The jury is still out on whether 2021 will be a good year. Hope and evidence that progress is being made on the pandemic are increasing. The economy appears to be coming back to life, a trend that could be accelerated if the pending stimulus bill passes. And our political system appears to be returning to normal after the nightmare of January 6. On the other hand, our new President has yet to face his first foreign policy crisis, and we are experiencing some strange weather.
Thus, it is fair to wonder what will happen in the rest of 2021. Here are a few predictions.
Further progress will occur on the virus, both as the numbers of people vaccinated continue to increase and as more people contract the virus and recover. By year end, we will still be asked to wear masks, there will still be a stubborn 10 percent of the population that refuses to get vaccinated, and more “new strains” will occur.
While progress on the virus in the US is likely, things could get worse in the developing world. The focal point of the crisis—and, hopefully, the prime target for vaccinations and relief—will switch to these areas. Will the US play its part?
The economy will continue to recover, but not for everyone. The pandemic has made permanent changes in the details of where and what the jobs are. Even as unemployment continues to decrease, millions of Americans will remain in need. Additional relief and stimulus, more carefully targeted, will be necessary.
President Biden will face one or more major foreign policy challenges. Speculation is always dangerous but watch China’s actions towards Taiwan. If Xi Jinping decides to assert control over Taiwan by force, the question for the US will be whether to respond militarily. Similarly, North Korea or Iran might choose to take military action of some sort on the assumption that President Biden will not respond.
More major natural disasters will occur. Last week’s Texas freeze may or may not reflect climate change, but ever-greater natural disasters will increase. The probability of similar events—hurricanes, forest fires, polar vortexes, extraordinary heat waves, and maybe even an earthquake—is high. Is the US properly prepared?
Expect more political turmoil caused by or tied to ex-president Trump. It now appears virtually certain that Trump will face a deluge of criminal and civil litigation. Regardless of your thoughts on whether this should happen, Trump’s band of followers is likely to respond negatively. Given that some people involved are extremists, violent responses are a risk. Hopefully, the FBI and other agencies are watching all groups that might contemplate violent political action, and these agencies will spring into action before such events occur.
More racial equity protests are likely to occur. It is naïve to assume that this summer will not see more widespread protests, especially if additional triggering events—things like police violence—happen. It is essential that the new administration fulfills its promise to make racial equity a priority. If people of color believe that government is working for them, they will work with it rather than assuming that the only way to effectuate change is to force it.
President Biden will continue to exceed expectations. Five weeks does not a presidency make. While, at least for this writer, President Biden is striking the right tone, it remains to be seen how he will handle a crisis and whether his team will prove up to the task of leading us out of the current disaster. So far, there is little to criticize. Cross your fingers that it stays that way with Biden—and that the new President remains healthy and committed to working with Republicans when Republicans are willing to work with him.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours? Are you feeling optimistic, pessimistic, or simply confused?
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.