Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Grading my 2019 Predictions

It is finally time to see what a ridiculous fool I was one year ago! As I usually do at the end of the year, on December 31, 2018, I made 27 predictions that all seemed plausible at the time. A year has passed and while we all might not be any wiser, we can at least tell that foolish me of one year ago exactly how full of shit he was. Let's do this!

1. Julian Assange will no longer be in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London by the end of 2019.

Right! He left and was promptly arrested.

2. Mueller will indict at least one member of the Trump family in 2019.

Wrong, although in my defense, it was pretty widely expected that Don Jr. would be indicted.

3. Trump will pardon at least one person who is indicted by Mueller.

Wrong again. Maybe that was because Mueller did not go after any members of his family?

4. The UK and EU will agree to delay the March 29, 2019 deadline for Brexit.

Right. They delayed it until April 12, then delayed it again until October 31, and then again to January 31, 2020. I wonder what will happen then!

5. There will be at least one declared primary challenger of Trump for the GOP nomination by the end of 2019.

Right because unless they both drop out just before the strike of midnight there is still Joe Walsh and  Bill Weld.

6. There will be no clear Democratic front-runner (meaning no one polling over 40%) for President at the end of 2019.

Right. Joe Biden is in front but he has never polled over the low 30s (and polling averages have him steady around 27-28%)

7. The Dow Jones Industrial Average will be below where it was on December 31, 2018 by the end of 2019.

Wrong. The Dow was at 23,062.40 at closing on December 31, 2018, it is at 28,538.44 at the end of 2019.

8. The US unemployment rate will be over 4.5% at the end of 2019 (it is currently 3.7% as of November 2018, the most recent month with available data).

Wrong, the November 2019 rate is 3.5%. It got better, not worse. I was guessing there would be a global recession between the toll of the various Trump tariffs and the shock of Brexit. But Brexit was delayed and, I guess, the tariff toll hasn't totally hit us yet (also, I have no fucking clue about making economic predictions)

9. Russia will commit at least one significant new belligerent act against Ukraine in 2019.

Wrong. I guess with Trump pressuring Ukraine, Russia didn't have to.

10.  Mick Mulvaney will no longer be White House Chief of Staff at the end of 2019.

Wrong. People keep saying Mulvaney's days as Chief of Staff are numbered, but his number has not come up before the end of 2018.

11. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will no longer be White House Press Secretary at the end of 2019.


12. The Supreme Court will not issue any rulings that significantly limits abortion rights in 2019 (I am not counting the decision not to take a case as a significant ruling).


13. The current (as of 1/1/19) partial government shutdown will end in 2019, but it will be the longest government shutdown in American history. (Length to beat: 21 days)

Right, the shutdown ended on January 25, 2019. Because it started on December 22, it was 34 days long, a new record!

14. Trump's approval in the will fall below 30% for the first time in 2019. (For the last few few years I have used the Gallup daily presidential approval poll, then the Gallup weekly presidential approval poll (when it replaced the daily) to measure these kinds of predictions. But I read that the Gallup weekly is being replaced with a Gallup monthly and that is too long for my tastes. So this time I will measure my success for this prediction using the Real Clear Politics presidential approval polling average)

Wrong. The RCP average is currently at 44.3% approval. I don't know why I keep predicting Trump's approval will fall below the narrow range where it has sat for his entire presidential term.

15. NAFTA 2.0 (aka the USMCA, although most people will still call it "Nafta") will not be ratified by the U.S. Senate in 2019.

Right, but just barely. The Senate hasn't ratified it yet, but they probably will shortly after the New Year.

16. At least some of Trump's federal tax returns will be public by the end of 2019.

Wrong. It will happen eventually, it just didn't in 2019.

17. Benjamin Netanyahu will not be Prime Minister of Israel at the end of 2019 (yeah, I know I did that one last year (see #23) and it did not pan out. I'm trying it again!)

Wrong. Another really close one (I think he will be gone soon), but not yet.

18. The Trump Administration will attempt to extradite Fethullah Gulen to Turkey, but the attempt will be challenged in court (I'm not predicting how the court challenge will turn out).

Wrong, I really have no idea why not. If Trump was willing to sell out the Kurds, why wouldn't he give in on Gulen?

19. At least 5 Republican U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives will announce they will not run for reelection in 2020. (I mean three [five] announcing in 2019. Lamar Alexander does not count).

I must have changed my mind between drafts of my 2018 prediction post. First it says five, then in the parenthetical it says three. I'm counting this prediction as predicting five.

Either way, I easily get this one right. As of November 11, 2019, there were 20 Representatives and 4 Senators who had decided not to run. The four Senators includes Lamar Alexander, but even if we take him out, that still leaves 23 heading for the door as of mid-November, and in the 7 weeks since, at least one more has announced he is not running. So there are clearly more than five opting not to run. Hell, there are more than five from Texas alone.

20. At least 3 more members of Trump's cabinet will be fired or resign in 2019.

Right. 1. Nielsen (Homeland Security), 2. Acosta (Labor), 3. Perry (Energy). And that was just off the top of my head. There could be more and that doesn't count the 2-3 acting Secretaries of Defense that came and went before Mark Esper was confirmed earlier this year.

21. At least one Trump nominee for a cabinet position will be rejected by the Senate (that includes a nominee's withdrawal before the actual vote).

Right. I actually thought I got this one wrong, and started to write a comment about how stupid I was to expect the McConnell Senate to reject any Trump nominee. then I reread the parenthetical and remembered Shanahan. The Senate will not vote to reject any Trump nominee, but some are so embarrassing they get withdrawn before they can reach the rubber stamp.

22. Trump will still be President at the end of 2019, and there will be no vote to impeach him throughout 2019.

Half right. Sadly, Trump is still President, but there was a vote to impeach him.

23. The Mueller investigation will end in 2019.


24. There will be U.S. military forces of some kind (maybe just special forces) on the ground in Syria at the end of 2019.

Right. Despite Trump's pullout order, the Pentagon just made a big show of moving its forces around, laid low for a month, and then just went back to doing what it was doing in Syria with the President accepting the continuing presence in Syria notwithstanding his order because he thinks they are just there to steal the oil. (Aside: Syria doesn't have all that much oil. But the military brass won't tell the President that because he might make them leave)

25. Mohamed Bin Salman will still be effectively in charge of Saudi Arabia or he will effectively and officially in charge (if his father dies) at the end of 2019. (In other words, MBS will not lose any power in KSA during 2019).


26. The war in Yemen will still be raging and there will be no end in sight. (although I am not ruling out the possibility that South Yemen might secede and that territory might end the year largely at peace).


27. In Malawi, Peter Mutharika will lose his campaign for reelection in 2019 (and so the only head of state that I personally know will no longer be in power by the end of the year).

Wrong. I still know a head of state! I need to find a way to visit Lilongwe before this term is up.


I got 15.5 right and 11.5 wrong, a 57.407% success rate. My gut sense is that predictions are a lot harder in the Trump era than they were before, but my past statistics do not clearly bear that theory out:
2008: 20 right to 4 wrong (83.333%) 
2009: 14.5 right to 7.5 wrong. (65.909%) 
2010: (none because Kazakhstan) 
2011: 15.5 right to 6.5 wrong (70.455%) 
2012: 15.5 right to 6.5 wrong again (70.455% again) 
2013: 15.5 right to 9.5 wrong (62.000%) 
2014: 17 right to 9 wrong (65.385%) 
2015: 11.5 right to 13.5 wrong (46.000%) 
2016: 17.5 right to 9.5 wrong (64.815%) 
2017: 18 right to 8 wrong (69.923%) 
2018: 14.5 right to 11.5 wrong (55.769%)
Actually, if there is any clear pattern it is just that my overall percentage is trending down. In the first give years my average was well over 70%. In the last 7 years I have never gotten to 70% and half the time I didn't even get into the 60s. Maybe I am getting worse at this as I age. Or maybe I'm more willing to stick my neck out and make less certain predictions after doing this for a while than I was initially.

Tune in just a minute or two from when this goes up to see my exciting predictions for 2020! If the pattern holds, they will probably be pretty terrible. Honestly, I'm approaching coin-toss territory for some of these years.