The news is still on vacation, even if the working stiffs are back on the job and hoping to get another four-day weekend out of the last of the holidays, and the pundits are left with their usual year-end wrap-ups or predictions for the coming twelve months. The predictions are rarely useful, and always put forth with confidence that they will be long forgotten by the time they do not come to pass, but there’s something to be said for taking a brief look back at the year’s events.
Looking back on a year such as 2014 feels uncomfortably like Lot’s wife looking back on burning Sodom, but it is almost worth being turned into a pillar of salt to recall what seemed temporarily important during all those black-letter days on the calendar. So many stories mesmerize the public for a few news cycles, then suddenly vanish as thoroughly and mysteriously as that missing Malaysian airliner that was all the talk a few months back, and it is good to reminded of the ones that still matter. Those girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria are still in the most horrible sort of captivity, despite the flurry of hashtags that well-intentioned and utterly ineffectual westerners sent out for they disappeared from the headlines. Russia is still control of a large chunk of what used to be Ukraine, the Islamic State is still mass-murdering in much of what used to be Syria and Iraq, Iran is still progressing steadily toward nuclear weapons and talks about it are still ongoing, and China is still making trouble for all its neighbors. Further infuriating relegations about the Internal Revenue Service are coming out, Obamacare is still a mess, those many tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America who showed up last summer are still in the public’s care somewhere or another, a memorandum or executive order or some strange constitutional go-around are still inviting a few million more illegal immigrants, the labor participation rate remain low and the number of people dependent on government assistance remains high, and Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress are still going to be installed in a few long days because the public was fuming about it all less than two months ago.
The year-end wrap-ups are hard to reconcile with the popular predictions, but the press will press on. Since the mid-term elections, which were so far back it was almost two months ago, the prevailing storyline has been that happy days are here again and that the president is going to reap the popularity and the Republicans will be sorry they ever messed with him. Such giddy optimism is all the rage now, but we’re going to stick with our old-fashioned gloom and doom. There’s nothing the press can do about the international situation except avert its gaze, the Obamacare rate hikes will arrive in the nation’s mailboxes even the media does avert its gaze, the Republican majorities in Congress will be able to force the media gaze on the IRS and any other scandals that pop up, the government’s restraints on the economy will still be apparent to the industries driving those suspicious but hopeful statistics that the press are touting, and that illegal immigration policy that the press is calling a great political victory remains unpopular in a highly motivating way. It all seems rather messy at the moment, and we expect that will continue for a while.
Which is not to venture any prediction, mind you, other than that some things will get worse and some things will get better. That prediction has never yet made us look foolish, so we will go that far.
— Bud Norman