You know the drill. Here’s what’s chiseled in Mayan-calendar-sized stone for the mind-warping year to come:
1.) Barack Obama will be defeated by Mitt Romney in a race decided by Michigan’s electoral votes and the popular vote of the working class, who will be on the losing end of even a slightly better economy. Romney will have no coattails. On the Libertarian ticket with Drew Carey, Gary Johnson will do surprisingly well in states Obama wins, fizzle in states Romney wins, and take New Mexico. Republicans will lose seats in Congress but anti-establishment conservatives and libertarians will see continued gains.
2.) The GOP will, yes, nominate Romney. Putting Mitt over the top will be the realization that if he isn’t nominated this time, he’ll run again in 2016 and probably again after that. People will remind themselves how well the spineless and coreless Al Gore did in 2000 against a candidate with less baggage and no record. Some delegates pledged to Romney will go rogue at the convention, but it won’t matter.
3.) In a surprise, Romney will turn for his running mate to David Petraeus, and Petraeus will accept. Obama’s foreign policy advantage will be gone. Panic over the stunning whiteness and maleness of the ticket will prove misguided; in every other way Petraeus is everything Romney is not. Marco Rubio makes Republicans feel great about themselves, but Petraeus will make Americans feel like the adult has finally walked into the room. The day the first Romney/Petraeus bumper stickers go out will be the last time anyone ever mentions Condoleezza Rice.
4.) Hillary Clinton won’t be Obama’s running mate. She wants to see him get his comeuppance, and keep herself clean for 2016; he wants to prove that he doesn’t need her to win; Joe Biden will have made it abundantly clear that evicting him from the White House will require a court order and a no-knock raid. Obama will remind him he doesn’t need a court order, and Biden will wiggle his fingers as if pretending to be scared.
5.) The economy will actually improve marginally, as the White House controls financial speculation by ensuring no expense is spared in the ongoing, open-ended bailout of Europe. This will outrage some Americans, but Obama will successfully emphasize that once again he has averted world disaster. Still, the economy will not improve for everyone, and though Obama’s base will grow his share of the swing vote will plummet.
6.) Obamacare will be upheld, but not by the 5-4 decision everyone fears. The Supreme Court will issue a plurality opinion as it did in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, splitting on severability. Four justices will uphold, three will uphold but write to strike down the individual mandate, and two will write to strike down the whole law. The unworkable decision will provoke a foredoomed effort in Congress to repeal it. Full-bore Obamacare will be the law of the land, but lawyers will fan out into the federal courts, where competing and incoherent rulings will hamstring its implementation and create a crazy quilt of waivers, injunctions, and ad hoc exceptions. Plus, hundreds of thousands will simply disobey the law. Attorney General Eric Holder will send some of them to jail. A hideous video clip will go viral, featuring an aging libertarian boomer being hauled into an armor-plated vehicle by a SWAT team. The boomer will be 2012’s Cindy Sheehan, and the lead SWAT officer will become the “pepper spray cop” of the year. Both will speak out against Obamacare, and Mitt Romney will declare them both American heroes.
7.) Popular movements for prison reform and drug legalization, driven by the inclusion of conservatives and libertarians disillusioned with the struggle for national power, will gather enough steam to force a confrontation with the federal government in Oregon, New Mexico, and California. After the health care enforcement debacle, and the ensuing replacement of Attorney General Holder with Van Jones, the Obama administration will cave. Except for methamphetamine penalties, which will actually increase, the drug war will end west of the Pecos. Mexico’s PRI will return to power, cut a deal with the cartels, and tax and regulate all drugs. Illegal immigration will continue to taper off. Romney will tap Newt Gingrich to shepherd Gingrich’s legalization plan into law.
8.) War will break out in the Mideast, but not between the U.S. and Iran. With the tacit approval of the Saudis, the British, the French, and the Russians, Iraq and Turkey will intervene in Syria and supervise a military government intended to fuse the Libyan and Egyptian models into something workable. The Arab countries will use the occasion as an excuse to isolate Hezbollah and Hamas, which Israel will badly weaken in cooperation with Russia using nontraditional warfare perfected this year in Iran. Internal squabbling and a lack of initiative will cause the Iranians to hunker down and watch their remaining allies and proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine flounder. The major powers will decide that a humbled Iran with no hope of restoring regional hegemony can be left to pursue an undeclared nuclear weapon. Obama will have followed the logic of his Libya strategy and blanketed the Mideast skies with “peacekeeping drones” on permanent rotation. Iraq and Iran will become close allies, but Iraq will be the dominant partner as Russia switches its favor from Tehran to Baghdad. U.S.-Russian relations will benefit from this realignment, and the mullahs’ dream of eradicating Israel will become a fond memory and nothing more.
9.) North Korea will become a classic military despotism, more like Myanmar than Zimbabwe. The army and the state will become one and the same. Every North Korean will be conscripted. Kim Jong-un will grumble, but the junta that establishes power will move with uncanny speed to bring its people out of the dark ages and up to the high standard of intelligence and fitness set by the People’s Liberation Army. Pyongyang will normalize relations with South Korea, cozy up to Japan and Myanmar, and back away from China (which will grow increasingly hostile to the healthier, happier North). The total reversal of their foreign policy will strike the North Korean people, for whom it’s always 1984, as the most natural thing in the world. American worries about losing the Pacific will fade. The Japanese prime minister will win the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering a nuclear arms treaty between North Korea and China.
10.) Marginal political movements will grow increasingly independent of the two main political parties. The Occupy movement will use social networks to coordinate with protesters worldwide to successfully Occupy Foreclosures. The first working seastead will be established. Americans Elect will fail to coalesce around a single viable presidential candidate, but will cause hundreds of contenders to run for, and win, local and statewide office. After Romney turns him down for treasury secretary, Donald Trump revokes his American citizenship, relocates to Belize, and runs for president.
James Poulos is a columnist at The Daily Caller, a contributor at Ricochet, and a commentator in print, online, and on television and radio. Recently he has been the host of The Bottom Line and Reform School on PJTV and a fellow of the Claremont Institute. His website is jamespoulos.com and his Twitter handle is @jamespoulos.