Opinion

Think 2016 was bad? 2017 will be worse

From Trump, to the economy, to the slow erosion of Canadian media: here are some reasons to despair about 2017.

Four reasons to despair about 2017

Overall, 2016 was as twisted as a David Cronenberg film. But compared to what lies ahead, it will seem like a Disney musical. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If you're looking forward to 2017, you can stop right now. Things will only get worse.

In fact, it's no exaggeration to suggest that the welcome death of 2016 – miserable troll of a year that it was – might usher in unimagined levels of worst-ness to the world.

Over the past year, we lost Leonard Cohen and gained President Donald Trump. World markets have been less reliable than a Kanye concert. And the American election was hacked by Russian cyber-spies. Overall, 2016 was as twisted as a David Cronenberg film. But compared to what lies ahead, it will seem like a Disney musical.   

Here are just four reasons to despair about 2017.    

Nothing about Trump’s conduct since winning inspires the slightest confidence. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

President Trump

Since November 8, it's been fashionable to treat Trump with the authority and deference normally owed to the incoming leader of the free world. We are told that the presidency will change him. We are asked to give him a chance. We hear that he's taking advice from Barack Obama.

Nuts to all of that.

Nothing about Trump's conduct since winning inspires the slightest confidence. His Twitter tantrums continue – only now he spends as much time badmouthing foreign capitals as he does Alec Baldwin. He regularly refuses intelligence briefings, finding the detail of keeping the world secure to be dull work.

And for a cabinet, he's selected advisors who impressively combine Bond villain mega-wealth with ideological hostility. Veteran observers insist that the institutions of government will hem Trump in and curb disastrous outbursts. But there is exactly zero reason to believe this of a man who has based his public appeal on disavowal of those same institutions. Rookies make rookie mistakes. And the world is about to be led by the most powerful, uncoachable rookie of all time.  

Global Economy

After fuelling global economic growth for years, China is experiencing the lowest GDP outlook in a generation. To help ease domestic pain, Beijing has been selling U.S. treasuries and devaluing its own yuan. But America needs Chinese buyers for its debt. Guess how much it helps when the new president-elect trash talks the yuan on social media? All I want for Christmas is a currency war.

The new year will also see Brexit's chickens come home to roost, disrupting trade, jobs and growth in the world's largest single market. Meanwhile, central banks, after eight years of quantitative easing sleight of hand, are nearly out of magic tricks and the Fed is beginning to raise rates. Here at home, Trump's plan to tear up NAFTA should nicely impact our 1.1 per cent rate of growth.

White supremacists are coming into the mainstream in ways unseen since desegregation of the American south. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Prejudice

What a bull run the bigots are having. White supremacists are coming into the mainstream in ways unseen since desegregation of the American south. In France, Marine Le Pen is a legitimate contender to be president. In America, Trump's pick for attorney general was once denied a judgeship for a history of racially charged comments.

On our side of the border, it's been suggested that we should subject newcomers to a "values test" to scorecard their patriotic purity. Here's a good rule of thumb: when David Duke, one-time Imperial Wizard of the KKK is delighted with the way of the world, the way is wrong.

Journalism

You can't pick up a newspaper these days without reading about fake news and its apparent conquest of all media. Actually, you can hardly pick up a newspaper at all: they're gradually disappearing. In Canada, media organizations like Postmedia are choking on a fatal blend of falling ad revenues and rising debt charges. Professional journalists everywhere are heading for the exits, taking buyouts and leaving behind a legion of social media-inspired "citizen journalists." We're also told that we live in a post-factual world. These things are not unrelated. Sadly, 2017 will see traditional, professional media shrink more and matter less. And with it goes an enormous instrument of accountability, ethics and transparency.

It's not a very rosy outlook and human nature runs contrary to much of this analysis. We're wired to look ahead with hope, to dismiss the naysayers and expect that things will somehow work out for the best. But reason tells us that can't always be so. Now and then, the outlook is every bit as grim as it appears.  

Happy New Year.

This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Scott Reid is a principal at the communications consultancy Feschuk.Reid. He served as director of communications for former prime minister Paul Martin from 2003 to 2006.

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