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. Admittedly, my predictions may not be popular with many in the “mainstream.”
1. Political correctness will die a cold lonely death.
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 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.
2. Republicans will pull a Harry Reid and use the nuclear option to confirm a Supreme Court Justice.
When we allowed for the direct election of Senators with the 17th Amendment, 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. But Mitch McConnell won’t put that process over a major political win at the Supreme Court if Democrats force the issue.
3. Democrats will oppose Trump’s trade policies even though they aren’t much different than their own.
It was almost impossible for Republicans to say nice things about President 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. Nevertheless, Democrats will find a reason why Trump’s trade protectionism and stimulus aren’t sufficient to win their support.
4. Donald Trump will have more Tweets than appearances at White House press briefings.
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.
5. Republicans will find they can’t keep popular parts of Obamacare.
Conservatives hate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. It also happens to be the cornerstone of the whole healthcare 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.
6. 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 towards 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 about much higher taxes and commensurate social program spending to deal with higher unemployment.
7. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions enforcing federal marijuana law, Congress will kick it 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 issues first. Democrats would gladly move the issue to the states and enough federalist Republicans will join them in the name of empowering the 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.
About the Author
Cameron Smith is a regular columnist for AL.com and state programs director for the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.