Next year will be better than this one, but the drama isn’t over by a long shot, writes Tony Burman.
Boris will bumble, Trump will linger like a bad smell, and more 2021 predictions
By Tony BurmanContributing Columnist
Sat., Dec. 26, 2020
If there is one overall prediction for 2021 that is easy to make, it is this one:
This coming year will be better in many respects than the one we are now ending.
Just as we look back at the worldwide impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu with horror, historians a century from now will recall the world’s inept response to the pandemic of 2020 — and weep.
But they will also marvel at our recovery in 2021.
The pandemic will largely be under control, vaccines will proliferate, the global economy will rebound, and Donald Trump will effectively be gone — although he will, like that crazy uncle who refuses to die, torment us still.
In other words, this coming year won’t be an easy journey back to sanity.
Undoubtedly, it will be full of blood-curdling, spine-tingling, nail-biting dramas — and risks — that will shape our world and shock our senses.
But this is your lucky day.
Here, in one snappy package, is a confidential peak at what the Top Ten international headlines will be in 2021.
1. Slow end to the pandemic
The pandemic will end in 2021, more or less, but there will be no magic moment. Its end will come gradually. A return to normalcy will happen slowly. Although the COVID-19 numbers this winter will be high, the vaccine will gradually kick in and the virus will be under control by the second half of the year. Next summer will feel more normal, but barely that.
2. A new world is born
Just like the Black Death in the 14th century and the Spanish Flu in 1918, the 2020 pandemic will transform the world in ways that we can only now imagine. It will start a global debate about how each of us lives. Beyond its horrific death and destruction, the pandemic has triggered many profound changes in the home, workplace and in social relationships that will be lasting.
3. Aftershocks from a failed American coup
A broken U.S. democracy has survived — but just barely — having a madman in office. Congratulations, America. But when sanity returns to the White House with Joe Biden’s inauguration, many Americans will begin to realize the enormity of what almost happened. A sitting U.S. president — with the support of the Republican leadership — tried to deny the will of the American people and steal the election. The repercussions from this will be explosive.
4. Biden’s moment
When the history is written about Biden’s first year in office, it may have little to do with what legislative accomplishments he and the Democrats achieve. After all, that will largely depend on which political party ultimately controls the Senate. Instead — after four years of surviving a lying and corrupt U.S. president — it will be the decency, honesty and integrity that Biden himself brings to the office that will be most remembered.
5. Trump’s slow fade
There will come a time, probably soon, when Trump’s personal wishes will be of little interest to most Americans. Once he leaves the White House in January, there will be talk of him running again but it will just be talk. Trump’s only real goals in the years ahead will be making enough money to pay off his $400 million (U.S.) of debt and — most importantly — to stay out of jail. I have good news on both fronts: At the end of the day, Trump will achieve neither.
6. Dawn of the Asian century
America’s failings under Trump have created opportunities for China. Once again, there is talk of the dawn of an “Asian Century” that sees a post-America world with economic and political power shifting to an increasingly aggressive China. This will present the most important challenge to Biden. How can he persuade traditional allies in Europe and Asia that the U.S.-led global system is not finally coming to an end?
7. One last chance with Iran
There will never be peace in the Middle East unless there is a deal with Iran. Trump’s policy of encouraging a nuclear-armed Israel and a corrupt Saudi Arabia to confront their regional rival, Iran, was doomed to failure. But with Biden, there will be a change. He wants the U.S. to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement, and Iran says it will comply with the ban on nuclear weapons if that happens.
8. Unravelling of Boris Johnson
A year ago, Prime Minister Johnson led Britain’s Conservatives to a resounding victory. Now, there is no certainty he will remain in power until the next election. This next year will be his undoing. Johnson’s mishandling of the pandemic and the backlash over the deepening Brexit debacle have plunged his approval ratings. And there are genuine fears that the United Kingdom is heading to a breakup.
9. Decline of the populists
It will be significant to see what impact the pandemic will have on several elections this coming year. The populist leaders in power worldwide — those Trump acolytes who have shared his anti-immigrant, anti-democratic impulses — have something else in common with him. Most of them have handled the pandemic incompetently. Like Trump, they have downplayed the threat and promoted quack cures — and like Trump, they will be punished at the polls.
10. Battling Africa’s twin crises
The pandemic has affected the developing world above all — except for Africa. Until recently, that continent has been doing relatively well, but there are now fears of a second wave. Added to this is a crisis over democracy. This year, 20 African countries were expected to hold national elections but only five went ahead. The others were cancelled due to the pandemic. The twin crises of the pandemic and weakened democracies will be the key challenge for many developing countries in the year ahead.
My track record
Following the international rules of scoring that have been common in this Trump era — self-serving, of course, and highly suspect — I have averaged seven out of 10 correct predictions over the past four years.
In that spirit, I was accurate this past year (2020) on seven of my predictions. I was wrong on two. And there is one prediction — “Trump resigns to get a pardon” — that still has a few weeks to go before final determination.
I was right in predicting that Biden and Kamala Harris would be nominated and then elected in November’s U.S. election, that North Korea’s nuclear threat would return, that Iran would end the year caught up in Trump’s crosshairs and that the Taliban in Afghanistan would emerge as the winners in a so-called “peace agreement” being worked out by the U.S.
I was wrong in predicting that the era of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel would come to an end — although this may happen in elections in 2021 — and I was wrong, or at least premature, in suggesting that political violence would explode in Latin America.
As for the Trump prediction — that he will try to evade prison time by engineering some sort of federal pardon before he leaves office — we have until noon on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, before we know how that soap opera plays out.
But I hope you have a Happy New Year anyway ...