2016: Everything I Thought I Knew Was Wrong
The very first issue of The MHEDA Journal that I ever got to work on was the 1st Quarter 2010 issue. I was hired in September 2010 and my boss at the time (coincidentally, Chris Powers who has moved on from the magazine but still helps each year write the Supplier Forecast) felt that the best way for me to learn the industry was by making as many forecast calls as possible and just talking to members.
I was reminded of that issue in putting this year’s issue together. It was the first of four major election forecasts that I have worked on and it marked the end of the last time there was one party controlling the Presidency, House and Senate. Many of the same issues that were raised in 2010 were raised in 2012, 2014 and again this year.
This election was interesting to watch. It’s been called the end of data journalism, as professional pollsters far and wide confidently predicted a Clinton win. Some even predicted a Clinton landslide. Even the polls that "got it right" really got it wrong, as the only ones who predicted that Trump would win were solely looking at National popular vote percentage, which, of course, he lost. And watching this unfold, thinking about the hours I spent refreshing Twitter and 538, reminded me of a quote from William Goldman that says, "Nobody knows anything."
Every year since 2010, and probably the years before that as well, we’ve included a question in the distributor forecast that is some variation of "Have you seen the increasingly contentious Washington climate impacting your company this year? Has the healthcare law, election, threat of default or the overall gridlock impacted you at all and will it continue to do so going forward?" And every year the general consensus has been, if we could only get a more business-friendly government, one that would repeal the ACA, remove burdensome regulations and reduce taxes, things would be so much better.
There were two things that I found interesting about that sentiment this year. First, depending on how effective you think the GOP Congress can be, those hopes and dreams could be a reality. So I went into this year’s forecast expecting unbridled optimism! And, as I’ve said before, we all know what happens when you assume.
I was lucky enough to interview Alan Beaulieu for this issue of the magazine and I asked him about this. And his answer surprised me but shed some light on the relatively tempered response to questions I was expecting jubilant answers to. You can see the full exchange in the 1Q Magazine, but I asked him, "With all the craziness going on in Washington and with the election, will that affect your forecast at all?" and his response was, "No. Best thing to do is not to listen to it. We all love good theatre. It seems like it should matter. It seems like it's important. But it's really not."
How the policies of a new administration ultimately affect businesses remains to be seen. Will the newly elected officials be able to pass all of the things on their platform? Will they impact business as positively as previously expected? If this year taught me anything, it’s that I won’t be making any predictions. But I’m excited and interested to find out.