For my last column of each year, I like to go out on a limb and predict 10 big news stories I believe will happen in the coming year. Usually I get two or three right, come close on a few others, and then I’m way off on the rest.
Click here to read last year’s predictions and see how I did for 2017, and you'll see I actually had a pretty good year.
10. The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the Super Bowl.
This was my pick before the NFL season began, and I'm sticking by it. The Steelers have become such a well-rounded team that they were even able to weather some dips in Ben Roethlisberger's play under center, and now the future Hall of Famer is playing his best football of the season, just in time for the playoffs.
9. "Avengers: Infinity War" will be the top-grossing movie of the year.
As always, there are some big-money movie franchises returning to the box office next year. However, all pale in comparison the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which revolutionized movies as we know it. Just as a generation ago, George Lucas made the movie trilogy a mass-hit concept, a decade ago, Marvel introduced us to the concept of a shared universe. Its intent was to lead us to this ultimate destination: The cinematic retelling of the mad titan, Thanos, and his pursuit of the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet against a Who's Who of Marvel's greatest heroes. It's widely considered one of the greatest storylines in comic book history, and 12 months from now, there won't be a single movie that's even a close second.
8. The Mueller probe will not cease, but will instead buy itself some time by indicting a Democrat.
It's been a tough month for the credibility of the Mueller probe, with multiple stories pointing to the partisan political leanings of those assisting the former FBI director with his investigation into all things Trump and the 2016 election. That's why, to avoid increasing calls for him to shut it down, as well as criticisms that he's at the helm of a witch hunt, Mueller will buy himself some time by indicting a Democrat in 2018.
7. Trump will not pardon anyone, unless it's a family member.
The political fallout of pardoning anyone with the backdrop of a contentious midterm election will be too much radioactivity, even for Trump. However, throw all of that out the window if a family member — like son-in-law Jared Kushner — ends up in Mueller's cross-hairs. In that case, blood is thicker than water. Or control of Congress, for that matter.
6. There will be no substantive increase in deportations nor a single substantial move made to “build a wall.”
I will repeat this prediction from a year ago, which came true, and predict it will continue as a trend into next year. In fact, according to ICE's own data, deportations this year actually decreased from Obama's last year in office.
5. Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote in favor of religious liberty in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado.
The two pillars of Kennedy's judicial bent — sexual libertinism and individual autonomy — collide in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Kennedy has arguably done more than any living person to mainstream homosexuality in America. It was clear during the case's recent arguments that he was struggling with the extent to which the "gay rights" cause has become what I like to call the Rainbow Jihad — the evolution of "how does my gay marriage impact your life" to "you will be made to care." I expect Kennedy to follow his own precedent in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case and be the deciding vote to maintain — for now, anyway — religious freedom in America.
4. There will be some sort of military exchange with North Korea.
At some point next year, Kim Jong Un is going to push the U.S. too far, and Trump will attempt to do to him what Reagan once did to Qaddafi. Once that goes down, what happens next will be anyone's guess.
3. For the first time since 2000, economic growth will eclipse four percent.
The signs are there. Unemployment is low while consumer confidence is high. The stock market continues to hum, and now major tax cuts are on the way as well.
2. Trump will fill not one, but two Supreme Court vacancies.
With three of the justices now octogenarians, the clock is ticking, and Father Time waits for no (wo)man. I expect Kennedy to retire on his own. While I'm sure liberals Breyer and Ginsburg would like to hold on, given the Trump presidency, we saw in 2016 with Scalia's sudden passing that you don't always get to call your own shot. This will push the issue of judicial appointments back to the forefront in the 2018 elections, just as it was with Scalia's vacancy in 2016. Which brings me to #1 ...
1. Democrats won't retake Congress in the 2018 midterms.
There will be a Democratic wave next year; of that I have little doubt. However, what I do doubt is how much new ground said wave will smother. Despite the obvious energy on their side, so far Democrats have won exactly one meaningful road game, in Alabama. But that was with Team GOP openly helping them to do it. By this point early on in the Obama presidency, Republicans had won three, which was an omen of the 2010 Tea Party wave to come, including Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat in deep blue Massachusetts. The national map is very polarized overall, and the 2018 Senate map remains unfavorable for Democrats. Not to mention national Democrat leadership is either unlikable (Pelosi) or uninspiring (Schumer). So they're just as likely to do something stupid that turns out the GOP base every bit as much as disdain for Trump turns out the Democrat base. Thus, I predict Democratic energy will largely be contained to areas they're already likely to win anyway, which will mitigate their potential overall gains.