Editor’s Note: Sign up to get our weekly column as a newsletter. We’re looking back at the strongest, smartest opinion takes of the week from CNN and other outlets.
Predicting the future is impossible, and yet someone has to do it: in our case, the 18 contributors who take part in CNN Opinion’s annual Crystal Ball feature. This time, they’re making political, cultural, economic and sports-related predictions about the year ahead.
But before we get to this year’s predictions, who got it right in last year’s Crystal Ball?
There were few people who could correctly predict the US Senate election results, summer unemployment rates and Emmy winners for best comedy and best drama. But Raul Reyes defied the odds and successfully forecast all three 2022 outcomes, proving just how versatile his predictive abilities were.
Alice Stewart, a CNN political commentator, demonstrated that her skills were not limited to the halls of Capitol Hill. Though correct in her prediction that Republicans would flip the House of Representatives, she also showcased her knowledge of sports in the US and beyond.
Indeed, she, Reyes and three others – Paul Callan, Nicole Hemmer and Elliot Williams – predicted that Norway would take home the most gold medals at the Beijing Winter Olympics this year. But only Stewart predicted that 73-year-old Dusty Baker would become the oldest ever manager to lead his team – the Houston Astros – to a World Series win. For a woman who grew up in the land of the Braves, that is a particularly impressive feat.
Stewart thinks the Astros are headed back to the World Series in 2023, and Callan agrees with her. But a majority of our contributors are rooting for New York teams – the Yankees and the Mets. Though many of our contributors do not live in New York (anymore), their loyalty to their hometown teams remains strong. As Jeff Yang writes from California, “I have my rose-colored glasses on over my pinstripes, but I’m going to say this is finally the New York Yankees’ year.”
If there’s one question our contributors struggled with in 2022, it was who would win the Super Bowl. Not a single one predicted the Los Angeles Rams would emerge victorious. Even Alice Stewart, our de facto sports oracle, missed the mark. Still, she has correctly guessed the winning football teams in the recent past – including when she called the 2020 Super Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs.
This year, she has selected the most popular pick among our 18 contributors – the Philadelphia Eagles. As Roxanne Jones puts it, “Their uber-talented, 24-year-old quarterback Jalen Hurts has all the skill he needs to lead his team to the big win.”
Not everyone selected the Eagles simply because of Hurts’ deft skills. Sara Stewart thinks that if the Philadelphia team were victorious, “it’d be fun to see the city’s anarchic celebration.” The last time the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018, fans took to the streets to celebrate – many of them sporting plastic dog masks to symbolize their underdog status.
Our oracles aren’t all rooting for Philadelphia. Frida Ghitis writes that “the frozen Buffalonians deserve something to warm them up and thaw them out,” and Raul Reyes argues the Buffalo Bills should win because they have “the best roster in the [American Football Conference].” Though Jeff Yang is among the Eagles majority, even he acknowledges that most sports pundits have their money on the Bills – and for good reason.
One of the Super Bowl’s most popular halftime performers – Beyoncé – is our contributors’ favorite to win the Grammy album of the year for the release of “Renaissance.” In fact, two-thirds of this year’s participants are putting their money on Queen Bey.
As Roxanne Jones explains, Beyoncé was the “only one of those nominees … bold enough to break with their predictable brand and create an entirely new sound.” And Alice Stewart says someone as talented as Bey – and who can create music as “fun” and “upbeat” as only she can – is certain to succeed. Holly Thomas adds that given the huge number of producers on the album, “it would just be embarrassing” not to win.
Still, two of our contributors – Laura Coates and Allison Hope – are holding out hope for Harry Styles’ “Harry’s House.” As Hope, a queer writer, puts it, “Even the lesbians are obsessed with Harry.” And Raul Reyes thinks history could be made at the Grammys if Bad Bunny wins for “Un Verano Sin Ti,” the first Spanish-language album nominated for best album.
But if there’s any person whose Grammy prediction we should be paying close attention to this year, it’s Frida Ghitis. Last year, she was the only one to successfully forecast that Jon Batiste would win album of the year for “We Are.” And this year, she is the only person to select Adele’s “30.”
If there’s one thing we can say about our oracles, it’s that they’re particularly omniscient about TV shows. Ten contributors correctly predicted which shows would win the 2022 Emmys for best drama and best comedy, while another six correctly predicted either the winner for best comedy or best drama.
Though there is less consensus in 2023, there are some clear favorites. Half of our contributors think that “Abbott Elementary” is a shoo-in for best comedy. As Alice Stewart explains, “The acting, writing, directing and humor are all top notch.” Among those who have broken from the pack are four oracles – including SE Cupp and Scott Jennings – who think “Only Murders in the Building” will take home the top prize.
When it comes to which drama will be deemed Emmy-worthy, our oracles are even more divided. While three contributors think that “Yellowstone” holds the most promise, Peniel E. Joseph and three others are placing their bets on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel, “House of the Dragon.” (Disclosure: HBO and CNN share a parent company.)
And though three commentators gave a nod to “The Bear,” they weren’t all sure which category it belonged in. “As we wait for our next helping of ‘Succession,’ apparently coming in spring 2023, ‘The Bear’ provided us with a similarly addictive dose of vividly memorable characters, family drama and eye-popping surprises, albeit on the opposite end of the class spectrum,” says Jeff Yang. “But is it a comedy or a drama?”
Our contributors’ entertainment forecasting skills have their limitations. No one chose “CODA” for best picture at the Oscars this year. In 2023, they are all looking to redeem themselves. Though based on the wide variety of answers to the question this year, it’s certain that only a few of them will succeed.
One of the most popular responses was “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a film about a middle-aged woman struggling under the weight of a tax audit – but with a sci-fi twist. Four of our contributors chose the film, including Sara Stewart, who exclaimed, “Viva the multiverse!”
Other predictions ranged from “Top Gun: Maverick” to “The Fabelmans,” both of which have support from three of our oracles. Though Alice Stewart thinks “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will win the Oscar, she writes that Tom Cruise’s comeback in “Top Gun” was well worth the 30-year wait. Meanwhile, Raul Reyes, who is betting on “The Fablemans,” thinks “[t]he combination of Steven Spielberg’s impeccable Hollywood pedigree and his lovely semi-autobiographical story is unbeatable.”
A less popular guess, but one that Peniel E. Joseph and Roxanne Jones both put forth, is “The Woman King.” As Jones notes, “It’s hard to vote against ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ … However, ‘The Woman King,’ was transformational, both on the big screen and behind the camera – with a cast of powerful Hollywood women uniting to create it.”
Transformation wasn’t just limited to the big screen. Across the globe, proponents of democracy – from Brazil to China, Iran to Russia – took to voting booths and public streets to demand more of their leadership. And, in many places, activists made tremendous progress. As John Avlon writes, “A glance around the globe shows that it’s autocrats who are in retreat now.”
Jill Filipovic and Elliot Williams believe it’s the protesters themselves – particularly in Iran and China – who should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for driving change in their respective countries. Meanwhile, Elie Honig and Raul Reyes think one activist in particular – Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny – deserves the top prize for his efforts. As Reyes explains, Navalny has fought both “injustice and corruption” within Russia, while denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s senseless war in Ukraine.
Indeed, nowhere is the democratic struggle more pronounced than in Ukraine, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continues to lead a valiant effort to combat Russian aggression within his country’s borders. For his tremendous sacrifices, TIME magazine named Zelensky “Person of the Year.”
The question, writes Frida Ghitis, is “[c]an a wartime president win [a Nobel] as a champion for peace?” Eight of our contributors think so, predicting that Zelensky will be the recipient of the 2023 award. Among those who think he will win is Alice Stewart. She argues that for his “courageous” leadership and “tireless efforts” against Putin, the Ukrainian leader is arguably the most deserving.
Cryptocurrency went through a transformation of its own in 2022. The peak price of bitcoin on January 1 was over $47,000. Since then, the asset – along with other cryptocurrencies – has seen a steep fall in price, remaining well below $20,000 since early November.
And with the collapse of crypto value has come the collapse of FTX, a once-prominent cryptocurrency exchange. The company’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, has been indicted on charges including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Bankman-Fried has denied defrauding FTX customers, painting himself as more of a bumbling executive than a calculated fraudster.
In the wake of the FTX collapse, Emily Parker rhetorically asked, “So who will save crypto now?” Whether the currency can be saved at all is a question that divides our prognosticators.
Alice Stewart is the most bullish on the future of bitcoin, predicting that its peak price in 2023 will be $103,000. Elliot Williams isn’t too far behind her, guessing the asset will top out at $70,000.
Jill Filipovic and Allison Hope, however, don’t anticipate a rise in price at all – speculating that its peak value next year will be just $12,000 and $13,000 respectively. “I know nothing about Bitcoin,” admits Hope, “but this seems like a conservative gloom and doom figure.”
David A. Andelman: What 2022’s elections taught me about humanity, politics and ‘magic sauce’
Tess Taylor: How 17 syllables a day can change your life
Edward McCaffery: Trump’s tax returns are much to do about nothings
Jill Filipovic: Indicting Trump would be incredibly controversial, but it may be the only remedy
Jeremi Suri: Trump represents our founders’ worst fears
Alisyn Camerota: What I wish I’d said to Barbara Walters
Jay Parini: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was more than ‘God’s Rottweiler’
After nearly two years of living through a pandemic, many of us began a return to normality in 2022. To be sure, Covid-19 did not disappear, but we learned to live alongside it, leaning into vaccines and booster shots to keep safe – and practicing caution when necessary. Thanks in large part to the mRNA technology that underlies the two most popular Covid-19 vaccines in the US, it was a year filled with hugs from loved ones, holiday meals with our families and a return to our regularly-scheduled lives.
But in addition to helping deliver us from the worst of the pandemic, the success of the mRNA vaccines has showcased the potential of RNA technology to prevent and treat a whole host of human ailments. In December, Moderna and Merck announced that an experimental mRNA cancer vaccine reduced the risk of death or recurrence of melanoma when paired with an immunotherapy in a clinical trial.
According to Drew Weissman, who, along with his research partner Katalin Karikó, is credited with developing the mRNA vaccine platform, the power of mRNA technology could also be harnessed to fight diseases such as HIV, malaria and the flu, as well as little-known and little-researched conditions that only affect a few hundred people in the world.
In an interview with Kirsi Goldynia, Weissman explained the versatility of the mRNA platform: “[I]nstead of having to reinvent the gene therapy for each disease, we can use the RNA platform we’ve already developed and easily plug in different diseases. We don’t have to spend $100 million in research to make a new treatment.”
The full potential of RNA technology won’t be recognized in the year to come, but the promise of a healthier future gives us one more reason for joy as we kick off 2023.