There’s only one thing certain about 2017 as the year begins: It will be one day shorter than 2016. But in honor of New Year’s Day, we asked Washington Post staffers to look ahead to the themes, ideas and arguments that will dominate the next 12 months in the worlds they cover. From D.C. sports (will this finally be the year there’s a championship parade in town?) to outer space (are astronauts heading back to the Moon?), here’s a sneak preview of what you can expect to look back on in all the “year in review” coverage in December.
The liberal international order is facing a profound moment of crisis as the year begins.
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, governments in Washington and Moscow will be both led by figures who embrace a similar brand of right-wing nationalism, one that harps on the primacy of national sovereignty, invokes myths of a greater past, trumpets Christian values, and rejects multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. Their ideological brethren have also found firm footing in parts of Europe and threaten to rewind decades of liberal integration on the continent.
“Their world is crumbling,” declared Florian Philippot , the chief strategist of France’s anti-immigrant National Front. “Ours is being built.”
In 2016, ultra-nationalism shook the West. The ascendant populists — a slightly erroneous catch-all term that got pinned to a host of right-wing political movements — were full of sound and fury, and their rise signified a rude awakening for the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic.
But can their momentum last? Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, is still not the favorite to win her country’s upcoming presidential elections. Britain’s economy has been dragged down by June’s Brexit vote, and it looks increasingly like London will have to negotiate cap-in-hand with Brussels on how to leave the European Union. In the Netherlands, the right-wing Party for Freedom, led by Trump backer Geert Wilders , leads the current prime minister’s party, but the polling has been back and forth, and the election isn’t until March. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected — for now — to win a fourth term in the fall’s elections, despite growing support for the anti-immigrant, anti-E.U. Alternative for Germany party. Though a potent political force, Europe’s far right faces hard ceilings in its support in every country where it exists.
And by appointing to prominent Cabinet berths the sort of Wall Street execs he vilified during the campaign, Donald Trump may steadily unravel his own populist bona fides in the United States.
— Ishaan Tharoor
The political world will soon be consumed by President Donald Trump’s choice to fill the nearly year-long vacancy on the Supreme Court. Incensed by the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to even consider President Obama’s nominee to fill the seat, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland, Democrats are promising a bruising confirmation fight.
But SCOTUS-watchers will be looking ahead to what the sitting justices will do, particularly Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Why?
Because it won’t be Trump’s first Supreme Court pick who will seal the court’s ideological direction for a generation. It will be, if it happens, his second.
Almost anyone on Trump’s list of 21 candidates to take Antonin Scalia’s spot on the court is likely to replicate the late justice’s voting pattern (if not his style). That would restore the court’s long-held position as a generally conservative court capable of the occasional liberal surprise.
Those surprises are almost always supplied by Kennedy, 80, nominated to the court 29 years ago by a fellow Californian, Ronald Reagan. Overall, Kennedy most often votes with the court’s conservatives: He is further to the right on law-and-order issues than Scalia was, he is comfortable with the court’s protective view of business, and he shared the losing view that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. But when the court moves left, it’s because Kennedy joins its liberals, Ginsburg, 83, and Breyer, 78 — both nominated by Bill Clinton — along with the much younger Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by Obama.
So whoever replaces Scalia will merely return the court to the status quo that existed before he died. The court’s next appointment after that could mean a definitive shift.
The Supreme Court without Breyer, Ginsburg or Kennedy would be a different place, indeed. They have been part of the scant majority that forbade the death penalty for minors and the intellectually disabled, and established gay rights protections, including finding a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. Just last term, they struck down a Texas law that they said used protecting women as a pretext for making abortion unavailable, and continued a limited endorsement of affirmative action.
All of those holdings would be threatened by a court with five consistent conservatives, the oldest being 68-year-old Justice Clarence Thomas.
A popular toast among liberals this holiday season was to Ginsburg’s health. They might want to keep Kennedy and Breyer in their thoughts and prayers as well.
— Robert Barnes
Television is one of pop culture’s nimblest mediums. News-oriented programs such as “Saturday Night Live” and “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” can incorporate big events on hours’ notice, and even scripted dramas and comedies can comment on the events of previous weeks or months.
And in 2017, that will mean more Donald Trump. We probably won’t get the first movies and novels about or influenced by the Trump administration for another year. But television shows will be the first line of pop culture’s response to this new era in American politics.
Trump isn’t the only politician to be a creation of Hollywood (see: Ronald Reagan) or even the first reality television star to win elected office — that would be former “Real World” cast member Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.). But Trump used his reality-TV-burnished fame to scale new heights, with help from people like the Robertsons of “Duck Dynasty.” Having helped make a president, the genre is overdue for a hard look at the way it simultaneously elevates certain Americans, especially working-class white conservatives, and offers them up for mockery — and, given the seamy allegations about Trump’s behavior from “Apprentice” contestants, a more thorough examination of what kind of on-set conduct is tolerable.
In scripted television, ABC’s smart, blunt family comedies “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” might respond early to the forces unleashed by Trump. The African American characters in “Black-ish” venerate the Obamas and fear for their safety, while the second-generation Asian immigrant family in “Fresh Off the Boat” is chasing their versions of the American Dream — in ways that might be recognizable even to Trump voters who fervently hope he’ll build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it. And if plans to re-create some of the classic episodes of Norman Lear’s sitcom “All in the Family” move forward, it will be fascinating to see how the clashes between working-class Archie Bunker and his progressive son-in-law Michael Stivic (Carroll O’Connor and Rob Reiner in the original) play out after an election won by a blustery Bunker figure.
TV won’t have to adjust only to Trump’s arrival in the White House: For years, Hillary Clinton has inspired the medium’s depictions of powerful women. Greg Berlanti’s “Political Animals” imagined a former first lady ditching her cheating ex-president husband. “The Good Wife” explored the complicated inner life of a wronged, but publicly implacable, political spouse. And CBS’s “Madam Secretary” portrays the secretary of state as a working mother. As Clinton exits the stage, TV will have to find a new model for women in politics. Maybe the medium can offer up inspiration instead of merely a mirror.
— Alyssa Rosenberg
The new year probably won’t be the warmest on record. But it will probably still rank among the hottest. 2017 is almost certain to be the 41st consecutive year when global temperatures are above the 20th-century average. And the U.S. government isn’t likely to do much about it.
A La Niña event has settled in, and the tropical Pacific Ocean has cooled, which means overall temperatures shouldn’t be as high as they were in 2016 — which is expected to be the third year in a row to be named the hottest in recorded history. The mercury got a boost from a record-challenging El Niño event, a cyclical warming of the tropical Pacific, which dispersed heat around the globe.
The unusually warm conditions fit into a long-term trend fueled by ever-increasing greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from human activities. The past year brought some astonishing warm-weather extremes. In July, Mitribah, Kuwait, soared to a blistering 129.2 degrees, the hottest temperature ever reliably measured in the Eastern Hemisphere. In November and December, Arctic temperatures spiked 30 to 35 degrees above normal on two separate occasions, stunning climate scientists.
Despite the irrefutable rise in temperatures and multiple lines of evidence pointing to humans as the dominant cause, the Trump administration’s Cabinet will probably be filled with people who doubt this science. How and whether federal agencies will report climate change data and findings is an open question. Some worried researchers have already begun to archive data out of fear that it will be taken offline, while the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group, has set up a hotline for scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to report allegations of “political meddling.” The dynamic between career researchers and politically appointed officials will be one to watch.
— Jason Samenow
According to new census data, 681,170 people now live in D.C., the most in four decades. Since 2010, the city has added 79,000 residents, most of them highly educated young adults in search of white-collar jobs.
For real estate developers, this is a dream come true.
As the doors open on 2017, there are 31,553 apartments under construction in the area — including 11,066 in the District — well above historical levels. The cranes tower over Metro stations around the region: along the Southwest Waterfront; in NoMa; by Nationals Park; and throughout Arlington, Silver Spring and Tysons Corner. Nearly all the developments will deliver new restaurants, shops and entertainment along with the swanky digs.
With all that construction, one would think apartment renters might have more options in finding an affordable place to live. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. One recent study found that a household in D.C. needs to earn $119,000 a year to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment. Young people are still arriving here so quickly that they are filling apartments faster than developers can put them up.
The question for 2017 is, how long can it last? For all the uncertainty around global economic markets and what exactly Donald Trump will do once he enters the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, the unemployment rate in D.C. is 6 percent , above the national rate but below those of other major urban areas.
The jobs here — in government, consulting, nonprofit work, hospitality — are built to last better than those in cities that rely on manufacturing, oil or the auto industry. The resulting tax revenue is allowing the District to build new schools, parks and roads. People want to live and work here, and for good reason.
Will Trump “drain the swamp,” as he has so often promised? It’s possible, since many of his Cabinet nominees have long criticized the size of the federal government. But more incoming presidents talk about cutting budgets than actually do it.
Top Washington developers have become leery of betting that the market can remain strong for much longer, but if more people keep arriving, rent will probably keep rising.
— Jonathan O’Connell
The Potomac River and its tributaries flow in and around Washington, providing some of the most striking views in the city. You’d hardly know it, however, by drinking and dining in local restaurants, few of which take advantage of the District’s original live streams. You might as well be feasting in a Vegas casino, surrounded by desert.
There’s no mystery behind this shortage of waterfront dining: The federal and D.C. governments own and operate a lot of riverfront property, much of it reserved for monuments, military use or national parks. But one strip of real estate on the Southwest Waterfront had long been a commercial eyesore until developers broke ground in 2014 for the Wharf, a multibillion-dollar project that will eventually feature between 20 and 22 restaurants and bars, some of which will debut in October. And that will make 2017 the year D.C.’s food scene finally migrates to the river.
Once every phase is complete, the Wharf will boast a who’s who of Washington chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs: Fabio Trabocchi, Cathal Armstrong, Nick Stefanelli, the Hilton brothers, Todd Thrasher, Jamie Leeds, Mike Isabella and Jennifer Carroll. These people will, in turn, make locals and tourists alike realize they’d been dying for water. Diners will no longer have to travel to the Eastern Shore or — God help us — Georgetown for a chance to enjoy the Mid-Atlantic’s natural waterways with a knife and fork (or wooden mallet) in hand.
Other developers have followed suit with similar mixed-use waterfront projects, including at the Portals near Maryland Avenue SW and Riverpoint on Buzzard Point, the future home of D.C. United. The Navy Yard, of course, has already introduced Washingtonians to a few restaurants with views of the Anacostia. In the years to come, that trickle will become a tsunami. Waterfront dining may one day be as common as steakhouses, those hidebound concepts that outsiders consider the mascots of D.C. dining.
— Tim Carman
Enough with all that talk of fresh starts and new beginnings; that’s for rebuilding sports towns like Philadelphia. For Washington’s pro teams, 2017 is about eras that are winding down — and what happens next.
Start with the Washington Capitals, whose current core has amassed the NHL’s best record over the past 18 months. Because of pending free agency, though, that group always had a two-year window together, which is well more than half-expired. Alex Ovechkin isn’t going anywhere, but the pieces around him should be significantly different a year from now. So these Caps have one last opportunity to make it past the second round of the playoffs this spring.
The clock is ticking a bit slower for the Washington Nationals, but their upcoming change might be even more dramatic. Former MVP Bryce Harper — the official Favorite Player of every Little Leaguer within 30 miles of Nats Park — has two more seasons before he’ll get a new deal, and he’s expected to ask for just slightly less than Tysons Corner (plus one minor national monument). That could mean a departure after the 2018 season for Washington’s biggest star. Harper talks often about bringing a title to this city, and he may be running out of chances.
The Redskins, meanwhile, are getting ready to bid farewell to their Prince George’s County, Md., stadium, which is approximately as beloved as sewer rats, light beer and fake news. Could the team strike a deal with Loudoun County, Va., putting a stadium near its Ashburn practice facility, or find a new site in Maryland? Will the Trump administration make a return to the RFK Stadium site in the District more likely? The feds control that land, and President-elect Donald Trump has no objections to the team’s name, as some current federal officials do. Whatever the resolution, 2017 should bring us one step closer to FedEx Field’s celebrated demise.
(There are rumors that Washington also has a pro basketball franchise. Perhaps we can investigate that further in February.)
Of course, the ultimate end-of-an-era move would be for a Washington pro team to win a championship. Of towns with teams in the four major sports leagues, only Minneapolis has waited longer , and that by a matter of months. Could 2017 finally be D.C.’s year?
For more on this story, see the funny pages.
— Dan Steinberg
The fashion industry is grappling with an existential question: how to sell its wares to consumers? The traditional cycle of designers previewing a collection six months before it’s delivered to stores — and a year before it’s knocked off by mass marketers — was long ago upset by fast-fashion brands that could turn on a dime. Then social media came along to overwhelm consumers with so many instant runway images, videos and 140-character reviews that fresh fads seemed like old news by the time they arrived in stores.
Thus began industry-wide hand-wringing over when to preview merchandise, who should see it and how to keep shoppers excited about it. First, fashion pondered how to make e-commerce as frictionless as possible. Then it turned to pop-up shops as a way to tap into new demographics without making a massive financial commitment. Now it’s playing with drop culture, which focuses on selling limited-edition merchandise and turns shopping for it into an obstacle course.
The blurring of gender lines, meanwhile, is as much a reaction to changing definitions of masculinity and femininity as it is about tapping into an upheaval in shopping habits. Instead of showing menswear and womenswear in separate presentations, designers are putting them on the same runway — hoping to speak to everyone at once and in a timely manner.
Some brands have advocated a see-now/buy-now calendar. The result? Designers offering sundresses for sale in February. Others are sticking to the traditional schedule. And still others have muddied the waters, making part of a collection immediately available and keeping the rest on reserve.
Fashion is frazzled. And 2017 promises to bring more to worry about, rather than less, because there is no indication that the forces of cultural change will cease moving forward.
The only missing element in this conversation about logistics is whether fashion is giving consumers anything worth desiring, worth waiting for and, ultimately, worth shopping for.
— Robin Givhan
It will be difficult to tear your eyes away from the drama unfolding on Earth in 2017. But what might Donald Trump mean for Americans in space?
Traditionally, transitions are a time to set new destinations. When President Obama took office, he axed the Constellation program, which would have sent astronauts to the moon, and set his sights on Mars. NASA has been working toward a human mission to the Red Planet with a pit stop at an asteroid, though the agency looks unlikely to meet its 2030s deadline at current levels of funding.
Trump’s election could signal a pivot back to the moon — a destination historically favored by Republicans. During the campaign, Trump offered few specifics about his vision for NASA but said the agency should focus on exploring deep space and being “inspirational.” A new moon mission would meet those criteria. It would be an infrastructure project for the ages, one that fit with Team Trump’s nostalgia for bygone moments of American “greatness.” Plus, there is international interest in building a lunar base, and studies suggest that such a base could be a (comparatively) cheap way station en route to Mars. NASA has already been working on a heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule — spacecraft that could be retooled for a potential moon mission. If the moon is Trump’s goal, we might expect to hear about it during his first 100 days, when most presidents set their agendas.
Then again, the president-elect’s emphasis on reining in the budget might mean that NASA goes nowhere in the next four years. Funding for the agency has historically tracked with overall non-defense discretionary spending, which Trump plans to cut to historic lows. Even if most of NASA’s budget stays intact, there’s a good chance the space agency’s Earth-observing programs will be slashed — bad news for climate scientists, meteorologists and others who rely on data from NASA satellites.
The year could also be big for private space explorers. Moon Express has permission to launch a commercial lunar lander; if it happens, it will be the first private mission ever to leave Earth’s orbit. SpaceX is slated to shuttle astronauts to the International Space Station — the first crewed space station launch from U.S. soil in years. And Blue Origin (whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post) is racing to catch up; the company wants to put astronauts in space by the end of the year.
A scientist would caution against drawing conclusions without data, and Trump hasn’t given us much data to work with. For now, space-watchers will have to do what they have always done: wonder what’s out there as they contemplate the chilly unknown.
— Sarah Kaplan
The year to come will be mostly a year of looking back.
In all likelihood, 2017 will be dominated by news of memoirs from the Obama administration. The Wall Street Journal speculated that a new memoir by President Obama could land a $15 million deal , and books by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden — should they choose to write them — would be aggressively pursued by New York publishing houses, too. Meanwhile, players in the presidential campaign, winners and losers, are also believed to be shopping around multimillion-dollar book proposals. President-elect Donald Trump, already the author of several bestsellers, has asked members of his transition team to sign non-disclosure agreements, but surely some people close to him (campaign manager Kellyanne Conway?) will get special dispensation to extol the wonders of their boss.
On the literary side, two of the most eagerly anticipated books are “Lincoln in the Bardo,” the first novel by short-story master George Saunders, and “A Book of American Martyrs,” Joyce Carol Oates’s novel about an evangelical Christian who murders an abortion doctor. With Trump set to appoint Supreme Court justices hostile to Roe v. Wade, Oates’s book could land right in the middle of a newly inflamed debate about legalized abortion in America.
— Ron Charles
The new year could be turbulent for religion in America.
Several hot-button issues — including immigration, abortion, poverty, health care, education and religious freedom — will put religion near the center of public life.
Observers are watching how Donald Trump’s relationship with Muslims in the United States and abroad will unfold, after he campaigned on a pledge to ban Muslim immigrants. Will he deliver on his promises to evangelicals? With reports of rising incidents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism during the 2016 campaign, activists will need to ramp up their efforts to counter bigotry.
Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of Congress. That could bring more focus on religious freedom bills in 2017, setting off more debate over how the government can — or can’t — force faith organizations to handle gay rights and access to contraception and abortion for employees. Meanwhile, many religiously motivated activists will be tracking changes to the Supreme Court (as Trump has promised to appoint justices who oppose abortion), and to the possible defunding of Planned Parenthood and overturning of the Affordable Care Act.
A conservative shift could also spur a rise of the “religious left.” For instance, some religious institutions are planning to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. Other organizations may undertake their own acts of resistance — dozens of religious leaders, for instance, have already signed onto an open letter vowing to organize against bigotry in the coming years.
Globally, Protestant Christians are expected to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses,” a series of questions for the Catholic Church that are considered the spark for the Protestant Reformation. And Pope Francis is expected to continue to shape a Catholic Church that emphasizes the marginalized.
— Sarah Pulliam Bailey
In 2017, we may learn the future of retailing.
Amazon plans to open its first physical grocery store in the early part of the year, a sign that even the world’s biggest e-commerce disruptor bets that physical stores will be an essential part of the shopping ecosystem for the long haul. But Amazon Go, as the concept is called, won’t be like other old-school supermarkets: In-store technology will allow shoppers to swipe in with a smartphone, fill up their baskets and depart without going through a checkout line. (Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
The set-up will serve as a laboratory for some of the most important questions in retailing: How much do in-store shoppers value speed vs. service? How large a workforce do stores really need?
Meanwhile, Macy’s is set to shutter 100 of its more than 700 stores in 2017 because executives say they simply have too many locations for the online era. It’s a sweeping, proactive move that other retailers may emulate if the department store is able to offset the lost brick-and-mortar sales with strong growth online.
Still other chains are gambling on different ways to use physical retailing space. Starbucks, for example, is poised to go big with two new concepts: its Roasteries, which provide a tasting-room-like experience for small-batch coffees, and its Starbucks Reserve cafes, which are bigger and more upscale than the traditional outposts.
Anthropologie plans to open stores that are roughly double the size of its typical locations. That means the troubled clothing retailer is about to find out whether sprawling lifestyle emporiums drum up more sales or if they’re merely an expensive anchor as more shopping dollars move online.
Each of these experiments will provide powerful intelligence for the wider retail industry — and could shape your shopping experiences at all manner of stores going forward.
— Sarah Halzack
How and what Americans will pay for higher education is less certain than ever in 2017.
Economic woes dominated higher-ed headlines in 2016, with presidential candidates from across the political spectrum offering ideas on how to solve the student loan debt crisis, and the Obama administration cracking down on for-profit colleges. But President-elect Donald Trump didn’t make college affordability or access a priority during the campaign.
What little he has said about those issues has created some confusion. Trump has said he plans to cap all student loan payments at 12.5 percent of the borrower’s income and forgive the remaining balance after 15 years, which would cost the government billions. At the same time, he has said the government should no longer be in the lending business, making it seem that he’d prefer banks to handle the market. Giving banks a larger role in student lending could bar many low-income families from access to the credit needed to finance their children’s education.
It also remains unclear whether Trump, whose own for-profit education venture paid a multimillion-dollar legal settlement after the election, will end what some have deemed the persecution of for-profit colleges under the Obama administration. Shares of all the largest publicly traded for-profit college companies soared after Trump won. Conservative think tanks also suspect that the incoming administration will roll back consumer protections, such as broader debt forgiveness, for people who attended for-profit schools.
Still, it would be premature to assume that Trump will be a friend to colleges and universities of any kind. He has said that schools with large financial endowments should lose their tax-exempt status if they do not keep tuition low and reduce student debt, but his administration could ultimately yield to the demands of education lobbyists.
Whatever he does will have a tremendous impact on American families. And at this point, nobody knows what to expect.
— Danielle Douglas-Gabriel