One year ago, I sat down to make my predictions for 2016. Although many of my predictions turned out to be correct, my election predictions for president and North Carolina governor were wrong. I underestimated the impact of voter anger–from rural voters who were angry at Washington and voted for Trump to NC voters who disliked Pat McCrory and voted for Roy Cooper in a good Republican year.
Now it is time to look forward. The next year promises to be a turbulent as the year we are ending. In North Carolina, we will have a Democratic governor and Republican-controlled General Assembly that is already at war over issues like HB2 and about distribution of power between the two branches. At the federal level, we will have the most unpredictable president since Andrew Jackson, who is threatening to completely blow up many domestic and foreign policies that have been a part of the American political fabric for decades.
Let’s start with some predictions for North Carolina:
- House Bill 2, or the infamous bathroom bill, that had defined North Carolina nationally and internationally for almost nine months, will not be repealed by legislative action, but will be struck down as unconstitutional by the federal district court.
- In other legal actions, the North Carolina Supreme Court will rule that the bill removing the governor’s ability to appoint members of the State Board of Education is unconstitutional, extending the string of rulings overturning the actions of the Republican-led General Assembly. Also, Republicans will redraw legislative maps in North Carolina for 2017 special elections and these will be ruled unconstitutional. The court will ultimately redraw the legislative districts.
- Despite the problems with gerrymandered maps, a bill to make redistricting done by a non-partisan (or at least bi-partisan) panel of judges will once again die in committee.
- Legislative elections will be held in 2017 and Democrats will pick up enough seats in both chambers so that Republicans no longer have a super majority in the General Assembly.
- A new voter bill will pass the North Carolina General Assembly. This bill will eliminate same day registration at early voting sites and contain a new provision that people show a photo id in order to vote. The bill will be vetoed by Governor Cooper, but the override will narrowly fail in the NC House, as some Republicans vote with Democrats to uphold the veto.
- Governor Cooper will seek Medicaid expansion under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while Republicans in Washington are dismantling most of the 2010 law. Republicans in the General Assembly will attempt to pass legislation limiting Cooper’s ability to seek Medicaid expansion. This law will end up in federal court.
Predicting what will happen in North Carolina is relatively easy, compared to predicting what will happen when the Trump administration takes over on January 20. Nevertheless, here is what I see happening:
- The Trump administration has a rocky start as three of his cabinet nominees–Sessions (AG), Tillerson (State), and Pulzer (Labor) face difficult committee hearings in the Senate. At least two of these are not confirmed.
- Senator Chuck Schumer proves to be even more of an obstructionist to Donald Trump as Mitch McConnell was to Barack Obama. Not only does he lead the attempts to block some of Trump’s cabinet nominees, but he proves effective in fighting the Republican’s attempt to overturn Obamacare and overhauls of Medicare and Medicaid.
- The first major foreign policy challenge that President Trump faces is with North Korea, after intelligence reveals that it’s nuclear program is more advanced than previously thought and that China is not exercising any control over North Korea’s dictator. Despite Trump’s campaign boasts, his reaction to North Korean aggression is just as measured as that of his predecessor.
- President Trump does not attempt to build a wall across the southern boundary of the United States, but instead seeks a modest increase in the budget to extend what President Obama started–more border agents and increased use of technology along the border.
- The House Oversight Committee begins an investigation of Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest in May as even conservative talk radio hosts, like Rush Limbaugh, start raising questions about the obvious conflicts.
- Donald Trump nominates Justice William Pryor of the 11th District Court of Appeals for the vacancy on the US Supreme Court. He passes easily and is seated as the Court’s ninth justice.
Politics in 2017 promises to be just as messy and partisan as it was in 2016, just without a presidential campaign to raise the volume. I will make one more prediction for the years–that at least four prominent names will emerge as major party candidates for president in 2020, including at least two prominent Republicans who will be disillusioned by the first few months of the Trump presidency. One of those names will be Paul Ryan.