The Times Square confetti has fallen, Mariah Carey has crooned, and we’ve all set back to work…and the news cycle has continued apace. Only a few days in, and the headlines we see now – the Trump/Bannon feud, the nuclear button – would have been unthinkable a few months ago. But some of the larger trends we’ll see this year are already taking shape. Let’s look forward to the rest of the year, shall we?
CNN Moves Right
The network won’t end up on the right side of the spectrum, but it’ll be to the right of where it is right now. Media is a popularity contest, and using facts only benefits an outlet if it makes that outlet more popular. When AT&T completes its acquisition of Time Warner, a traditionally stodgy company will control the media assets once driven by Ted turner’s wild personality, and later by TIME Magazine’s hard left slant. A new broom sweeps clean, and that Don Lemon fresh scent might be him leaving the building…or at least him cleaning up the most obviously slanted parts of his show.
A Banner Year for Baseball
George Will once described football as “violence interrupted by committee meetings” – two things most Americans seek to avoid. Two seasons ago, they added a third: protests. The NFL has paid the price in ratings and ticket sales ever since. Things got slightly better with the addition of scripted touchdown celebrations late in the season, but it’ll take more than a few skits to break up something that’s become drudgery. In contrast, look at baseball…young men excited to play the game, who have fun and let us in on that fun. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many of them pray before an at-bat, and nobody kneels during the anthem. Expect the World Series to surpass the Super Bowl yet again.
This wouldn’t have been a prediction a few weeks ago, but it is now. The Iranians are in the streets because food and fuel prices are skyrocketing while their economy stagnates. The protests are about practical things; they’re not some great moral uprising against dress codes and Islamic Law…not yet. But the Iranians are casting off economic oppression, and social oppression will follow. Thousands are in the streets calling for the death of Iranian president Rouhani and praising the Shah, who allowed considerable more freedoms pre-1979 than the Iranians have today.
A Bad Year for Hollywood
The industry is turning out bad products. Movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada just had their worst year since 1992; even during the recession, more people went to movies than they did last year. Plus, the movies get lost in the noise of who’s the latest creep to fall in the Pervalanche. (The term Pervalanche was coined by the inimitable David Burge, whom you should definitely be following on Twitter.) Thanks to the triumvirate of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, we can watch movies without leaving the house (and without the rising ticket prices at theaters). We have surround sound, we have high-def, but we are missing out on the giant buckets of Terre Haute cuisine…movie theater popcorn. The technologist who delivers that food to the home audience will be vastly rewarded, and he or she will entirely deserve it. Netflix and chill is out, Netflix and warm salty carbs slathered in butter-adjacent substance is IN.
The Death of Identity Politics
The greatest insult to any group is to treat them all the same. Yet media, marketers, and pollsters continue to lump us all together. That system is broken: A person’s vote can no longer be predicted by their race, education level, geographic location, income, or age. You need to know all of those things together to make even an educated guess about how someone will vote. The efficiency of identity politics is over in 2018.
Republicans will lose some seats, but Democrats won’t win control of both houses of Congress. The old voting blocs are dissolving. By November, Americans will have had 10 more months of increased take-home pay, and if people vote with their wallets, they’ll overlook the Twitter rages and the salacious stories in blockbuster books.
The Return of Subject Matter Experts
In 2016, we saw the flat-out rejection of experts…experts who were wrong about everything. No one in politics is right about all things, all the time. But there are people who are right about certain specific things, most of the time. And the public is hungry for their voices to make sense of a chaotic news cycle. You may have seen the New Yorker cartoon in which an airplane passenger rallies his fellow flyers: “These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?”
There’s no incentive to change a bad law if no one is enforcing it. Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is enforcing the law, and thus reigniting the calls to change it. The Attorney General doesn’t get to decide what the law says…but Congress does. And in a midterm election year, candidates can differentiate themselves – and recruit the youth vote and the independent vote – by supporting legal marijuana. If the Freedom Caucus doesn’t carry this banner, they’ll be missing a real opportunity.
Thanks for reading these, and there’s one more thing I ask you to do: hold me accountable. I’m looking forward to seeing how these 8 predictions stand up (or fall down) throughout the year!