Top 5 political predictions for 2015
1. The Obama boom will finally arrive. Only it will be more like a boomlet.
Americans have been waiting for the boom since they elected President Barack Obama in the teeth of the 2008 financial meltdown. After all, we elected Ronald Reagan during an economic downturn in 1980, and by his second term, the economy had turned around (“Morning in America”). We elected Bill Clinton in an economic downturn in 1992, and by his second term, the economy had come roaring back (the “dot-com boom,” now known as the “dot-com bubble”). Now we’re deep into Obama’s second term. Where’s da boom?
It’s finally starting. Not only does it look like the economy is picking up, but we’re beginning to see real wage growth. What’s holding things back is the lack of any fiscal stimulus. Government spending is “sequestered.” This entire recovery has been driven by the Federal Reserve (zero interest rates). The drop in oil prices is also helping. (Not helping the stock market, though. Energy stocks are dragging the market down.)
Democrats will take whatever strong recovery they can get. Maybe it will save the White House for them in 2016.
2. Populism will thrive, left and right, in the United States and in Europe.
We saw it in Thursday night’s House budget vote that averted a government shutdown. Most Democrats defied Obama and voted “no.” Their complaint? Populism. The budget bill eases a tough regulation aimed at curbing risky trading on Wall Street.
Nearly a third of House Republicans also defied their party leaders and voted “no.” Their complaint? Populism. Tea Party Republicans don’t like the fact that the bill raises contribution limits for wealthy campaign donors. They’re worried that it will give the party establishment — Wall Street, again — too much clout and squelch the Tea Party revolt.
In Europe, anti-establishment populist movements are threatening to shake up the political order: the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France, the Pegida movement in Germany, Podemos in Spain, the Democrats in Sweden (Sweden!). All feed on populist resentment of immigrants and minorities.
Why is this happening? Because European financial elites imposed a misbegotten regime of austerity on their countries, on the fantastic theory that reducing national debt would result in economic recovery. What they got was an endless recession. And a wave of populist anger targeted at outsiders.
3. Obama’s job approval ratings will improve, but only a little.
We’ll probably see the president’s ratings rise from the low 40s, where they are now, to near 50 percent.
His ratings can’t go much higher because the country is so intensely polarized. Obama’s support and opposition are pretty much locked in. He will probably not get to where Clinton was during his impeachment drama (more than 60 percent approval). And he’s unlikely to go as low as President George W. Bush did during the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina (low 30s).
4. Hillary Clinton will run for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
She has to. If she doesn’t run, Democrats will nominate Vice President Joe Biden and he will lose (“a third term for Obama”).
Clinton has her own brand. She was in the public eye long before anyone had ever heard of Obama. She was Obama’s competitor in the 2008 Democratic primaries. This time, Clinton won’t wait until the end of the campaign to bring up the “glass ceiling.” The prospect of electing the first woman president will be central to her message. And it will create genuine excitement. She’ll reinforce that excitement by naming a Latino as her running mate. Most likely Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and current secretary of housing and urban development.
But she will face a challenge from the left in the Democratic primaries. A lot of progressives suspect her of hawkishness in foreign policy and centrism in domestic policy — too close to Wall Street, the bugaboo of populists. We don’t know who her challenger will be yet — probably not Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the new icon of the left. But somebody will emerge to carry the fight. And lose to Clinton.
5. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will run for the Republican nomination.
The party establishment is ready to throw buckets of money at Bush. They need him to save the GOP from the dreaded Tea Party, the creepy religious right and the flaky libertarians. Bush will end 2015 as the Republican frontrunner — but only narrowly. The rest of the Republican primary vote will be divided among five or six candidates from the various conservative clans.
Bush will most likely win the nomination because happiness in politics is a divided opposition. That’s how Mitt Romney got the Republican nomination in 2012. As the Chinese proverb says, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
Bush will be the last Republican standing. All that money will guarantee it. Just as it did for Romney.
Another Bush versus Clinton race in 2016! No wonder Americans are sick of politics.
PHOTO (TOP): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on “Smart Power: Security Through Inclusive Leadership” at Georgetown University in Washington, December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
PHOTO (INSERT): Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Annual Conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 21, 2012. REUTERS/David Manning