Pop Quiz: What will 2020 hold?

Will Donald Trump still be president on Election Day 2020?

What do the next 12 months hold for the United States and the world? At the dawn of each year, this column offers readers a chance to guess. It’s always difficult. In one sense, though, predicting 2020 might be easier than predicting past years. We’ve become accustomed to craziness. Not much shocks us anymore. What seemed like wild upheaval a year or two ago now appears almost normal. We shrug at angry breaches between the United States and longtime allies, the gutting of American diplomacy, world leaders who use racist and quasi-fascist rhetoric as they wreck once-promising democracies, and suicidal refusal to deal with the onrushing reality of climate change. Speculating about the future is a way of trying to understand a baffling present.

The worst part about taking this quiz comes a year later, when you have to face the reality of last year’s guesses. My record is decidedly mixed. A year ago I predicted that Donald Trump would be out of office by now. Some of my correct guesses don’t deserve credit because they were too easy — that Vladimir Putin would be the most demonized foreign leader in Washington, for example, or that Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia would “continue gleefully bombing and starving people in nearby countries.” I did, though, predict the fall of both Prime Minister Theresa May of Great Britain and President Evo Morales of Bolivia. Take this year’s quiz, save your answers, and revisit them in a year to see how clairvoyant you are.

1. On November 3, Election Day, the president of the United States will be:

a. Donald Trump

b. Mike Pence

c. Nancy Pelosi

d. Vladimir Putin

2. The Democratic nominee for president will be:

a. A billionaire

b. A moderate who wants to bring the old Washington elite back to power and bomb a few more countries while we’re at it.

c. A populist who denounces greedy plutocrats at home but supports wars, sanctions, and other interventions abroad

d. Bernie Sanders

3. The most odious president to fall from power in 2020 will be:

a. Donald Trump

b. Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey

c. Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil

d. Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua

4. By the end of 2020, the leader of Iran will be:

a. A mullah

b. A pro-American “moderate rebel”

c. A secular reformer

d. An heir to the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

5. The NATO alliance, which President Emmanuel Macron of France recently said was facing “brain death,” will:

a. Expel Turkey

b. Expel Poland

c. Find new enemies

d. Go to war to defend Latvia or North Macedonia

6. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will:

a. win another term

b. be found guilty of corruption in Israel

c. be indicted for war crimes at the International Criminal Court

d. All of the above

7. Julian Assange, whose WikiLeaks campaign exposed mendacity at the highest levels of American diplomacy, will:

a. continue to rot under harsh conditions in a London jail

b. be extradited to the United States and face trial on charges that could put him in prison for life

c. be extradited and then pardoned by the President as a hero of democracy

d. die in custody

8. The climate catastrophe that will alarm the world for a brief moment before we stick our heads back into the sand will be:

a. the flooding of a major American city

b. cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics because of a tsunami

c. the breaking off of a massive block of Arctic ice

d. destruction of a Trump hotel somewhere in the world by storm, flood, or wildfire

9. The most insightful book about world affairs published this year will be:

a. The Folly and the Glory: The United States, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945–2020, by Tim Wiener

b. Killer High: A History of War in Six Drugs, by Peter Andreas

c. The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory, by Andrew Bacevich

d. A Nuclear Love Story: The Secret Texts of Donald Trump and Kim Jung Il, by Edward Snowden

10. The proverb that will best help us understand the world of 2020 is:

a. “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.” — Lord Salisbury

b. “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” — Shakespeare

c. “In order to understand meaningful dialogue, first you must understand others’ interests and you must respect them as your brothers and sisters, and also consider them as a part of yourself.” — Dalai Lama

d. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Lincoln

Recording your guesses is voluntary, but here are my choices, for reconsideration a year from now: 1 (a) 2 (b) 3 (c) 4 (a) 5 (c) 6 (d) 7 (b) 8 (d) 9 (c) 10 (c). Given the utter unpredictability of our brave new world, even a few good guesses should count as success.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

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