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Five Political Predictions for 2019

It’s the end of the year, that time when most political prognosticators have to eat crow and admit that their predictions were wildly off the mark [1]. I’ve had to mournfully admit fault myself: my biggest recent error was my dismissive attitude toward Senator Bernie Sanders when he announced his presidential candidacy.

Still, such prognosticating is pretty much a requirement if you’re going to be a pundit. So without further ado, here are five more big political predictions for the new year. Let’s hope my mouth won’t be too full at the end of 2019.

1. Democrats versus Trump will head to the Supreme Court.

Soon after being handed the gavel of the House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters will subpoena President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Waters will do this without first sending a letter making a formal request, a slight Trump will use to lambast House Democrats as conspiring to undermine and humiliate him.

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Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney will reply to Waters that Trump will not cooperate with her subpoena, which will ensue a lengthy fight in the courts over the limits of executive power. The court battle will provide grist for everyone—for Trump, it will be a convenient distraction to keep his base tight; for the Democrats, it will be a high-profile example of progressive energy taking the fight to the president.

2. A little-known Democratic presidential candidate will make waves.

In the first two months of the year, the expected Democrats begin making their presidential announcements. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Amy Klobuchar, Eric Garcetti, Andrew Gillum, and Beto O’Rourke will all throw their hats into the ring. Most of these candidates, however, will be unable to gain much traction with a Democratic electorate divided between moderates, progressives, activists, big business, and big labor. A virtually unknown aspirant, however, will have a stellar, Obama-like night during the first televised debate. Thereafter, he or she will excel at retail campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.

It could be Congressman Eric Swalwell, former Obama Cabinet officer Julian Castro, or New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Or it could be none of those three. But the candidates we consider frontrunners today will no longer be the frontrunners in 2019.

3. Joe Biden will quit politics.

The “will he, won’t he” of a Joe Biden presidential run will finally be decided by Biden himself in February 2019. The septuagenarian former veep, who has run for president twice before and has gotten nowhere both times, will decide to spend the golden years of his life with his wife and family. After 40 years in politics, affable Joe won’t be able to picture himself reminding Americans of their better angels or participating in the nastiness that is politics today.

4. Matt Whitaker will block public release of the Mueller report.

Special counsel Robert Mueller will finalize his investigation and send his report to Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who has never been supportive of the inquiry. Using his powers as attorney general, Whitaker will block public disclosure of Mueller’s conclusions and release a sanitized summary detailing no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Democrats will be outraged—as will be Bob Mueller, who will proceed to give his first on-air, primetime interview detailing what he did and did not find. The next week, the House Judiciary Committee will debate opening an impeachment inquiry based solely on Mueller’s interview.

5. Trump will sign a deal with North Korea’s Kim—and it will fail.

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will hold two summits in six months and sign a formal accord mandating an action-for-action denuclearization deal.

Pyongyang will agree to decommission its declared plutonium and enrichment facilities (with Yongbyon and Kangson the first to go) and destroy its intercontinental ballistic missile inventory. Washington will agree to establish formal diplomatic ties with North Korea, sign an end-of-war declaration stressing its commitment to peaceful relations, and relax sanctions for as long as Kim is compliant.

Trump and Kim, however, will fight over who goes first and how quick the denuclearization process should last. North Korean officials will accuse the U.S. of moving the goalposts, and Trump will recycle the “little Rocket Man” moniker of 2017. Diplomacy will break down completely, and the North Korea file will end 2019 the way it began 2018: in an uncomfortable stare-down.

Daniel R. DePetris is a foreign policy analyst, a columnist at Reuters, and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative.

19 Comments (Open | Close)

19 Comments To "Five Political Predictions for 2019"

#1 Comment By Mont D. Law On January 1, 2019 @ 6:41 am

“Maxine Waters will subpoena President Donald Trump’s tax returns.”

From the IRS. Which Trump will need an injunction to quash, from a lower court. This could or could not go well for Trump, depending.

“Bob Mueller, who will proceed to give his first on-air, primetime interview detailing what he did and did not find. ”

As opposed to sworn testimony before the appropriate committee? Which again will need a court to quash.

Republicans will rue the day John Roberts was appointed. His romantic dedication to an impartial Supreme court will be their downfall.

#2 Comment By Some guy On January 1, 2019 @ 9:14 am

I predict that the Democratic nominee will be a woman, person of color, or both. The nominee will declare himself or herself to be feminist, embrace intersectionality, trans, and immigrant rights, and call on white Americans to acknowledge their privilege. The next two years will be a culture war on steroids.

#3 Comment By Joe F On January 1, 2019 @ 10:00 am

I think you are right about Dem candidate.

If Whittaker withholds the report, there will be a massive outcry not just by Dems, but the country at large. After all that has been invested, if he does Trumps bidding, he will pay dearly for it.

Like it or not Dems will get tax returns using Rep precedent. White House is not decider on this, but they will scream nonetheless.

Kim and Trump won’t even get close to a signing because NK will never disclose it’s inventory

#4 Comment By Minnesota Mary On January 1, 2019 @ 1:32 pm

I am guessing that Minnesota Senator, Amy Klobuchar, will be on the Democratic ticket for 2020.

#5 Comment By Richard Parker On January 1, 2019 @ 2:02 pm

I have no idea of the specifics that will take place, but Donald Trump will not be President January 1, 2020.

#6 Comment By Myx On January 1, 2019 @ 3:27 pm

You think Whitaker will still be acting AG when Mueller finishes his report?
Very odd prediction.

#7 Comment By Bruce Heilbrunn On January 1, 2019 @ 3:44 pm

All past and current Trump cabinet appointees will be subpoened, and some will wind up being indicted.
We will learn Trump accepted about $30 million from Russia for the campaign and he will be impeached.
Many trump business supporters will have to testify before congress.
Wild speculation: Trump will lose the election and the army will be called in to surround the white house. it will be the secret service vs the army.

#8 Comment By Claribeth Davis On January 1, 2019 @ 3:54 pm

The Democrat presidential candidate will be an unknown who will pretend to be a centrist. That worked for them with Obama. They’d be fools to not do it again.

#9 Comment By Windy On January 1, 2019 @ 4:32 pm

Why does the chair of the House Financial Services Committee think she can make this demand? Wouldn’t the request properly come from the Joint Committee on Taxation?

#10 Comment By JonF On January 1, 2019 @ 5:14 pm

Re: I predict that the Democratic nominee will be a woman, person of color, or both.

The ticket will likely include a woman and/or non white person. But the identity politics will be kept far offstage, just as it was during the midterms when economic issues and healthcare was highlighted.

#11 Comment By vpurto On January 1, 2019 @ 8:48 pm

Daniel R. DePetris and commentariat, are you all lunatics, are not you? This country is in the state of Civil War 102, which was declared by President Trump and his base. Albeit it is minority of population but it is organized, armed to the teeth and represents continuity of traditions – the backbone of any country. Population of big cities – the motley crowd of mixed ethnical background has no chance to survive.

#12 Comment By cka2nd On January 2, 2019 @ 7:39 am

Gods, I hope you are right about Joe Biden, the loathsome phony.

Sitting on the Mueller Report would be political insanity, I think, and I say that as someone who is a left-wing skeptic of Russiagate.

I think you are again underestimating Bernie Sanders. Over the last year, he’s worked to buff up his record as a fighter for civil rights for all and to re-establish a Peace and Non-Intervention wing within the Democratic Party, all while retaining his position as the Party’s preeminent economic progressive. In essence, Sanders will embody the most progressive instincts within the party across the board, but without falling into full-on identity politics. I think Sanders’ campaign in the 2020 Democratic race could be similar to Ronald Reagan’s path to the presidency in 1980, or a counter-factual 1976 Democratic presidential competition in which Carter, Udall, Bayh, Harris, et al were brushed aside by a Teddy Kennedy who (a) had never driven his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island and (b) actually wanted to be president, or even Trump’s war on the Republican establishment in 2016, although I don’t think Sanders is willing to play that degree of hardball. The establishment will fail to unite itself around one centrist, faux-liberal competitor for Sanders (Harris is the most likely option, but won’t be able to push Booker and Gillibrand and Co. out of the race soon enough), and the other economic progressives – Warren and Brown – will fail to make enough headway with the most hardcore identity politics folk. This will leave Sanders and his supporters to buck the prevailing elite D.C., Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Diversity, Inc. winds. My guess is that the Democratic ticket will ultimately be Sanders-Klobuchar.

#13 Comment By Some Wag On January 2, 2019 @ 9:03 am

A stare down with NK isn’t really possible since the dismantlement of the DMZ. Improving SK/NK relations leave the US no firm ground to stand on in Korea and ultimately mainland Asia. If Seoul is capable of accepting a nuclear Kim, we have no authority to object on their behalf. After 65 years, the DPRK has won the waiting game.

#14 Comment By Patrick O’Connor On January 2, 2019 @ 12:15 pm

California has moved into Super Tuesday. A CA campaign means lots of expensive TV. Your theoretical unknown candidate who dazzles in Iowa would have to have huge campaign organization and war chest to compete on Super Tuesday a few weeks later.

#15 Comment By EarlyBird On January 2, 2019 @ 6:46 pm

1. Waters will fail in court to get the tax returns released.

2. Bernie will not run, but will act as an outsider firebrand to help shape the Dem ticket around liberal economics. Harris will flame out, being a painfully boring and uninspiring speaker. Same with Booker. Yes, all the current “frontrunners” will fail, and the dark horse will be a white male from a red or purple state who hunts, and is a full-on Bernie style old New Deal type economic populist. He will put a SJW type woman on his ticket to throw a bone to identity nuts.

3. Agreed. Biden is done.

4. The AG will try to block the report, but this will be too much even for the moral midgets of the GOP, who will demand release of it, also.**

5. Trump won’t even pay attention to Kim again., but he will bring the troops home from Afghanistan very precipitously (thank God).

**6. Trump will just resign, after getting private assurances that he won’t be prosecuted for the decades of money laundering he’s be in doing in Russia, which will be the crime exposed, not collusion. Melania will divorce him, and Trump will move to Moscow. All this by this time next year.

#16 Comment By Anthony On January 2, 2019 @ 9:47 pm

I predict that whatever drama unfolds, it will be more noise than substance.

If Trump isn’t impeached by Fall of 2019, then it’s unlikely to happen. Election considerations will set in. Why undo 2016, when you can legitimately unseat him in 2020? If he survives impeachment, you might increase his odds of re-election.

Plenty of people thought Trump wouldn’t make it to the end of 2018. Here we are.

Don’t underestimate the power of inertia and incumbency.

Minus some massive revelation that is easy for the every day person to grasp, the status quo still had good odds of remaining.

#17 Comment By Luke On January 3, 2019 @ 1:57 pm

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Agreed. The radical Left of the Dem party cannot be publicly represented by their general election candidate lest it ensure the re-election of DJT (or some other non-Dem). Their power brokers, the same ones that placed Clinton over Sanders, will make it happen.

#18 Comment By Luke On January 3, 2019 @ 2:20 pm

Oh, and…DJT will never be removed from office with 85% support of the Republican party.

#19 Comment By Andrew P On January 8, 2019 @ 9:34 am

The Democratic nominee almost MUST be a woman of color, and possibly a Muslim. The Dems need to energize both their feminist base and the Black vote to win the election. I expect Moochelle to throw her hat into the ring, and Linda Sarsour and rep Rashida Tlaib may throw in their pink hats as well. Camel-La-La is already in, the loser from Georgia may, and who knows who else will join them. If their nominee is a real radical and opposed to Israel, Bloomberg may run as an Independent.