We look back at how our predictions aged in 2023.
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”
Note: we don't normally do quick hits in our Friday editions, but since we are off Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day we are sending some quick hits to everyone today.
- The Consumer Price Index in the U.S. rose 3.4% annually and 0.3% monthly in December, higher than analyst expectations. Month-over-month CPI had increased 0.1% from October to November. (The increase)
- Closing arguments were held in former President Donald Trump's civil fraud case despite a bomb threat to the home of Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the trial. Trump was cut off by the judge during the hearing after calling the proceedings a "fraud." (The trial)
- The United States and United Kingdom have begun a bombing campaign of Houthi sites in Yemen in retaliation for attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. (The conflict) Separately, Israel is defending itself against charges of genocide in Gaza — brought by South Africa — at the International Court of Justice. (The charges)
- Don Scott (D) was sworn in as Speaker of Virginia's House of Delegates, becoming the chamber’s first black speaker in its 405-year history. (The history)
- Microsoft briefly overtook Apple yesterday as the world's most valuable public company with a valuation of $2.903 trillion. (The pass)
Every day in Tangle, I do my best to present a wide range of views on what is happening in U.S. politics.
At the end of each edition, "my take" is a chance for me to share my own perspective on those views. I do not intend to be the authoritative, final voice on any issue — though of course sometimes I feel more strongly on an issue than I do on others. Rather, I think of it as an act of transparency for me as the author of Tangle to share my own views, and I also think of it as an opportunity to try to offer a unique and fresh perspective that may not exist elsewhere. After all, I am a writer who tries to think deeply about politics on a day-to-day basis, so every now and again I have some original thoughts.
Of course, if you spend a year writing every single day, you are bound to get a lot right and a lot wrong. And one of the things I loathe most about the media space — indeed, one of the reasons I created Tangle in the first place — is that there is so little accountability. This lack of accountability exists not just in the media but throughout society — from the halls of Congress to professional sports referees.
So, in an attempt at the virtue of accountability, I like to dedicate the first Friday edition of every new year to grading some of my previous writing. The way this process works is simple: About two months ago, I told my team to start looking through our archives with a retrospective lens, reading the things we published, and flagging instances where we made authoritative comments or outright predictions. I also sorted through reader criticisms and feedback, and suggestions about articles to revisit.
Then, our team went back as a group to evaluate that writing, and settled on a grade for how we did.
Of course, we published over 200 newsletters last year, so we can't grade every single one. Instead, we tried to focus on newsletters tied to the biggest stories of 2023 — the stories that garnered the most public attention and reader feedback. I'm going to share with you key excerpts from my writing and my overarching take, and then a brief "reflection" section along with a grade on the A-to-F scale.
At the end, I'll do some rapid-fire grading and also revisit the 19 predictions we published in 2021.
McCarthy elected as Speaker.
In January, we covered Kevin McCarthy being elected as Speaker. During the House Speaker fight I argued that McCarthy would eventually win the gavel, and that he would make major concessions to get there — which came true. I also wrote that the game of chicken McCarthy was playing on the debt ceiling would lead to a default, a stock market hit, or serious cuts to social programs like Social Security. None of that came true. Here is one relevant excerpt:
The roughly 20 members who forced these concessions are being called ultra conservatives and terrorists and hostage takers and far-right, but few people are calling them prudent or impactful or smart or effective (with the exception of Jacobin, of all places). They were outnumbered nearly 20 to 1 on the Speaker vote and managed to change the shape of Congress and extract what they wanted despite not putting up a single legitimate alternative for Speaker. It also speaks to a missed opportunity from Democrats, who could have taken any of the first 14 failed votes as an opportunity to vote in McCarthy or a consensus pick without ceding all this ground to the right flank. In the end, those 20 members got what they wanted. They probably got more than they expected. And there are lessons there for minority factions across Congress.
Reflection: On the dynamics of electing the Speaker and the influence of the House Freedom Caucus, I pretty much nailed it. McCarthy got elected and he made concessions to get there. Directly related to this excerpt, I was also right to point out that this was a huge win for the House Freedom Caucus, and that representatives should take a note on not being afraid to throw their weight around. The HFC apparently got the message, as all throughout 2023 that group punched above its weight, including when it removed McCarthy in October.
What I got very wrong were my asides about the debt ceiling stand-off and the risks that the showdown would be hugely disruptive for the U.S., which it decidedly wasn't.