Amanda Carpenter: COVID Wins.
We easily clear more than one million COVID deaths early in the year, and at that point, people concede, in truly oxymoronic fashion, we must “learn to live with the virus.” COVID splits America between those who continue to take mitigation steps, ranging from the reasonable to irrational, and those who continue to ingloriously die with the virus. Wealthy employers, schools, hospitals, associations, and leisure destinations become vaccine bubble zones. Because of the forever pandemic and increased access to tech and social media more people “live online” and we all, in reality, live smaller, sadder, more constrained, private lives as a result.
This is probably Zuckerberg’s best case for the metaverse and if everyone goes there in 2022, I become Amish.
Jonathan V. Last: Impeachment begins.
As Republicans get closer to retaking the House, a movement to impeach Joe Biden emerges. Impeachment becomes a way for MAGA Republican primary candidates to differentiate themselves. When asked about the idea of impeaching Biden, Trump says something positive, but noncommittal: It would be very interesting and I know a lot of people really want to see Joe impeached. I was treated very unfairly with sham impeachments. Maybe it’s time to see if the Republican party has a spine.
Good Republicans try to ignore the question or push it into the future: Right now I’m focused on taking back the House.
After the midterm election, impeachment becomes the flashpoint for leadership challenges, with Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell trying to argue against impeachment—only privately, of course—exclusively on the grounds that it will hurt Republican chances in 2024.
The necessity of impeaching Joe Biden becomes a piece of dogma, like Trump’s sacred landslide victory, required of all Republicans in good standing.
William Kristol: Foreign policy returns.
During the Cold War, then to a lesser extent in the ‘90s, and then in a big way for the half dozen years after 9/11, foreign policy really mattered. The last dozen years have featured challenges with foreign policy components, from the economic crisis, to immigration policy, to the pandemic, but traditional foreign policy concerns haven’t been central, or at least haven’t seemed central, to our politics since 2007. That will change in 2022. Not by our choice, but by Putin’s, or Xi’s, or Khameini’s, or that of other actors. And so we’ll be reminded that as much as we may try not to think about the world out there, the world has a way of insisting at times that attention must be paid. 2022 will be one of those times.
Jim Swift: QAnon gets crazier.
Cults typically do not end well. Oftentimes, they end in ruin. Unfortunately, a fair number of people in America believe in QAnon.
Literally none of the promises its promoters have shared have panned out. But once you’ve ruined your life with a cult, every additional belief required of you is an easy sell. And so each additional required belief becomes crazier.
As the QAnon conspiracy cult spirals out of control, the outlandish promises of its backers will continue to fail to come true. Which, unfortunately, will result in more broken people willing to believe ever-crazier lies, becoming further unhinged. And nothing good will come of this, either for the believers, or the rest of us.
Ben Parker: Dems hold the Senate.
Maybe Republicans don’t take the Senate in November? Let’s zoom out: Democrats have to defend 14 seats, 13 of which have incumbents running for reelection. The one open seat is Vermont. So we’ll pencil that in as a D hold. Republicans have to defend 20 seats, 5 of which won’t have an incumbent: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, and Alabama. Let’s pencil in Alabama as an R hold. For all the others, it’s possible that Republicans choose bad enough candidates to lose. And here’s the thing: They can’t lose any of them and keep the majority (assuming everything else is chalk).
While the timing might be on their side, the odds aren’t.
Mona Charen: Political instability rises.
Despite the pandemic, people around the world will continue to rise out of destitution at record rates. New treatments will become available for COVID, yes, but also for hemophilia, malaria, sickle cell anemia, some brain disorders, and other maladies.
Nonetheless, people—fed a diet of incitement and despair by the media they consume—will become more and more dissatisfied with their lives and their political leadership. Shortages of a few products will cause people to believe that things have never been worse.
Political instability will increase.
Hannah Yoest: Economic collapse, maybe war.
Inflation is doing its thing, cryptocurrencies aren’t getting more stable anytime soon and temporarily suspending student loans again is a bandaid on a hemorrhage. But there’s good news! Just like World War II helped reinvigorate the economy and end the Great Depression, so too may the next clash of world powers save our financial systems from the perils of their own design. Definitely seems like a waiting game as both Russia and China show open aggression and hostility to their neighbors.
Sonny Bunch: Don’t Look Up wins Netflix its first Best Picture Oscar.
Going out on a bit of a limb here—making Oscar predictions this far out is a mug’s game—but it has all the prerequisites: star power; an awards pedigree (writer-director Adam McKay has won an Oscar and both The Big Short and Vice were nominated for best picture); and, most importantly, the discourse around it will be absolutely insufferable on both sides of the political aisle. We’re already getting a taste of that with folks on the left saying that if you don’t like it you want climate change to happen and folks on the right decrying its message.
More important, though, will be Hollywood’s decision to grant the biggest streaming service out there their biggest award, shattering the final illusion that theatrical exhibition marks a higher quality than digital distribution. Prestige plus money: Netflix will truly have it all.