2019: Year of Beto-mania, Brexit and the unapologetic Cardi B

Every year, we ask a lucky group of CNN contributors to play the role of fortune tellers. Providing a list o...

Posted: Dec 31, 2018 10:37 AM
Updated: Dec 31, 2018 10:37 AM

Every year, we ask a lucky group of CNN contributors to play the role of fortune tellers. Providing a list of 10 burning questions about the next year, we challenge them to predict some of the biggest cultural and political moments to come.

It's no easy task. Last year, Alice Stewart emerged as the most prophetic, successfully predicting that Bruno Mars would win the Grammy for Album of the Year and that the Philadelphia Eagles would come out as the victors in the Super Bowl.

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This year, she wrote that Drake's "Scorpion" will take home the gold -- a view that deviated from many of our contributors, who chose Cardi B's "Invasion of Privacy." Roxanne Jones hopes it will indeed be Cardi B, because she loves "imperfect, confident, self-made women. And as the child of the original hip-hop generation, I always want this beautiful, unapologetically black musical genre to win big on the stage."

But when it comes to the Super Bowl, Stewart has a few more contributors on her side. She selects the New Orleans Saints, because "(t)hey have had a strong offensive season, and they get bonus points for having 'Choppa Style' dance moves to help them celebrate."

Still, Joey Jackson begged to differ. He puts his money on the Los Angeles Rams -- "great young quarterback, talented running backs and lots of secret weapons."

Beto-mania has firmly taken hold

Well, according to nearly all of our contributors, it would take lots of secret weapons for Trump to trail a serious primary challenger in the next election cycle. As Holly Thomas wrote, "I suspect the Republicans will prefer to stick with the devil they know."

Democrats, on the other hand, will likely take an entirely different approach, if our contributors are right -- pushing aside known contenders, such as Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and expressing a preference for Beto O'Rourke, the Texas Democrat who came remarkably close to unseating Senator Ted Cruz in November.

As Peniel Joseph explained, O'Rourke is "the first Democratic candidate since Barack Obama to inspire a belief in civil ideals, social justice and the grand notion that America belongs to all of us."

But British commentator Tim Stanley cautioned against Beto-mania. With so many candidates likely to declare, the primary field will "remain a mess," and Joe Biden will be the favorite by the end of 2019. Stanley uses similar words to describe his home country's political state, as it plunges further into a Brexit-induced chaos.

As British Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to sell her Brexit plan to Parliament, our contributors remained split on whether Britain will leave the European Union at all -- and, if it does, whether it will be under the terms of an agreed-upon deal. Jen Psaki believed that with time running out, "a vote to stay in the EU is not out of the question." Fortunately, we won't have to wait too long to find out. Brexit is scheduled for March 29, 2019.

For democracy, a rocky road ahead

The United Kingdom isn't the only country facing a challenging new year. Many western democracies are experiencing turbulence at the same time. As Frida Ghitis wrote, this is hardly a coincidence. In fact, the fates of the Brexit quagmire, the French "yellow jacket" protests and the numerous Trump investigations "are deeply intertwined."

The struggle to save democracy, Ghitis says, will largely depend on what plays out in the United States. More specifically, it will depend on the hard work of "citizens, journalists, prosecutors and politicians" alike, who will fight to preserve constitutional freedoms and democratic norms.

But, as Nic Robertson warned, this will not be an easy fight. "Trump's biggest asset is his unpredictability." No one quite knows what he is going to do or tweet next, and that makes domestic and foreign leaders -- as well as global markets -- uneasy.

Still, it does appear that Trump is consistent in one way -- turning his back on Europe, which, at a time of heightened tensions, could give further rise to dangerous populist and nationalist movements. This is unfortunate, Robertson concludes, because "rifts are the last thing humanity needs right now."

For women, a dawn of 'better governance for all'

With a record number of women elected to the US Congress in the midterm elections -- a victory that earned 2018 the title of "year of the badass woman" -- Marianne Schnall wrote that the 2019 freshman class of Congress women will be the largest on record, "for a total of 102 female representatives and 25 female senators."

Why is that so significant? Because, as many social science studies have indicated, increased female representation produces better and more inclusive policies, particularly in areas like health care and education. "Simply put, more women in power means better governance for all of us," says Schnall.

Of course, much of that research is premised on the assumption that women are more collaborative. But, as Kathleen Parker wrote in The Washington Post, the question remains: can Democratic and Republican women work in a bipartisan manner "and communally suckle our relatively infant-nation into a more mature and efficient version of itself?"

Stephanie Coontz added that this isn't exactly a victory for both parties either -- but rather for the Democrats, "and this should give Republicans pause." Women made far greater gains in the Democratic Party than they did in the Republican Party, reflecting a "partisan gender gap" that could hurt the GOP, as the next election cycle kicks into high gear.

For Big Tech, a game of whack-a-mole

There is no denying that 2018 has been an awful year for Big Tech. From privacy scandals to data breaches, Big Tech has disappointed people across the political spectrum. And, wrote Joshua Geltzer and Dipayan Ghosh, 2019 will not be any easier -- "the very future of the companies and their leaders are at stake as they play whack-a-mole just to keep their corporate reputations -- and stock prices -- afloat."

Part of the issue with these tech companies is that they've become too big and too powerful too quickly. To address this, Robert Reich wrote in The Guardian that we should "use antitrust again." If Congress can't break them up entirely, he suggests that they force tech companies to disclose more of their "proprietary technology and data."

What Trump got right in 2018

Though 2019 will undoubtedly pose some challenges for President Donald Trump, John Avlon wrote that it's worth celebrating a few of the President's victories -- including his most recent bipartisan effort: criminal justice reform via the First Step Act. "The law blends common sense and compassion, redeeming reformed lives while saving money in the process," says Avlon.

And, frankly, it couldn't have garnered enough Republican support without a law-and-order president advocating for it. "One of America's most 'tough on crime' presidents has become a vocal proponent of 'smart on crime' policies," Van Jones and Jessica Jackson added.

What Trump got wrong in December

It's hard to keep track of the many departures from Trump's Cabinet. But this month has been particularly rocky with the resignations of Ryan Zinke as secretary of interior, Gen. John Kelly as chief of staff, and, most recently, Gen. John Mattis as secretary of defense.

And the Mattis resignation letter offers a stinging rebuke of the Trump presidency for adopting policies that endanger America's leadership role, which, Peter Bergen said, "underlines the fact that Emperor Donald Trump I is wearing absolutely no clothes."

'How do people get the courage to jump out of a burning building?'

One debate that is certain to rage into 2019 is that surrounding America's immigration policy. As the Trump administration's immigration decisions -- and the court's many rebukes -- throw the state of asylum seekers into limbo, Lev Golinkin wrote there is a fundamental misunderstanding on the left and the right regarding why people flee their home countries.

Golinkin, who fled from growing anti-Semitism in then-Soviet Ukraine, says American friends mistakenly used to ask his mother where she got the courage to take her family and come to America. But his mother would change the subject, because the real question, he says, is: "How do people get the courage to jump out of a burning building?"

The most important lesson for the new year

We have a dangerous way of repeating history -- and often within just a few generations. As Elie Honig reminded us, the Holocaust was brought to an end less than 75 years ago. And yet, here we are dealing with a rising tide of hatred in the United States and Europe.

In his interview with retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Gabriel Bach, he notes that Bach was one of the three leading lawyers who prosecuted Adolf Eichmann, the "architect" of the Holocaust. And while Bach was able to maintain his composure for much of the trial, there was one story -- of a Hungarian Jew, Martin Foldi, separated forever from his daughter in a red coat -- that almost made him lose control.

When Foldi, his wife, his son and his daughter arrived in Auschwitz in 1944, they were separated into two lines. A Nazi told Foldi to go to the right and his family to go to the left. He had recently purchased a red coat for his 2½-year-old daughter, and Foldi testified at trial: "that little red dot getting smaller and smaller -- this is how my family disappeared from my life."

That story and the manner in which Bach conducted himself during the trial are particularly relevant today. "The fact that this terrible thing happened should never be forgotten," Bach says. "And everything should be done to teach young people and older people to prevent something like that from happening in the future. That is my hope."

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