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Each year, we ask a group of CNN Opinion contributors to make 10 predictions about some of the biggest political, cultural and sports moments to come.
While many of last year’s contributors successfully predicted the winners of entertainment awards, only four out of 16 of them correctly guessed that Joe Biden would be the winner of the 2020 US presidential election — Frida Ghitis, Joey Jackson, Roxanne Jones and Raul Reyes. Their predictions were particularly notable since at this time a year ago, President Donald Trump’s administration had yet to be rocked by the Covid-19 pandemic and Biden’s lead in the Democratic primary polls was narrow.
Though the presidential portion of the November election has been decided, two US Senate races in Georgia are headed to runoffs on January 5. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are looking to unseat Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and in doing so, take back control of the Senate. If the Democrats win both seats, they will remove a major legislative roadblock in the way of the Biden administration’s ambitious agenda.
Our prognosticators are almost evenly divided on who will win these two races. Notably, however, all four who predicted Biden’s win believe that Ossoff and Warnock will be victorious. Why? Because, Jackson argued, “The Republicans won’t vote. They’re too busy screaming about imaginary voter fraud.” Ghitis went so far as to write, “It will be Trump’s final gift to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After helping McConnell dispose of his principles, Trump will help deprive him of control of the US Senate.”
However, our conservative commentators thought such an outcome was wishful thinking. Alice Stewart, a native of Georgia, argued that Republican loyalty was stronger than Democratic strategists realize, and that Loeffler and Perdue will reap the benefits of this traditionally red-leaning state.
Hope on the horizon
Regardless of who wins the Georgia races, the Biden administration will have to work closely with state governors to ensure a swift rollout for the Covid-19 vaccine. Given the challenges in scaling up production and distribution of the vaccine, most of our contributors believe that by mid-year 50% or less of the US population will have been vaccinated.
Jones wrote that even if Biden is able to implement a national plan swiftly, “political divisions between governors of red and blue states will cause frustrating delays.” Her sentiment was echoed by Elliot Williams, who argued there were additional complicating factors — the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two separate shots, doubling the required doses needed, and not enough children have been a part of clinical trials to approve usage for them yet.
But as concerned as many were about US distribution issues, they were even more worried about global access to the vaccine. With the exception of two contributors, everyone thought less than 40% of the world’s population would be vaccinated by July — with many believing it would be closer to 25%. Holly Thomas explained that as a result of “the likely snapping up of vaccines by wealthier countries, and the sheer size of certain populations in say, rural China, Russia and India,” it would be nearly impossible to get a majority of the globe vaccinated within six months.
Escapism through the arts
What movie is going to win the top prize in 2021? Not surprisingly, in a year defined by its trials and tribulations, five contributors selected “The Trial of the Chicago 7” for best picture. As Stewart wrote, “As the whole world watched racial tensions explode on the streets of America in 2020, many have been asking how we have gotten to this point.” This film begins to answer that question, writes Paul Callan, by providing insight into “the protest movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s.”
But Raul Reyes wrote that “Nomadland,” a fictional film about a woman’s journey through the American West following the Great Recession, provided the right kind of escapism for millions of people who could no longer travel the way they once did. “An unusual winner for an unusual time,” he said, predicting the film would ultimately take home the Oscar.
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Still others, like Laura Coates and Ghitis, believed “Ma Rainey Black Bottom,” featuring Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, deserved the golden statue. Ghitis wrote that if the film wins, it’ll be “Oscar’s nostalgic farewell” to Boseman and his tremendous talent.
There was greater consensus on which album would win the top Grammy, with 13 of our contributors putting their money on Taylor Swift’s “Folklore.” While James Gagliano acknowledged that his daughter influenced his selection of Swift’s album, several others said they chose “Folklore” against their better judgment. Peniel Joseph lamented that Jhené Aiko’s “Chilombo,” which deserved the prize, would likely not stand a chance next to the queen of pop, while Reyes said The Weeknd’s “After Hours” album had been snubbed by not even earning a nomination for the top prize.
Sports are ‘completely unstoppable’
Though the Tokyo Olympics were delayed until 2021, our contributors were steadfast in their prediction that the United States would take home the most medals next summer. As Jeff Yang wrote last year, “It wasn’t even close in 2016, and I can’t see who’s going to come close in 2020.” He and 14 other contributors believe the same to be true this year. As Jones framed it, “Yes, we’ve been ravaged by the pandemic and toxic politics, but I never count us out. We always come together for the Olympics.”
Meanwhile, Stewart, who was the only contributor to successfully predict the Kansas City Chiefs would win the Super Bowl in 2020, is putting her money on the Pittsburgh Steelers next year. As Williams, who made the same prediction, phrased it, “the Pittsburgh Steelers have won so many times this year, you’d think they’ve been up against President Donald Trump’s election legal team.”
But don’t count out the Chiefs to repeat history, wrote Elie Honig. With quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he argued they “are completely unstoppable.” Scott Jennings and Callan agreed, believing Mahomes, last year’s most valuable player, would continue his winning streak.
Reyes, the one commentator to pick the Los Angeles Dodgers as the World Series winners last year, is placing his bet on his hometown team again. However, few share his optimism, with five contributors believing it’s the Atlanta Braves’ time to shine. “Baseball will start bringing America a sense of normalcy in 2021. But in a nod to 2020, and Georgia’s pivotal role in the 2020 elections, the baseball gods will fortify the Atlanta Braves,” Ghitis prophesied.
Others, like SE Cupp, are holding out hope that their teams can come from behind to clinch the World Series and the glory. “Just because we finished 2020 with a 26-34 record, doesn’t mean the New York Mets can’t win it all next year,” Cupp wrote.
What else to expect in 2021:
-Laurence Tubiana: Paris Agreement architect: 2021 will dawn with hope
-Brian Belski for CNN Business Perspectives: There’s a reason to be bullish on stocks in 2021, too
-Bill Carter for Perspectives: TV viewers are craving comfort food. 2021 will deliver
2020 lessons for the new year
Besides asking CNN Opinion contributors to forecast the year ahead, we turned to everyday readers and writers to reflect on the most challenging moments of 2020. As the numbers of Covid-19 infections rose, so did unemployment rates and deaths across the globe — and we felt it imperative to put faces to the staggering charts and graphs documenting these numbers.
As we explored potential stories, we began to hear a familiar refrain of loss and fear — one which Gabbie Riley, who worked in the hotel industry until March, framed in terms of her career: “What if you woke up one day and discovered that your industry had just disappeared? The industry you had spent years learning, loving, building and becoming respected within just … gone?” As six months of furlough turned into a year — this time without the guarantee of benefits or employment at the end of it — Riley struggled to find both the emotional and financial footing she desperately needed.
For many others, the loss was not limited to employment. John Bare, whose wife Betsy died from Covid-19 in September, wrote he was joining “a new global community of survivors trying to find order in chaos.” But he was struggling with a deep emptiness, which he said causes survivors like him to “count the minutes ticking off through the day, wondering if we can hold it together through Zoom meetings at work and well-intended queries about how we are doing.”
Despite the many challenges facing Bare and Riley, they managed to find reason to believe in a brighter future. Bare, who has taken some solace in creating artwork of pies (one of his wife’s favorite treats), says that for now we are all going to “have to trust the journey. There is no switch to flip.” And perhaps part of the journey is also understanding, as Riley explained, that “even among our most trying personal situations, we all have something to contribute here.”
Cheers to a better 2021!