2019 predictions in review

To kick off last year, I made a few predictions. I even added a confidence percentage to express, quantitatively, how sure I was that said prediction would come to pass. How did they hold up?

Oh. 

Oh. I see. 

Well. 

If last year’s predictions are any indication, when I predict something, you should probably put money on the other thing, whatever that might be. War in Iran? I think it’s incredibly likely, which is why President Trump will probably end up with a Nobel Peace Prize by the end of January and all of our pistachios will come from Iran by the end of the year. Market correction? I thought it should have happened in 2019, which is why the boom will continue for the next decade. Even though Disney’s explicitly said they won’t release another new Star Wars movie until 2022, I’m not even confident enough to predict we won’t see another Star Wars movie in 2020. 

Knowing my luck, they’ll throw the next season of The Mandalorian on IMAX.

Enough with the self-pity. What happened? Where did I go wrong? Most importantly, where will I go wrong in the future? Because, let me be clear about something — I have most emphatically not learned any lessons from last year’s exercise in predictive futility. In fact, I’ll give you my first prediction of the year right here. It’s even my most confident prediction. Here it is:

I’m going to do this again next year. 

Let’s get started.

Tesla didn’t crash.

When I predicted that Tesla would go down in flames last year, Tesla’s stock price was a bit under $340 per share. As I write this, it is over $430. What gives? 

No, seriously, I’m asking an honest question here. 

The Model S looks like the same Model S that Tesla released in 2012. The Model X was one of Consumer Reports’ 10 Least Reliable Cars. Tesla is still working on figuring out how to reliably apply paint to a Model 3. A Dodge Neon and a Plymouth Neon have less in common with each other than a Model 3 and a Model Y do. As for Tesla’s pickup, there is no way any regulatory agency is going to let a mirrorless pickup truck with no crumple zones get sold to the masses. 

Seriously, what gives? 

Well, hindsight is 2020 (I predict I’ll make this joke more than once in this column), so here’s where I think I went wrong: Elon Musk sells cars the way Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Inc., sold consumer electronics and it’s actually working. 

Take a look at the Model S. Yes, it looks like the same Model S that was released in 2012 but that’s where the similarities end. Just as the first jellybean-shaped iMac Steve Jobs released to the public was less than half as powerful as the final jellybean-shaped iMac Steve Jobs released to the public three years later, today’s Model S is considerably more capable than 2012’s. The battery lasts longer, it has all wheel drive now, it charges faster, and can even drive itself now (except when it can’t). 

As for Tesla’s reliability and fit and finish issues, Tesla isn’t really competing against Toyota. It’s competing against BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and other luxury car manufacturers, none of which topped anybody’s reliability charts last year, either. If you’re going to park an expensive status signal in your garage, it’s going to end up in the shop at least once a quarter regardless of who makes the thing, so why not buy an electrically powered status signal? Besides, Tesla’s reliability did improve over the past year; Consumer Reports even noticed the paint was getting more consistently applied. In other words, unlike other car manufacturers which rely on more predictable update schedules, Tesla’s releasing updates to its products as soon as it can get them out the door. 

Oh, and just like an iPhone, some Teslas are now being built in China. In fact, Tesla successfully launched its factory in China in record time. Just like their American cars, Tesla’s Chinese-manufactured cars will even enjoy copious government subsidies from the Chinese government as well.

Having said all that, I’m not buying Tesla stock anytime soon, nor am I particularly optimistic about its prospects. While Elon Musk is rolling over parking pylons in his polygon-starved new truck, other manufacturers are already rolling out electric trucks, some ready to sell starting in 2020. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and the rest of its competition in the luxury car space are all making electric cars now, too. Also, while the electric car market is certainly bigger than it was, electric cars are still largely status signals and still priced accordingly.

Oh, and Tesla’s safety record is still a bit hit-and-miss, to put it mildly.

I’ll admit, there’s a lot that could go right for Tesla in 2020. There’s also a lot that could go wrong. I’m 99 percent certain nobody, not even the people that work for Tesla, knows which way things will go.

Nevada’s economy didn’t lag.

Many of my predictions assumed that Tesla would struggle, leading to economic issues in Northern Nevada. Additionally, I assumed that the longest economic expansion in recent history would eventually stop. 

Neither of those things happened. 

That’s not to say things won’t slow down soon. Several key recession indicators are already going in the wrong direction. Auto sales have noticeably declined since September. Oh, and our military just assassinated one of the most powerful members of Iran’s government, which will undoubtedly raise oil prices and depress tourism. 

On the other hand, Nevada’s added a card or two to our deck. Nevada’s no longer a tourist state that occasionally finds something valuable to dig out of the ground or blow up from the sky from time to time. That’s not to say tourism isn’t still important – it is. It’s just a bit less important to Nevada overall than it was before the Great Recession because, for much of Nevada, tourism never fully recovered. 

Given all that, I’m going to make a slightly different prediction than I made last year. This year, I predict with 75 percent confidence that, if the nation experiences a recession, Nevada’s economy will shrink less than the national average. 

It’s a bold prediction but it’s not one based on optimism. It’s based on the fact that, compared to the rest of the country, Nevada still hasn’t fully recovered from the Great Recession. Put another way, we don’t have as far to fall.

Of course, I could be wrong, but what are the odds of that? 

*clears throat awkwardly*

I wasn’t wrong about everything!

Though I apparently have absolutely no business forecasting the future economic performances of individual companies or the state as a whole (and, at last, the data to back that up), I was actually fairly close when it came time to predict Nevada’s political fortunes. Prostitution wasn’t banned, taxes went up (but not as much as I feared), and criminal justice reform was actually taken seriously for once. In fact, it was taken seriously enough for one of my political predictions – that being “tough on crime” wouldn’t sink Kamala Harris’s campaign for President – to fail. 

I am just fine with being wrong about that. 

So, since Nevada politics was the one subject that resembled a bright spot in my otherwise lackluster career as a soothsayer, let’s fix that by making some Election Day predictions. 

First, a layup: I’m 99 percent certain Congressional District 2 will remain in Republican hands. I’m not going to predict which Republican’s hands because I don’t want to tempt fate, but I think I’m on safe enough ground if I say with at least 99 percent certainty that Sharron Angle will not be that Republican. 

After that, things get a little complicated.

I’m about 75 percent certain that the remainder of Nevada’s congressional delegation will remain Democratic. I’m less certain about Rep. Susie Lee’s seat than the rest of them since she won’t be running against a perennial loser, but there’s a reason Danny Tarkanian kept getting to run for office – Clark County Republicans love the guy. The same people that chose him to run headfirst into electoral windmills time after time after time are the same people that will choose someone else to run as a Republican for that seat. I highly doubt their collective judgment has improved.

As for the presidential race, I’m about 75 percent certain that the Democratic Party could run a drought-starved ficus and it would beat Trump. Don’t get me wrong, President Trump has a very loyal fanbase in Nevada. It’s just not anywhere near large enough to win statewide. The Republican Party’s voter registration share is going the wrong direction faster than any other party in Nevada and it’s not close. Consequently, I’m not going to bother predicting who’s going to win the Democratic primary; for Nevada’s electoral votes, at least, the result is going to be the same. 

Okay, fine – I’m 50 percent confident the Democratic Party will end up nominating Joe Biden, with Warren and Sanders splitting the not-Biden vote. If that happens, I’m 99 percent certain the Democratic Party will choose someone with even less personality, ideology, and name recognition than Tim Kaine to run for vice-president. This, I’m 99 percent certain, will annoy the Democratic Party base greatly, but they’ll still show up to stop The Man in Orange. 

In other words, I anticipate the Democratic Party will treat its base the way Republicans treated theirs until rather recently – as a hostage with no choice but to show up and reliably vote against their least favorite team.

Will it work? This time around, yes, I think it will, but I’m not confident enough in that prediction to give it any sort of numerical confidence. I doubt there’s a single American that’s undecided about Trump at this point and he’s presently more unpopular than not. However, just because a majority of Americans don’t like the guy, that doesn’t mean a majority of Americans in the right states will show up to vote against the guy. 

As for predicting the Assembly and state Senate elections, I’m 99 percent certain that the people that know anything about them aren’t talking to me directly about them and though getting useful information this early in the election season is not impossible, an awful lot of it is word of mouth and gossip at this point. Wait until March, see who shows up and who bails, then roll the dice. 

Finally, I’m 99 percent certain that your patience has been taxed enough. Go enjoy the rest of The Nevada Independent and the rest of your day.

David Colborne has been active in the Libertarian Party for two decades. During that time, he has blogged intermittently on his personal blog, as well as the Libertarian Party of Nevada blog, and ran for office twice as a Libertarian candidate. He serves on the Executive Committee for both his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is the father of two sons and an IT professional. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at david.colborne@lpnevada.org