McManus: This is my last column on Donald Trump (I hope)

Last year, as congressional elections approached, pundits offered a bold prediction: November would bring a “red wave,” a Republican sweep of the House and Senate.

“The bottom line is dropping for the Democrats,” one CNN analyst confidently declared.

“Democrats, on defense in blue states, prepare for a red wave in the House,” warned a New York Times headline.

Fox News began showing a triumphant graphic on the screen with the words: “Red Wave Rising.”

Wrong, of course. When the votes came in, the GOP narrowly took control of the House, but lost ground in the Senate.

Democrats howled that airwave pundits had fallen for Republican propaganda or slanted their columns on purpose.

“The so-called ‘liberal’ media does its best during every campaign to emphasize the news of [Democrats] in disarray,” charged progressive writer Michael Tomasky.

But not all mainstream media bought into the red wave theory.

My colleague Mark Z. Barabak, for example, never promised a sweep of the GOP. “It is a fool’s errand to try to predict election results,” he wrote.

The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein didn’t fall for the wave craze either; He wrote that the election could go either way.

“The most likely scenario is a simple Republican ripple rather than a red wave,” wrote The Economist’s G. Elliott Morris on the eve of the election.

And while we’re listing virtuous names, there’s also…me.

A few weeks before the election, I wrote that while it looked likely that Republicans would win the House, “control of the US Senate is on a razor’s edge.”

Was I prescient? No, just cautious. I was taking Barabak’s advice: it is dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future.

I had learned this lesson the hard way in the previous election when I made a few predictions that were ridiculously wrong.

This New Year’s Day column is usually my annual exercise in humility, a look back at where I messed up in the year just ended.

But in 2022, to my surprise, I made fewer head mistakes than usual, especially avoiding unnecessary guesswork.

I got some things wrong, of course.

In early November, I warned that candidates supporting former President Trump’s electoral denial were poised to sabotage the process.

“Just like 2020, we’re in for a long election week, followed by an election month, or even months,” I wrote.

Fortunately, I was wrong. Most of the naysayers who lost gave in quickly, in some cases even gracefully.

The notable exception is Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, who is still challenging an election she lost by more than 17,000 votes.

I also got Ohio wrong when I wrote that the seemingly close Senate race between Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican JD Vance looked like a mirror of the nation’s political evolution.

Ohio turned out to be a reflection of just Ohio, a former swing state that is now reliably red. Vance won easily.

But if these were my worst mistakes in 12 months, I’ll settle for them.

Since I was making fewer predictions, I had time to try a new line of work: offering free advice to political leaders. Most of them were ignorant of it.

In February, I kindly gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a list of offers he could take to avoid invading Ukraine. He walked past them.

In December, I urged President Biden to send advanced ATACMS missiles to Ukraine. Thanks, but no thanks, the White House said.

In September, I wrote that Biden had made a mistake when he announced that the COVID-19 pandemic was over. The president “needs to correct his message, and he shouldn’t wait until the midterm elections to do so,” I wrote.

I’m still waiting.

I also got a few things right.

As early as April, I realized that Xi Jinping’s “zero COVID” policy was doing serious damage to China’s economy. “The behemoth that once seemed destined for global dominance is slowing down,” I wrote in September.

In May, I profiled Florida’s governor. Ron DeSantis, whose brand of ruthless but efficient Trumpism has made him a rising star in the Republican Party. “Democrats should be worried,” I wrote.

And in September I noted that Trump, with his never-ending appetite for attention, was an election-year problem for the GOP.

“When the debate is about Biden and the economy, that’s good for Republicans,” I wrote. “When the debate is about Trump, that’s good for the Democrats.

“Trump doesn’t seem to get it, but Biden and the Democrats do.”

Every time I write about Trump, I get complaints from readers, not just from Republicans who hate it when I call their former leader a threat to democracy, but also from Democrats who object that I’m giving him free publicity.

Here, as a gift to those readers, is my New Year’s resolution: fewer columns about the 45th president.

Don’t thank me. It will be a relief.

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