I think it’s fair to say that I have a terrible record at predicting political events. In 2016, I predicted that Clinton would win the US election and that Britain would vote to stay in the EU. Then in 2017, I thought the EU would weaken because of a lethargic economy and divisions on how to deal with Brexit; in fact, the EU’s economy is growing much faster than expected and the bloc is united on Brexit. I thought the Conservative would win a landslide majority in Britain- they failed to win a majority at all. But with my abysmal record in mind, I thought I would make some predictions for 2018.
- Trump will survive any attempt to be impeached, but his popularity ratings will continue to dip. Despite having obviously colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, Trump is unlikely to be impeached, regardless of whatever Robert Mueller finds out. Sadly, most Republicans will put party before country. Having said that, more scandals will emerge. Some people close to Trump may be accused of sexual harassment. I certainly believe a scandal related to Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his property and investments to prevent a conflict of interest will become headlines.
- Healthcare reform will pass, but it won’t be the full Obamacare repeal Republicans have been promising since the Affordable Care Act was passed. On the one hand, Republicans are desperate to repeal Obamacare- failure to do so will look incredibly embarrassing given how vehemently they have opposed it. They will use the Budget Reconciliation process to avoid a Senate filibuster. On the other hand, deep cuts to Medicaid and a big spike in the number of people uninsured would cause too much damage in the 2018 midterms. So although the ACA as a whole will be repealed, key provisions of it will be kept in any Republican healthcare reform law. In the long term, the trend towards government-run healthcare remains on track. As soon as the Democrats win elections, a push towards single-payer will be a top priority.
- The Democrats will make gains in the 2018 midterms, but they will be largely inconsequential. In 2018, most of the politically controversial aspects of the Republicans’ agenda will be rushed through Congress before the end of the year, to take advantage of Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. In 2019, regardless of the outcome of the midterms, Democrats will not be able to repeal or alter any major aspects of legislation. Trump will still control the executive, so most foreign policy decisions and the nature of immigration enforcement will remain unchanged. The best the Democrats can hope for until 2020 is to block more minor Republican bills.
- Putin will win the Russian presidential election, but the result will be hotly contested. Expect mass protests in the streets of Russia’s major cities, lots of arrests and a few coincidental deaths. Putin will continue to enjoy relatively high approval ratings. But without involvement in major conflicts abroad, expect discontent to grow regarding the Kremlin’s domestic policies. The Russian economy will continue to suffer from high inflation and low oil prices.
- Britain will become even more divided regarding Brexit. It will become apparent that Brexit means having to stick by the EU’s regulatory regime to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland. The combination of low wage growth and high inflation will consolidate majority public opinion against a hard Brexit, but key aspects of society- the elderly, most Conservatives, working class post-industrial towns- will support it. Most people will continue to support Brexit on the basis of respecting the referendum result, but the number of people who support overturning Brexit or a second referendum will grow. Brexit’s opponents will point to opinion polls showing a majority of people believing that in retrospect, leaving the EU was the wrong decision. Expect anti-Brexit protests to increase in size, filled with young people worried about their life chances in post-Brexit Britain.
- The Conservative Party will become too divided to function properly, particularly by the latter end of the year. But an early election won’t be held, because no one wants it. Consequently, Theresa May will hang on to being Prime Minister, however weak her position may seem. The Conservative Party’s divisions means it is unable to unite behind a successor, and they won’t want a contest as this crucial stage of the Brexit negotiations.
- Germany’s political troubles will continue. Either another ‘Grand Coalition’ will be formed, or there will be another election. Regardless, Germany, and Angela Merkel, will have lost much of their authority on the European stage. Without a strong Germany or Britain, expect France to provide leadership. Emmanuel Macron’s approval ratings will rise, driven by an improving economy, the success of his labour market reforms, and the new-found prominence France will enjoy in foreign affairs. This will be good for European unity; not only is Macron a committed pro-European, but his pragmatic centrism is closer to European public opinion than the ideologically austerity of Merkel. A French-led EU will push ahead will creating a single digital market in Europe, fostering closer co-operation on defence and security policy, and negotiating free trade deals with non-EU countries. By contrast, Britain will look less relevant than ever.
- The World Cup will be held in Russia. There will be some controversy, particularly the record Russia’s football fans have of being racist against black footballers. Many gay football fans won’t attend for fear of their safety. Germany to win, I think, though my footballing predictions are even worse than my political ones.