What did you get totally wrong about 2021? Here’s my answer: I was sure — sure — that as soon as the Covid vaccines were widely available, all but an infinitesimally small percentage of American adults would line up to take the shot, crush the pandemic and get back to life as normal-ish.
That didn’t happen. And sometimes, that’s the nature of a bad prediction: At the time it’s made, it can seem not only totally rational, but obvious. It may have an element of wishcasting (in my case, it certainly did).
Speaking of wishcasting, 12 months ago, on Dec. 31, Trump skipped out on a party at Mar-a-Lago to return early to the White House, where he quietly met with Justice Department officials and pressed them to try to overturn the results of the November election. Meanwhile, from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Biden remotely joined “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest,” urged Americans to get the vaccine and said he was “more optimistic about America’s chances than I’ve ever been.”
As predictions go, you could do worse in forecasting the issues that defined this year than what those two men were focused on: Attempting to overthrow American democracy and struggling to contain the pandemic. 2021 in a nutshell, before it even began.
With the year (blessedly) behind us, it’s time again for a treasured POLITICO Magazine tradition: a rundown of some of the worst predictions of 2021. Some are cocksure and smug; others have a tragic air of obsessiveness (cough, Mike Lindell, cough); still others were totally fair and reasonable predictions at the time, but the world spun in a different direction than it once seemed. Here, more than two dozen predictions about 2021 that were, well, bad.
“Everything’s going to be fine” in the last few weeks of the Trump administration
Predicted by: Hugh Hewitt, Jan. 6
On the morning of Jan. 6, conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt appeared on Megyn Kelly’s podcast and was asked a question on the minds of seemingly every political observer in America: “Joe Biden’s going to get certified [as president-elect] today. What does Trump do over the next two weeks before the inauguration? … I mean, he’s still going to be saying what he’s saying about the electoral process, and there’s a big rally in D.C. today, but what do you think we can expect?”
Hewitt responded by predicting a raft of new pardons before turning to the broader concern about the peaceful transfer of power: “I would just say to everybody: It will be fine. Everything’s going to be fine,” he said as Kelly voiced her agreement.
A few hours later, a violent pro-Trump putsch at the U.S. Capitol disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and dragged the nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis. Everything was not fine.
“If Biden is elected, there’s a good chance you will be dead within the year. Republicans will be hunted. Police will stand down.”
Predicted by: Scott Adams, July 1, 2020
There are a few reasons you might recognize the name Scott Adams. Perhaps you know him from his repeat appearances on these annual “worst predictions” lists (e.g. that Trump, Biden and Bernie Sanders would all contract Covid by election day 2020 and one would die). If you’re of a certain age, maybe you remember “Dilbert,” the ’90s cartoon icon he created that satirized corporate office culture in the years before “Office Space.” Or, if you’re part of the political cognoscenti in the broader Trump era, you might know him as a self-described expert in the rhetorical dark arts who has spun that ability into a second act as a MAGA-adjacent political commentator with a large online following.
But unlike many prominent voices of that persuasion, he exudes a calm clarity in his thinking — as if what he says is the natural outgrowth of a deliberative process — which gives his predictions a certain dispassionate confidence, as if they are closer to scientific fact than wishcasting or doomsaying.
For instance, on July 1, 2020, Adams made this prediction about American life in 2021 with Joe Biden in the White House: “If Biden is elected, there’s a good chance you will be dead within the year.” Lest you think he was talking about, say, the potential mismanagement of the pandemic or some natural disaster, Adams clarified what he meant in two further tweets: “Republicans will be hunted. Police will stand down.”
We are nearly a full year into Biden’s presidency. Police have not stood down. In fact, many cities have increased funding for police. Republicans, far from being hunted, have made major electoral gains and stand poised to retake at least one house of Congress next year. There are no killing fields. There has been no purge.
In protesting the end of the eviction ban, “Cori Bush’s antics generate publicity, but they won’t change political reality”
Predicted by: St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board, Aug. 3
When Bush staged a sleep-in on the steps of the Capitol to protest the lapse of the pandemic-era eviction ban, her hometown St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial that reads like a pat on the head of the freshman Missouri congresswoman and liberal Squad member.
Bush “clearly misunderstands the complicated process required to restore the moratorium,” they wrote. “As with many progressive ideals, righteous-sounding aspirations never seem to take into account political reality. … Bush tweeted a demand that President Joe Biden ‘extend the eviction moratorium’ and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer force legislative action. It’s as if she believes those three can wave their wands and magically make things better.”
Later that same day, Biden announced a new 60-day eviction moratorium — prompted by pressure and coverage generated by Bush’s TV-ready protest. With her “antics,” she had changed political reality. Even as the ban ended weeks later after being struck down by the Supreme Court, it came about not through magic, but real-world politics.
The Afghanistan pullout won’t be like the fall of Saigon, and the Taliban isn’t likely to take over
Predicted by: President Joe Biden, July 8
Last summer, as U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban steadily regained territory throughout the country, Biden held a press conference where he was asked about the historical “echoes” some veterans of the Vietnam War saw between the fall of Saigon and the Afghanistan pullout. Asked if he saw “parallels” between the two events, Biden — who, by the way, was a U.S. senator when Saigon fell in spring 1975 — was insistent.
“The Taliban is not the South — the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability,” he said. “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy … of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable. … The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
Just over one month later, in mid-August, Chinook helicopters airlifted Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as it evacuated. The Taliban surrounded and retook Kabul; it is now fully in control of the government of Afghanistan.
The $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill will be a “turning point” in American politics that restores faith in democracy and stops the rise of would-be “autocrats”
Predicted by: Chuck Schumer, March 10
Nope. The Covid bill passed, checks went into pockets, shots went into arms — and the political benefit for Democrats has been minimal. Politics hasn’t changed drastically, and it certainly doesn’t seem like the pro-autocracy movement has been put to bed in any way.
Biden is “gonna control how much meat you can eat”
Predicted by: Kevin McCarthy, April 28
Ahh, the early days of the Biden administration — pre-Afghanistan pullout, pre-Delta wave, pre-vaccine mandate — when the president’s poll numbers were strong and Republicans flailed about for an issue, any issue, that could provide a political foothold. Banning Dr. Seuss. No? Going to war against Major League Baseball? No? What about meat? Yes, that’s the ticket.
Here’s what happened: in late April, after Biden vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half, Fox News and its sister channels went to work promoting the falsehood that Biden was going to effectively ban meat, as PolitiFact extensively documented. Their promotion of that deception led House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to reflect their outrage back at them: On April 28, he appeared on “Hannity” and confidently predicted that the Biden administration “is gonna control how much meat you can eat.” That is, of course, not the case: Biden did not ban meat, nor is he controlling how much animal protein you consume, nor is any plan in motion to do that.
Here, a quick clarification may be useful: There’s a difference between a falsehood and a bad prediction. A falsehood is something presented as fact when it is not. A bad prediction is a forward-looking, if ultimately incorrect, assertion about how the future will play out. What McCarthy said is both.
Trump will be reinstated as president after the Supreme Court somehow overturns the 2020 election
Predicted by: Mike Lindell, many times
March 26: “All the evidence I have — everything — is going to go before the Supreme Court, and the election of 2020 is going bye-bye. … Donald Trump will be back in office in August.”
March 30: “I said Donald Trump will be in [the White House] in August. And I fully believe that myself: he’ll be back in.”
May 25: “Donald Trump … will be back in by the end of August.”
June 2: “These are facts: We have a clear path to pull this election down. … [On the Supreme Court,] it’ll be 9-0 — down comes the election, and in August, here comes Donald Trump.”
June 5: [On the August prediction] “I could be off by a month or so, I don’t know.”
July 4: “By the morning of August 13, it’ll be the talk of the world, going ‘Hurry up! Let’s get this election pulled down. Let’s … get these communists out, you know, [who] have taken over.’”
Aug. 21: “It’s Trump 2021, 100 percent: Trump 2021. This election, when it does get pulled down, there were so many down-ticket [races] affected, maybe the Supreme Court, they’ll just do a whole new election.”
Sept. 21: “I made a promise to this country that — with all the evidence I have — that we would get it to the Supreme Court. And I predicted they would vote 9-0 to look at the evidence. … Originally, I had hoped for August and September. … We will have this before the Supreme Court before Thanksgiving. That’s my promise to the people of this country.”
Sept. 24: “We’re giving everything — all the evidence I have — [to] the Supreme Court. That will be done before Thanksgiving. That’s in stone.”
Nov. 7: “[The Supreme Court is] going to accept it 9-0. It will require a new election across the board. … [They’ll] declare the 2020 vote void and order new elections across the board.”
Nov. 17: “One week from today, on Nov. 23, the states are suing the U.S. government at the Supreme Court. It’s over!”
Dec. 17: [On the timeline for his long-promised 9-0 Supreme Court case] “It was gonna be today; it switched out til Monday.”
Let’s be clear: Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. He lost by every possible measure. He lost the national popular vote (which doesn’t decide who wins). He lost the Electoral College (which does). He lost the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. He lost each of them by margins far too large to even possibly be changed by voter fraud. He and his allies lost 61 state and federal lawsuits related to the election results. His claims of widespread fraud or a stolen election are baseless and themselves fraudulent. He has no rightful claim to the presidency.
And yet, Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO-turned conspiracy theorist, continues to predict, despite reality, that the election results will be deemed illegitimate, thrown out, and that somehow, this will make Trump the White House’s rightful occupant. How would this work? Unclear. Even if the election were somehow dismissed, why would Trump be given the office? Also unclear. When will this occur? Perpetually, someday soon.
What Lindell has done — repeatedly and confidently predicting Trump’s return to office time after time, missed deadline after missed deadline — isn’t just moving the goalposts; it’s … well, metaphors fail. It’s moving the whole damn field. It’s changing the sport entirely. It’s inventing a new game that only he can win, and then managing to lose said game, repeatedly.
Terry McAuliffe will be (re)elected governor of Virginia
Predicted by: Robert McCartney (among many, many, many others), Jan. 1
On Jan. 1, when Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney published his 11th annual “predictions quiz” about the year ahead, he gave readers six options from which to correctly select the next governor of Virginia. Who would it be? Could Virginia make history by electing a Black woman, like Democratic state Sen. Jennifer McClellan or former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy? Would scandal-plagued Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax improbably resurrect his career after sexual assault allegations? Perhaps a Republican lawmaker, like former state House Speaker Kirk Cox, or the Trumpy state Sen. Amanda Chase?
No. The next governor, McCartney wrote, would be Terry McAuliffe, as Biden’s 2020 victory showed “there’s still plenty of appetite for an old White guy.” In November, of course, McAuliffe lost to someone who wasn’t even on the list: Republican Glenn Youngkin.
Post-Jan. 6, Trump is “effectively tarnished for all time and incapable of running in 2024”
Predicted by: Karl Rove, Feb. 11
It won’t “be possible for Trump to come back”
Predicted by: John Kerry, April 27
“Trump is never coming back”
Predicted by: Anthony Scaramucci, May 15
Apparently, fomenting a violent uprising against the government isn’t a deal-breaker. With his grip on the GOP still tight, the party’s nomination is certainly Trump’s if he wants it. And this month, polls on a potential presidential election between Trump and Biden show a tight race: Biden up by 1 (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 7); Biden up by 3 (Echelon Insights, Dec. 14); Trump up by 3 (Harris, Dec. 6). By all appearances, Trump is certainly capable of running in 2024 and winning.
“By the end of 2021, Kamala Harris will be the President.”
Predicted by: Sean Duffy, Jan. 2
When, on Jan. 2, “Watters World” guest host Dan Bongino asked Duffy, a former “Real World” castmate-turned-Wisconsin GOP congressman-turned-Fox News personality, for his predictions for the year ahead, there was not a moment’s hesitation: “Listen, my crystal ball tells me … that you’re going to have a continued cognitive decline for Joe Biden. By the end of 2021, Kamala Harris will be the president.”
Right now, it is Dec. 24, and while I’ll concede that it is possible that the next six days bring some truly Earth-shattering news, Biden is still the president. Has his fastball lost some of its zip as he’s aged? Sure. Whose doesn’t? But there is nothing to suggest anything in the realm of debilitating cognitive decline. And as 2021 ends, Harris is not only not the president, she’s been the subject of much critical coverage that has fanned doubts about whether she could ever really be the president.
Once Biden takes office, there’ll be a “depression the likes of which you’ve never seen”
Predicted by: Donald Trump, Oct. 22, 2020
You can doubt the strength of the Biden economy, debate whether or not the inflation we’ve experienced is transitory and question all the various statistics trotted out to prove this or that. But it’s a simple fact that the economy is not in a depression. It’s not even in a recession.
Since Biden took office, the unemployment rate has dropped from 6.3 percent to 4.2 percent; the Dow Jones Industrial Average has grown by roughly 14 percent; the S&P 500 is up roughly 21 percent; America’s gross domestic product grew by 7.8 percent over the first three quarters of 2021, even when adjusted for inflation. If that’s a depression, then what would be the appropriate term for the economy at the end of the Trump presidency?
“By Labor Day, Biden’s approval ratings will average [in the] low 60s.”
Predicted by: Tom Ricks, June 24
In his tweet, Ricks conceded that it was a “reckless” prediction, but at the time, maybe it didn’t seem too crazy. The economy was improving, the pandemic seemed to be receding.
Two months later, the botched Afghanistan withdrawal began to slash away at Biden’s ratings. The political fallout from the debacle — punctuated by horrific violence, humanitarian disaster and scores of deaths — continues to be an albatross on the Biden administration.
By Labor Day, in FiveThirtyEight’s average, Biden’s approval sat at 46.1 percent; his disapproval was 48.3 percent. It was the end of the first full week of the Biden presidency where his approval was underwater. It’s been there ever since.
“Pretty decent chance” Gavin Newsom loses the recall election
Predicted by: Nate Silver, Aug. 23
There was a time this summer when it appeared that the recall election against California Gov. Gavin Newsom might actually win — polls tightened substantially in early August, sparking the typical apocalyptics from the blue-check Twitterati. “Pretty decent chance Newsom gets recalled,” FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver tweeted before jumping to explain how this reality revealed the foolishness of Dems’ strategy of not putting forward a potential Newsom successor on “question two” on the recall ballot: “Democrats could potentially keep the seat if they urged their voters to consolidate behind an alternative Democrat but instead they’re telling them not to vote on the replacement!”
Come September, Newsom defeated the recall with 62 percent of the vote. And Dems’ strategy of not consolidating behind an alternative candidate helped Newsom make the vote an up-or-down choice between him and Republican frontrunner Larry Elder rather than giving Democratic voters a viable option on question two (which might’ve sweetened the prospect of voting yes on question one).
Silver might take issue with our call that his odds-making counts as a wrong prediction, but the fact is, Newsom ultimately won handily. And his strategy paid off.
“No, you don’t have to worry about inflation”
Predicted by: Brett Arends, Jan. 22
“There’s no reason to worry about inflation in 2021”
Predicted by: Myles Udland, Dec. 16, 2020
Turns out there was a reason to worry about inflation. By October, the year-over-year inflation rate was the highest since 1990. By November, it was the highest since 1982. Between January and this writing, the chatter among economists has evolved: It was something you probably didn’t need to be worried about. Then it was transitory. Now, it is … maybe not so temporary. Hard to tell.
The issue has badly disrupted the first year of the Biden administration, and has a quality not unlike a beach ball in a swimming pool: Try as you might to wrestle it down, it pops back up to the surface over and over again, stubborn to your every effort.
Protests against critical race theory at Loudoun County’s school board meetings weren’t an indication that the GOP might win the Virginia gubernatorial race
Predicted by: Jamelle Bouie (among many, many others), July 7
In July, my colleague Maya King reported on a trend in suburban Virginia: Tense school board meetings populated by growing numbers of parents angry about the supposed teaching of “critical race theory” — often used by ideological conservatives as a shorthand for how race and social issues are taught — in K-12 public schools, even as Loudoun County school officials insisted that the theory was not actually being taught. “Could a School-Board Fight Over Critical Race Theory Help Turn Virginia Red?,” the headline read.
“No,” responded Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times columnist who lives in Virginia. The idea, he continued, was “an extremely credulous take on Republican wishcasting.” (Worth noting: That wasn’t an entirely unreasonable assumption, coming four years after stories asked aloud whether fears about the MS-13 gang would spur Republicans to retake the governor’s mansion.)
It wasn’t. Come November, Republicans won the elections for Virginia governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, and regained control of the state House. Was the critical race theory backlash the sole reason why? No. But it appears to have played a substantial role in winning Youngkin the election.
“By promising at nearly every campaign stop to ban critical race theory … Youngkin resurrected Republican race-baiting tactics in a state that once served as the capital of the Confederacy,” wrote the Times’ Lisa Lerer. It was, wrote the Times’ Trip Gabriel, his “best known pledge … embodying the anger that drove the grass roots.” And, in a tidy answer to the question posed in the headline of Maya’s piece, USA Today’s Ledyard King and Mabinty Quarshie reported that the issue “sparked a movement that help[ed] turn Virginia from blue to red last month.”
Republicans will win both Senate seats in Georgia
Predicted by: Dana Perino, Jan. 4; Matt Grossmann, Nov. 9, 2020; et al
It’s an understandable assumption: Georgia has been going hard for Republicans for decades, and a reasonable observer might imagine that the GOP would have the edge in the Jan. 5 run-offs. Down-ticket, Republicans in the state performed strongly in the November elections: While Trump lost to Biden by about 0.3 points in the state, David Perdue led Jon Ossoff by 1.8 points on the same ballot. The state’s other Senate seat had just undergone an inconclusive jungle primary in which nobody received more than one-third of the vote; but in her bid to defeat Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler was buoyed by a vast fortune and the reality that the Deep South had elected only one Black man to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction (Tim Scott in neighboring South Carolina). Plus, without Trump on the ballot, Democratic voters might be less inclined to turn out to vote against him.
Nope. With Black voters coming out in huge numbers for Democrats and Republican turnout depressed after Trump’s incessant, and false, claims of election fraud, something surprising happened. Warnock and Ossoff won, and delivered Democrats the narrowest possible majority in the U.S. Senate.
Nancy Pelosi won’t have the votes to become Speaker in 2021
Predicted by: Jason Chaffetz, Jan. 2
This one was a bit of Republican wishcasting. Chaffetz, the former GOP congressman from Utah, predicted on the night of Jan. 2 that Nancy Pelosi — whose mastery at vote-counting has kept her atop House Democratic leadership for 20 years now — would somehow lack the votes to be elected speaker the following day, despite a Democratic majority.
The result was entirely predictable: Pelosi had the votes. Of the 427 members of the House at the time, 216 supported her — a margin comfortable enough that a handful of House Democrats from swing seats were free to vote for someone other than her.
“Withdrawing troops from Afghanistan will turn out to be the most popular action of Biden’s presidency”
Predicted by: G. Elliott Morris, April 25
In fairness, this was not a bad prediction when it was made: Polls throughout the spring showed overwhelming support for Biden’s plan to withdraw from Afghanistan.
But by Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline, the chaotic U.S. pullout had destabilized his presidency, calling into question the core claims of competence that had long been Biden’s ballast.
It’s possible that over the long arc of history, Morris’ prediction will turn out to be correct. But at this point, the pullout was extraordinarily politically damaging for Biden’s presidency.
If Dems win in Georgia, “it’s a guarantee of socialism,” amnesty for undocumented immigrants, statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., and so on
Predicted by: Ben Weingarten, Dec. 30, 2020
A week out from the Georgia Senate run-offs, Benjamin Weingarten, a contributor to the Federalist, appeared on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” and laid bare what would happen if Ossoff and Warnock defeated Perdue and Loeffler, delivering Democrats a 50-50 Senate majority. “If the Democrats take these two seats, it’s a guarantee of socialism in this country because you’ll have D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood. You’ll have mass amnesty. You’ll have socialized medicine. You’ll have the evisceration of the vote integrity.”
One: A 50-50 Senate could never be read as a mandate for any policy at the ideological extremes of American politics, including “socialism.” The very nature of the Senate, where members of the minority party have enormous power to block legislation, makes it exceptionally difficult to enact any major policy change.
Two: Clearly, the man has never met Joe Manchin. D.C. statehood? Opposed to it. Puerto Rican statehood? Non-committal. Socialized medicine? Hardly: The man opposed expanding Medicare to cover dental care. Forget socialism; they can’t even pass Build Back Better.
You shouldn’t be worried about what might happen Jan. 6 — it “will go nowhere” and “will be fun to watch”
Predicted by: Amy Siskind, Jan. 2
Amid the run-up to Jan. 6 — as Republican senators like Missouri’s Josh Hawley announced that they’d object to the count of electoral votes from certain swing states that Biden carried, as pro-Trump die-hards planned a massive rally with the goal of pressuring Congress to essentially discard the results of a democratic election, and as the Big Lie about the 2020 vote metastasized within the Republican electorate — a certain amount of (understandable) anxiety percolated among liberals and moderates on Twitter.
Amy Siskind, who rose to online prominence in the early days of the Trump administration by recording and listing out the norms being broken on a weekly basis, was one of the relatively few major voices on #Resistance Twitter urging calm.
“Anyone worried about Jan 6 impacting the election — don’t be,” she tweeted on the night of Jan. 2. “It’s nothing more than a seditious stunt that will go nowhere.” Then, a follow-up: “If you live in DC, stay off the streets on Jan 6. Let the DC police take care of the white supremacists like they did in Oregon yesterday. I actually think it will be fun to watch lol.”
What ultimately happened on Jan. 6, of course, was a brazen attack on both democratic institutions and the democratic process itself: a mob of pro-Trump extremists assaulted police officers, broke into the U.S. Capitol building, called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence (and, broadly, “heads on pikes”), defiled the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (among others), sent staffers and members into hiding for hours, took over the floor of the U.S. Senate, caused law enforcement to draw their weapons and barricade the entrance to the House chamber, led to the use of lethal force against a pro-Trump rioter who attempted to enter the Speaker’s lobby as members fled, and halted the counting of electoral votes for several hours until armed forces could secure the Capitol complex. “Fun to watch lol”? Not so much.
With Trump banned from the platform, “Twitter will disappear in one year”
Predicted by: David Fegan (among others), Jan. 8
After a half-decade during which @realDonaldTrump’s every missive was mainlined into the bloodstream of American politics, it was hard to imagine Twitter without him. Then, two days after the Jan. 6 attack, Twitter permanently blocked him. Suddenly, @realDonaldTrump was no more. And after a couple days, it was not at all hard to imagine Twitter without him. Nearly a year later, Twitter’s still going strong.
Trump will resign, and President Mike Pence will pardon him
Predicted by: Duncan Ross (among others), Jan. 3
Spoiler alert: Trump remained in office until Biden took the oath on Jan. 20.
Joe Biden will “move to alter the U.S. Supreme Court”
Predicted by: Paul Strand, Feb. 17
Many progressives wish he would. But Biden has made no move to expand the court, and his blue-ribbon commission to study the issue did not endorse the idea.
Nancy Pelosi will take a “farewell tour,” and her successor will be Linda Sánchez
Predicted by: Fortune Magazine, Dec. 2020
There’s a consensus that after 20 years at the helm of the Democratic Party in Congress, Pelosi is nearing the end of her career. That much seems obvious. But there are two big x-factors about her remaining time leading Democrats: when she’ll step aside, and who her successor will be.
In its list of predictions about 2021, Fortune Magazine wrote that this would be the year she “hand[s] over the rudder,” and called its shot about her successor: “it will be California Rep. Linda Sánchez — just elected to her 10th term — who takes the gavel.” But as 2021 draws to a close, Pelosi has repeatedly made clear that she’s not a lame duck and, in recent weeks, that she intends to remain in power through the 2022 midterms — and maybe even afterwards.
Meanwhile, the conversation about her successor has centered mostly on Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, rather than Sánchez — and though it certainly remains possible that Sánchez ends up eventually leading the Dems, it definitely didn’t happen in 2021.
Trump will attend Biden’s inauguration
Predicted by: Stephen L. Carter, Jan. 1
The period between Election Day and Inauguration Day often offers a moment of bipartisan comity in the nation’s capital. A battle having been fought for the last several months, there’s a brief reprieve before the next one begins. It’s easy to get caught up in the pageantry of it all: the star-spangled decorations festooning downtown Washington, the spectacle of the National Mall filled with flag-waving Americans, the possibility of being present for a moment of actual, honest-to-God capital-h History, when speechwriters for incoming presidents awkwardly grope for the hem of Ted Sorensen’s garment while trying to write something that normal people will actually remember. Also, there’s that whole “peaceful transfer of power” thing that is, well, important.
All of which is presumably what figured into Stephen L. Carter’s thinking when he took to Bloomberg to predict that “in January, President Donald Trump will finally invite President-elect Joe Biden to the White House. Trump will even attend the inaugural, albeit with poor grace.”
In fairness to Carter, when he published his prediction on Jan. 1, there had not yet been a deadly pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and so the prospects that Trump might show up seemed a bit higher. But there was ultimately no White House meeting between Biden and Trump, and the former president flew away via helicopter hours before the inauguration was to begin. “Poor grace”? You bet. But that’s about the only part of Carter’s prediction that turned out to be correct.
JFK Jr. will return in Dallas (among other bullshit)
Predicted by: hundreds of adherents to the QAnon conspiracy theory, ongoing
Honestly, I debated including this one. I want to be clear: there is no equivalency between this and the other bad predictions (save, perhaps, for Mike Lindell’s). This is in a category all its own, and is detached from reality in ways that are genuinely destabilizing for the nation. So, why include it? As the line between nonsense conspiracy theory and mainstream political discourse has blurred to the point of occasional incomprehension, it’s worth noting that believers in the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory got everything wrong this year.
Jan. 20 came and went, and there was no “Great Awakening” in which Trump seized power and arrested scores of pedophiles. March 4 came and went, and Trump was not magically reinaugurated as president. Ditto March 20. And so on. On Nov. 2, hundreds of QAnon adherents — or, more precisely, adherents of a particular offshoot of QAnonism — amassed in Dealey Plaza in Dallas under the belief that John F. Kennedy Jr. “who died in a plane crash in 1999, [would] reappear in Dallas and commence a new Trump administration,” in the words of the Dallas Morning-News. JFK Jr. — who, again, has been dead for 22 years — did not show up at the site of his father’s assassination. Still, dozens QAnonists remained in Dallas for weeks, expecting him to show up. (Some, I’m sure, are still there.) But if you already believe that a Satanic, cannibalistic cabal of pedophiles secretly governs the country, what exactly is a bridge too far?