My last column about Trump. (Maybe)

by Doyle McManus

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

“The bottom is dropping out for Democrats,” a CNN analyst declared confidently.

“Democrats, on Defense in Blue States, Brace for a Red Wave in the House,” a New York Times headline warned.

Fox News began showing a triumphant on-screen graphic 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 the wave-riding pundits had either fallen for Republican propaganda or slanted their columns on purpose.

“The so-called ‘liberal’ media goes out of its way during every campaign to emphasize news of (Democrats) in disarray,” progressive writer Michael Tomasky charged.

But not everyone in the mainstream media rode along with the red wave theory.

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

Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic didn’t fall for wave-mania, either; he wrote that the election could go either way.

“The most likely scenario is a mere Republican ripple rather than a red wave,” G. Elliott Morris of The Economist wrote 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 Republicans appeared likely to win the House, “control of the U.S. Senate sits on a razor’s edge.”

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

I had learned that lesson the hard way in earlier elections when I made a few forecasts that were laughably mistaken.

This New Year’s column is normally my annual exercise in humility, a look back at where I fouled up during the year that just ended.

But in 2022, to my surprise, I made fewer boneheaded errors than usual — mostly by avoiding unnecessary guesses.

I did get some things wrong, of course.

In early November, I warned that candidates who endorsed former President Donald Trump’s election denialism were about to sabotage the process.

“Just as in 2020, we’re in for a drawn-out election week, followed by election month — or even months,” I wrote.

Happily, I was mistaken. Most of the deniers who lost conceded quickly — in some cases, even gracefully.

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

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

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

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

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

In February, I helpfully gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a list of offramps he could take to avoid invading Ukraine. He blitzed right past them.

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

In September, I wrote that Biden had blundered when he announced that the COVID-19 pandemic was over. The president “needs to correct his message, and he shouldn’t wait for the midterm election to do it,” I wrote.

I’m still waiting.

I also got a few things right.

I noticed as early as April that Xi Jinping’s “zero-COVID” policy was doing serious damage to China’s economy. “The juggernaut that once looked bound for global domination is slowing down,” I wrote in September.

In May, I profiled Florida Gov. 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 hunger 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 Democrats.

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

Every time I write about Trump, I get complaints from readers — not only 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.

Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Readers may send him email at doyle.mcmanus@latimes.com.