1. Republicans in general will not take on much less of religious persona in the ‘10s, but Democrats may stop pandering to it. Do not expect the intense media examinations into candidates’ faith in 2012, that we saw in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
2. The Tea Party-Animals will grow quickly exasperated – probably after the 2010 election. But they won’t give up on politics. They can’t give up on politics. Politics is the focal point of these groups’ disillusion, because politics is so visible. Politics has always had the capacity of group identity, par excellence. And since media saturation is only continuing to increase (if that were imaginable), they will have a very hard time thinking of group identity without thinking about politics. Exasperation will not become rejection, because …
3. America won’t fundamentally change in the ‘10s. China will not overtake America in the ‘10s. National debt will not overtake America in the ‘10s. But it might overtake Japan in the ‘10s. And that will create enough anxiety to keep those with Tea-sensibilities glued to their TVs, or whichever medium happens to carry Glenn Beck. And Glenn will continue to be a big deal.
4. Sarah Palin will run in 2012. If she is not nominated, she will continue to be a political force, at least in terms of fundraising, talk shows, books, etc. If she wins the nomination, she will lose the election, of course. More importantly, enough people will recognize that she, not John McCain, would be a 3rd Bush term. In most important ways, she is George W. of the 2000 election. And in 2012, or 2016, the country still won’t be ready for that. And then she will no longer be relevant.
5. American intellectual, conservative Christians will have to confront the fact that African Christians don’t always help them make their point. Because African Christianity is increasingly Pentecostal. And Africa’s “conservatism” is far more rooted in Biblical literalism than American intellectual Christians’. The cultural pride that has stimulated Western conservatism seems not to evince anything similar in other cultures. There is always reaction, but non-Western reaction has not lately taken place in the context of that melancholic articulation, the kind that has produced the literature, poetry, philosophy and other melancholic arts in the West. But in the ‘10s, it just may happen in …
6. China. China ought to seem like the unlikeliest prospect for the development of a yearning, critical, visceral-yet-examined, disappointed-yet-lively conservatism. China has the grandest prospects for its growth, economic and political – but when they eventually do claim the undisputed number 2 spot on the world stage (and they can do it when they choose to, but have not explicitly done so yet), they will level out culturally, if not economically. China cannot and will not be a hegemon because it will not lead. The shift from national self-interest to national enlightened self-interest would need to happen … and I don’t see it happening. This will be unsatisfying to many Chinese themselves, who will ask, “Now what?” which will lead to angst. The revolt will not just be against America, though the US will continue to be a powerful image for scapegoating. But Chinese disillusionment will not necessary be wrathful. It will be postmodern, as it has already begun to be, and it may continue along the lines of Japanese disillusionment. The only question is whether China will see any hope in the vacuousness of disillusion – something in themselves. Will they find it in their glorious past? Unlike Japan … possibly. But there is nothing left to fight for, after the Cultural Revolution. The transition that is needed is a transition from expecting to recover national greatness, to a rumination on what greatness might actually be.
OK: is this one really a prediction? No. But it is a hope.
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.