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June 22, 2005

How Are We Doing? A Mid-Year Look at 2005

In December 2004, in the afterglow of a Bush victory and solid Congressional gains fueled by a coalition of values-voters, I made my predictions for this New Year. While only a few of the predictions were off-track, somewhat unrealistic optimism is clear in the timetables for change. Meaningful social, political, and geopolitical change is slow cooking. While we see some of the predicted advancements brewing, it appears that it will be some time before they are possible. Many will depend on the mid-term elections of 2006, the 2008 presidential election, and the effectiveness with which the conservative evangelicals use their supposed political power.

Let’s take a look at mid-year progress on these predictions:

1. Iraq: There will be no meaningful reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq during 2005, and there may be an increase. However, the insurgency will begin losing its popular support and violence will decline.

I did not envision the dramatic success of the Iraqi election, or its impact on the movement of democracy throughout the Middle East and the world. There is no sign of troop reduction and solving the insurgency remains a mystery. But I still predict that by year’s end the Iraqi political progress will take some of the wind out of the insurgents sails.

2. Iran: The opposition in Iran will grow in strength and the government will accelerate meaningful reforms rather than face upheaval. There will be a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations.

The protests prior to the election, and the election itself, suggests that there is, indeed, a meaningful move toward reform. I believe this prediction is on the right track, but that it is unlikely that there will be signficant reform during this year.

3. Palestinians: There will be significant progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, with Egypt and Jordan exercising a strong hand. A firm timetable will be set for the establishment of a Palestinian State.

Things are relatively quiet and there are more positive signs than negative. I’m optimistic about continuing progess, but don’t see a firm timetable for a Palestinian state this year. Hope can be dashed so easily here.

4. Attack on the U.S.: As a result of the progress in the Middle East, those who do not benefit from the advance of democracy will turn to additional terror in the U.S. and attempt another major attack in 2005.

Not yet, praise theLord. Although I’m grateful, I honestly don’t know why. Our homeland security isn’t that good; we know that. Border security? All a Middle Eastern terrorist has to do is learn Spanish and swim the Rio Grande disguised as a Mexican peasant.

5. Deaths: There will be major losses in evangelical leadership, as key leaders die. As I’ve mentioned in this space, there is a generational shift in the evangelical community, with the entrepreneurs of the 1950’s passing or fading from active involvement. (Who will die in 2005, and what will the impact be? I’ve provided my 15 names to the morbid Dead Pool, competing to predict the most of those who will pass to the next life during 2005. Mine are a combination of religious leaders, statesmen, and heads of state, among others.)

Here are the 15 that I predicted will pass in 2005:

1. Rev. Billy Graham, evangelist, born November 7, 1918
2. Pope John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, (Karol Józef Wojtyła), born May 18, 1920
3. William Rehnquist. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, born October 1, 1924
4. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, born May 27, 1923
5. Rev. Robert Schuller, TV pastor, born September 16, 1926
6. Gerald Ford, former President, born July 14, 1913
7. Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan born December 24, 1957,
8. Dr. Iyad Allawi, interim Prime Minister of Iraq, born in 1945
9. Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, born October 13, 1925
10. General Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, born August 11, 1943
11. Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba, born August 13, 1926
12. Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, born July 18, 1918
13. Rosa Parks, civil rights hero, born February 4, 1913
14. Muhammad Ali, American boxer, born January 17, 1942
15. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Philip Mountbatten), born June 10, 1921

I’m failing miserably. Only the Pope has died,which is great news for these other folks, and really for all of us. In fact, Billy Graham is preaching a New York City Crusade this week. Never say die.

6. Conservatives: Bush will begin falling out of favor with the most conservative groups, as more focus returns to domestic issues and he fails to deliver on their social priorities.

More than anything, the President has been falling out of sight, with the focus on Congressional Republicans. Conservatives seem to hanging with the President, but largely in support of his war against terror. Hard to find a rock-ribbed conservative with any enthusiasm for Bush’s domestic policy. The greatest disappointment may be in his failure to lead in stopping illegal immigration. This prediction is on track; the disenchanment will deepen..

7. Evangelical Politics: The political high water mark will soon pass for the evangelicals, as leading evangelicals overplay their hand and politicians calculate that they will succeed in 2006 with more moderated positions.

The high water mark probably passed when the Senate Moderate Club dictated how the filibuster issue would be handled, which left First hanging out in church with the suddenly emasculated religious right. The evangelicals seem more comfortable in the opposition. In power, they find ways to eat their own young. This prediction seems to be on track.

8. Network Change: At least one of the major networks will make an attempt to bring more conservative viewpoints to its reports, but in a way that will be more showcasing than meaningful change.

Anyone see any evidence of this? This prediction now looks like wishful thinking.

9. Blogosphere: Blogging will explode, but there will be efforts to organize the blogosphere to create categories of bloggers, and to further separate types of blogs and degrees of professionalism.

The explosion continues, although we feel as though the fever has broken in the post-election months. The organization is yet to come. I have no idea when this may happen, but if the growth continues, it must.

10. Charity Scandal: There will be a major legal case against one or more charities, probably Trinity Broadcasting Network, but perhaps elsewhere. This will have a slight negative impact on charitable giving.

Might be TBN, or perhaps Benny Hinn. Could happen at any moment, or might not be part of the 2005 story.

11. Supreme Court: Two Supreme Court seats vacancies will be created, one at Chief Justice. Bush will want only two confirmation battles, so he will nominate two new justices—a conservative for Chief Justice, and a moderate for Associate Justice. This will enrage just about everyone, but both will be confirmed.

Renquist should retire soon, which will set up the battle everyone has been preparing for. I don’t think Bush will try to move Clarence Thomas to Chief Justice, facing that confrmation battle, and then another to fill Thomas’ post. The White House must already know who they’ll nominate as Chief. This selection and the battle that ensues will frame the relationships and effectiveness of the White House and Senate over the remainder of the Bush presidency.

12. Bin Laden: Osama Bin Laden will be captured or more likely killed, but the impact will be largely symbolic, since he has been ineffective hiding in a cave anyway.

This may or may not happen in 2005. At some point, Bin Laden will be history, as will al Zawari. But the inevitability of these captures no longer captivates the public as much as the question of when the insurgency will be defanged in Iraq. That won’t happen in 2005, but if the situation in Iraq is not greatly improved by November 2006, the nation may be seeing blue.

13. Fair Tax: The Fair Tax movement will grow and progress will be made in the Congress, although passage is years away.

There’s good momentum for the Fair Tax legislation, but right now it appears impossible to get much of anything done in Congress. Still waiting for the new book on the fair tax by John Linder and Neal Boortz, which should be out any day.

14. Radio: Democrats will push for a return of the Fairness Doctrine, as an attempt to defang the Republican advantage on talk radio. The effort will not succeed.

At the moment, the liberals are still playing with a competitive radio network, but it’s failing, so an attempt for legislative remedies can’t be far behind.

15. China: The growing business class in China will push for more civil freedoms as their economic power grows, and the Communist government will yield some ground.

This is going to happen, but no news yet.

16. Same-Sex Marriage: The homosexual community in America will change tactics, backing away from the same-sex marriage initiatives and seeking equal rights for homosexual couples without using “marriage” language. This will not raise the same red flags among many groups across the country.

Except for a few localcourt rulings, there isn’t much happening on this front. Mitt Romney is trying to reverse the Massachusetts measures. And it does appear that the homosexual community is laying low on this for now, looking for a fight they can win.

17. Economics: There will be steady economic growth, and the stock market will continue its climb and end the year over 11,000.

We’re over 10,500, and with a little good news out of Iraq or Israel, or a significant drop in gasoline prices, we’re reach 11,000 this year.

18. Pharmaceuticals: The positive economic trends will be marred by the collapse of major pharmaceutical companies, fueled by massive class action suits.

If a pharmaceutical company can come up with vaccines for the bird flu, it will give them some air to breath.

19. Social Security: Social security restructuring will see some progress in 2005 because of a relentless campaign by the Bush administration. Fear of demagoguery will prevent meaningful reform, but the steps taken will be seen—in retrospect—as the beginning of serious change.

I think I got this one wrong. Social security reform is probably dead for now, and I’m sure Bush is wishing he hadn’t burned so much political capital to fight for the private accounts. The groundwork by this Adminsitration may payoff in the long run, however.

20. EU: The European Union will seek to flex its muscle and establish itself as a major economic and political competitor to the United States—opposing the U.S. on key international and trade policies. The U.S. will shrug and turn to the Far East.

The death of the EU constitution makes it more difficult for the EU to be a unified competitor. Until the Europeans work as hard as the Americans, the Japanese, and Chinese, they’ll never pose a serious economic threat.

What is most striking about making any predictions for a new year, is that other events overtake those that seems so important at a previous time. Who could have predicted that Terri Schiavo and the filibuster would dominate political news in the New Year. Or that the Democrats would let Howard Dean push their national rhetoric further to the left.

Posted by Jim at June 22, 2005 07:30 AM

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Your optimism is quite refreshing... especially in light of my recent post of pessimism. But, I cannot help but wonder what could be accomplished if Republicans in the majority were nearly as unified behind this epic President in favor of progress, as the Democrats are in their obstruction.

Posted by: Mr.Atos at June 22, 2005 07:12 PM

Why on earth would you predict people's deaths? I know that blogging often operates by Baby Boomer rules of insensitivity, but this is too much.

Posted by: Mark at June 23, 2005 01:39 PM

On number 6: Take a look at my post responding to Tom Friedman's column of yesterday:

The President was a lame duck on the evening of his election. With no clear frontrunner for succeeding him, it's every person for themselves among the Republicans in Congress, especially when the manner in which he advanced the cause of Social Security reform--the issue he wanted to be his signature achievement for the second term--invited derision, piling on, and abandonment.

As to #7: I agree that the Religious Right has experienced its apex and frankly, it's better for the Church and its proclamation of the Gospel that it has.

In spite of my criticism above, I enjoyed this piece. Revisiting end-of-year predictions is something that's rarely done. I admire your courage in doing that.


Posted by: Mark at June 23, 2005 01:48 PM

Glad to see there is a blog on relevant news of the day by "followers of Christ" but I have to question that positioning when the supposed followers bash the successor to the apostle he called the Rock of his Church (Peter). Why, as you state, the Pope's death is good news for us all really escapes me and seems very blasphemous. There are 6 million Catholics in the world and it is the largest Christian denomination in the world. Those 6 million followers of Christ (and I'll agree that not all are true followers) would certainly have something to say about your dismissal of the Pope. And most Protestants would not be very happy with your eagerness to say goodbye to Rev. Graham either.

Posted by: Jennifer at June 23, 2005 04:11 PM

You misread what I wrote. The good news is that most of those on my year-end prediction list have died. And I said this was good news for them and for us. I admire many of them. And I loved the Pope and believe he was the most important public figure of our generation--inside or outside the church.

Posted by: Jim Jewell at June 24, 2005 08:00 AM