With 2016 winding down, I thought I would take some time to share some political predictions for 2017. There is no doubt that 2016 was a historic year, with a lurch to the right globally, resulting in Brexit, the resignation of Italy’s left-leaning PM, president-elect Donald Trump, and anti-immigrant populism reshaping the globe.
To those on the left, myself included, 2017 is not likely going to be any easier to deal with because we’ll start to see the result of some of the right-wing, populist governance, especially in the U.S. Here are my predictions for the U.S. and other parts of the globe.
Europe: All eyes will be on two countries in Europe in the first quarter of 2017, Italy and France. It is likely that right-wing, anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen will be one of the final contenders for the presidency in France. Right now, she is not predicted to win, but pundits and poll watchers said the same thing about Brexit and Donald Trump. Keep your eyes on France. The other country to pay attention to is Italy. There, it is more likely that a right-wing populist, Beppe Grillo, a former comedian/celebrity turned politician and leader of the internet-born, anti-EU Five Star Movement, will rise to power. Last weekend, Italy’s left-learning prime minister, Matteo Renzi, resigned after his party suffered a stinging defeat in terms of a referendum that would have changed the make-up of Italy’s government. For a better understanding of Europe’s growing right-wing populism, including France and Italy’s situations, check out this article by the NYT. Keep in mind that this was published before the referendum vote in Italy last weekend. For more info on the Five Star Movement, click here.
There is some hope for Europe, however. Last weekend, while Italy lurched to the right, pro-EU, left-leaning Alexander van der Bellen defeated right-wing populist Norbert Hofer in Austria. In Germany, meanwhile, Angela Merkel announced that she will seek a fourth term. It is unclear, however, whether or not she will survive the right-wing populist tide heading into the new year.
I broke these predictions into separate issues.
Abortion rights: You don’t really need to overturn Roe V. Wade at the Supreme Court to restrict abortion rights or even obliterate them at the state level. Republicans started to learn this after they won a slew of state legislatures in 2010 and 2014. The Democrats lost even more state legislatures after the most recent election, and already, you are starting to see GOP-controlled state legislatures really go after abortion rights. Just this week, Ohio passed one of the most extreme anti-choice laws in the country, which would ban abortions after six weeks. To put this into context, think of how many women don’t even know they are pregnant at that point. Gov. John Kasich has 10 days to decide whether or not to sign the bill. No matter Kasich’s decision, what Ohio did is probably a preview of what other states will do. They will also most likely try to pass laws that regulate medical facilities, which, in turn, will cause a lot of abortion providers to shut down because they can’t meet the requirements. So really, the Supreme Court or GOP-controlled federal government doesn’t need to go after Roe V. Wade. They can just restrict abortion rights at the state level. Meanwhile, expect the GOP Congress to totally cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood. In fact, I would say, expect that soon. They already tried it numerous times with spending bills over the last few years, and if President Obama was not in office, it would have happened.
Gay rights: I am not one who believes that gay marriage will be overturned. Even recently, during a “60 Minutes” interview, Trump said he has no interest in seeing gay marriage overturned. (I will note that in that same interview, he said he is going to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe V. Wade and it will go back to the states). That said, I do think there is a real possibility that workplace protections/anti-discrimination laws that Obama put in place via executive action can be overturned, through Trump’s own executive orders, or through the Justice Department, which is going to be led by Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, whose record on civil rights and gay rights is dismal, to say the least. I’ll talk about him more when I get to voting rights.
The Environment: During the campaign, Trump said many times he wants the U.S. to exit the Paris Climate Agreement, which is a commitment for major countries to cut down on their green house gas emissions. This is one of the most important parts of Obama’s legacy, along with the numerous executive orders he signed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. This week, environmental activists saw some hope when Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, met with Al Gore to discuss climate change. Hopes were dashed a few hours later, however, when Trump announced that climate change denier Scott Pruitt will head the EPA. Pruitt also has very close ties to the fossil fuel industry. I predict that the progress President Obama made on combating climate change is going to be rolled back. It’s unclear if Trump even believes in the science, since he said during the campaign that climate change is a hoax developed by the Chinese! I assume that Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress will really gut environmental regulations. The environmental movement needs to put Trump’s administration on watch and not stand for deregulating everything.
Voting rights: Things aren’t looking too good here, either. Voting rights have already suffered over the last few years, after the Supreme Court gutted parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and GOP-controlled states passed restrictive voter ID laws. Now, expect more of that stuff to pass at the state level, because, like gerrymandering, it is one way for the GOP to maintain power. Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions, as attorney general, will do very little to protect voting rights. I am saying this based on his past comments on race. Sessions was deemed so extreme in the 1980s, when Reagan tried to appoint him as a federal judge, that a GOP-led Senate denied his appointment.
Immigration: I am not sure that I can make a prediction on this issue, but DREAMers certainly have the right to be worried that they will be deported. Trump ran a campaign where this was his central issue, and he successfully pitted the white-working class against minorities. This political move goes back to what rich, white property owners did shortly after the Civil War. They pitted the white working-class against black Americans as a way to maintain power and launch terrible Jim Crow laws across the South. Du Bois talks about this political maneuvering in the Souls of Black Folk, and Trump exercised the same move brilliantly. Whether or not he will be able to deliver, it has yet to be seen, but his cabinet appointments are an alarming sign.
The Economy: Trump is fortunate that he will inherit the Obama recovery. Unemployment is now below 5 percent. However, I predict the GOP will pass massive tax cuts for the rich, run up the deficit, and defang Dodd-Frank, meaning Wall Street will go back to being unregulated, which in turn, can lead to another economic meltdown a la 2007/2008, if not in 2017, then maybe in 2018.
Foreign Policy: This may be the hardest thing to predict. Trump has already rattled China by talking to Taiwan last week, and he has praised Putin. Putin wants these right-wing, isolationist populists to win so he can be more aggressive towards the Baltic states. The Trump win, coupled with a possible Marine Le Pen win in France, could serve to embolden Putin and lead to more Russian aggression, similar to what Russia did in Ukraine a few years ago. We shall see, but pay attention to Russia in 2017.
The Democratic Party: Boy, oh boy, does this party need to rebuild. Unfortunately, part of President Obama’s legacy will be the fact that he oversaw the loss of dozens of state legislatures, the House, and the Senate, after winning in 2008 with massive majorities in the House and Senate. His party is in the wilderness as he leaves office, at every level of government. The DNC needs a grassroots remaking, from the bottom up. The party would be wise not to ditch identity politics, which is really a term for civil rights. You can’t halt the shifting demographics in this country, and if the party was smart, they would panic less about the loss of the rust belt states and focus more on flipping Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. Yes, those states are trending purple and even BLUE long-term! In fact, the margin Clinton lost in Georgia was less than she lost in Ohio and Iowa, so it befuddles me why the party is not investing in flipping Arizona, Texas, and Georgia. They need to build infrastructure there and start at the local level, just as Republicans have done for years across the country.
At the same time, the party needs to return to its roots and formulate a populist economic message. The challenge going forward will be to incorporate civil rights issues and economic populism. How they do that remains to be seen, but the DNC chair will be the first real sign of which direction the party is going. I still believe that Keith Ellison can unite the working-class part of the party with the wing that cares about civil rights issues. He also said he would give up his House seat to run the DNC full-time. That also needs to happen. The Dems need to stop appointing people to the DNC who are full-time membesr of Congress. The DNC chair MUST be a full-time job, just like the RNC chair is full-time.
There is some hope going forward. The Dems are poised to capture more governorship in 2018 and probably flip a few House seats, too. Winning those types of races will help build the party and build its bench for presidential elections moving forward. The bad news, however, is that the Senate map for Democrats in 2018 is awful! They have to defend over 20 seats, including some in red states. Right now, I am predicting the Democrats will work to rebuild the party in 2017, win some state elections in 2018, but lose more Senate seats.
For those that are left-leaning, 2017 is poised to be another tough year. The tide of right-wing populism is probably not slowing down, but since Trump’s election, I have seen a type of mobilization happening that is even greater than what I witnessed during the Bush years. There is hope, but it is going to take movement-building to counter what’s coming. I feel like the left globally resembles the rebels in Rogue One, a group of scrappy fighters opposed to the Empire. You know, going into Rogue One, that the rebels aren’t going to win the battles against the Empire in that movie, but you also know that they are laying the groundwork for A New Hope, so there’s reason to keep fighting and resisting.
What are your predictions for the new year? Where is the world going?