The Year That Will Be: E Pluribus Unum?

The Year That Will Be: E Pluribus Unum?

Just for fun, I thought I’d try my hand at predicting events for the coming year. I do this without any claim to anything more than a bit of background knowledge, a certain degree of experience with a variety of things, and a willingness to be found to have been foolishly mistaken (along with the hope that my mistakes might be forgotten!).

We can be certain that the news cycle next year will be dominated by the selection of presidential candidates and then a president. On the Democratic side, it seems likely that the contest will be over (or essentially over) relatively quickly. For all of Hillary Clinton’s vulnerabilities, Democratic voters and Democratic movers and shakers seem content to have her as the party’s standard bearer. Bernie Sanders may be able to draw enthusiastic crowds, but that doesn’t seem to be translating into anything that resembles the ability to derail the Clinton juggernaut this time around. He might well win New Hampshire, but that’s likely to be his last hurrah.

The Republican side is . . . well, a mess. Donald Trump’s pundit-defying persistence at the top of most polls has much to do, in my opinion, with the very large field chasing him (as well as his willingness to say things roughly 30% of Republican voters want someone to say, and that nearly everyone else finds offensive). Given the potential financial support of private donors pouring their millions into independent expenditure campaigns, that field may not thin very quickly. I’m imagining that we may still have a half dozen candidates in the race as we enter the ids of March and the Florida primary. If that guess is correct, and if the early March primaries have three or four different winners (which I think they will), look for the first real floor fight over a presidential nomination in decades . . . and, well, a painful mess for the Republican Party, because Trump’s likely to be one of the players.

Who wins in November? Who knows!

Closer to home, look for the effects of the Fair Districts Amendments to begin a process of increasing the number of Democrats elected to seats in the U.S. House and in the Florida Senate. If that happens, look for the beginnings of a revitalization of the Florida Democratic Party as the opportunities to run and hold seats expand. Over the course of a few years, it might make Florida more deeply purple all the time, not just in presidential election years. But that depends upon the Democratic Party, which has done remarkably poorly in fielding statewide candidates and campaigns, as well as in raising money. Hint to Democrats: it’s all about reaching people where they live, not about relying on traditional interest group coalitions.

Perhaps more certain than any of these predictions is the expectation that we still will be struggling with issues of race, ethnicity and religion. There will be acts of violence motivated by one or another of these factors. There will be actions of public officials, be they police officers or program directors, soldiers or senators, that will expose our ongoing struggles and challenge each of us to reflect on what we believe and why we believe it. These events will ask us, again and again, to decide who we really are.

More than the politics of the presidency, more than the latest innovations in policy, it is how we as a society think of ourselves and “others” that will define the year 2016.

That there are important differences among groups of people that are related to race, ethnicity, national origin and religion simply is beyond question. The open question is, what will we make of those differences?

Will we treat them as causes for suspicion, judgment, even violence?

Or will we treat them as opportunities to learn, opportunities to get outside of our narrow frames of reference and to see a fuller picture?

My 58 years have taught me how much I do not know, how little I understand, how often I misperceive. Only when I have taken the time to read carefully, to listen closely, and to question seriously and sincerely, have I managed to avoid the embarrassments and disasters that come from judging too quickly and thinking I know more than I do.

I’ll try to keep that in mind as I write my way through 2016. And my hope (dare I risk it as a prediction?) is that we as a people, diverse as we may be, will remember what we say we are: e pluribus unum . . . out of many, one.