro-Rothbardian-libertarians (even though BHL has a left-Rothbardian on the blogroll). Yet they continue to grow their influence.

They are not far left enough to be full-blown left-libertarians, I think, and while they have some overlap and relation to “liberaltarians” they don’t really fit in that group either. They are committed to free markets, but do so based on concerns for the poor. And they do a damn good job of it. Next year, I think, the BHL group will expand and more libertarians will start taking their ideas seriously. Even more than that, though, I think BHL thought will start to “leak” beyond the libertarian movement and start influencing those on the left. (There are also some moves on the right to address the plight of the worst off in society via market mechanisms, such as Senator Mike Lee’s speech, but I don’t think they’re as common yet; there isn’t as much of a push on the right to address the concerns of the least well off in society. I don’t expect 2014 to be that year either.) Part of this I expect will be related to the massive failbucket that is Obamacare, and a simple tactical demand in order to stem the losses Democrats will incur next year.

But even so, I welcome it, because it will get these badly needed concepts out to a wider audience. As I wrote earlier about market democracy being a true American centrism (which is related, somehow, to BHL), I think BHL can moderate the excesses of both sides and temper the rampant polarization. And that would be most very welcome.

More states will legalize marijuana; public opinion will turn against police

The litany of police abuses would span a book in and of itself; fortunately (or unfortunately), Radley Balko has written just such a book (affiliate link). Whether it has been rampant civil forfeiture abuse whereby local authorities outright plunder honest citizens, a horrible sequence of violent anal probing without a legal warrant or justification, police taking over someone’s house in violation of the Third Amendment in order to spy on another house, or kill someone while invading the wrong house, breaking into someone’s home and beating and tasering the residents for a late fee, or any number of horrible acts.

The difference now is that this is getting more and more into the view of the middle class, specifically middle class whites. No longer are police excesses solely in the viewport of poor minorities. Evidence? Both Mother Jones and National Review ran stories, at roughly the same time, on the overreach of law enforcement (and the national security state). When MJ and NRO–representing near polar opposites in today’s political climate–you know shit is going to move.

Thanks to Snowden, Wikileaks, the IRS targeting scandal, and more general abuses by the NSA and spooks that have come to light, public opinion will continue to shift more and more against the national security state in 2014. Moreover, as more violations by local departments come to light, public opinion will start to shift against police too, and they will combine into a general distaste for government’s law enforcement function (which, against the excess, is great; against it in principle, not so much.)

I also think this will combine with the majority support for marijuana legaliaztion, and we’ll see at least one state, possibly 1-3, legalize marijuana next year. That depends a lot on NORML and MPP, though, and I have no idea where they are with that. (In New York, there is a bill to legalize small amounts of marijuana, so there is that.)

And I think, maybe 20-25 years from now, we’ll see cocaine legalized, or at least cocaine legalization on the menu. Why? Because once marijuana is legalized, people will naturally move on to cocaine to continue the fight; and also, as the war on drugs continues to fail massively, people will naturally want to look to other alternatives to solve this problem. There is one possible solution, and that is legalization. Still, it will be a long time before we get there.

And now, on to technology…