It happened—Donald Trump is now the president of the United States. How will life change under his administration? While every presidency starts off with a hefty dose of uncertainty, this is the first time a populist demagogue with zero government experience has been in charge. So, we don’t know. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth hazarding a guess.
Predicting the future is a fool’s errand—when the primary goal is to be proved right. That’s not the case with the predictions we’ve collected below, from both experts and staffers, on ways our lives will be directly or indirectly affected by the new world order. We asked folks for their best guesses at what will happen not to provide worst-case scenarios or to foment a sense of chaos, but to set clear, realistic markers by which to track changes and norms in the months and years to come. We plan to revisit them at a later date; even a wrong prediction will be instructive in gauging the progress—if that’s the word for it—of Trump’s America.
We’ve calibrated the thermometer. We’ll have to wait to see how hot the water gets.
Polar Bears: The Trump administration’s refusal to accept the role human-caused emissions play in climate change will stall meaningful action. The U.S.’s withdrawal from collective action plans including the Paris Agreement will destabilize progress toward emission reduction around the world. As a result, the polar bear, which the Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported as being existentially threatened thanks to diminishing sea ice, will go extinct.
—Susan Matthews, Slate science editor
Carbon Emissions: Trump’s administration will abandon the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s signature climate policy designed to shift away from coal power. Trump will also implement various policies designed to expand the use of fossil fuels—in fact, plans released on WhiteHouse.gov within hours of his inauguration already promised to do that. As a result of these actions, U.S. emissions will reverse their decadelong downward trend and start to rise again, forcing other countries to instate a carbon tax on American-made goods.
— Eric Holthaus, meteorologist and Slate contributor
Drinking Water: Despite big talk about improving infrastructure, Trump’s pick for the Environmental Protection Agency has a penchant for suing the very agency he will lead and a worldview that the states should really be responsible for ensuring that our pipes deliver clean water. With Scott Pruitt in charge, we’ll see one or more public health disasters like the one in Flint, Michigan.
—Ben Mathis-Lilley, chief news blogger
Government Spending: Trump wants to be loved, and he will do in office what he did in the private sector: exploit revenue and dump costs on others. So Republicans will not get the entitlement cuts they wanted, and Democrats will get plenty of spending. Trump will screw the future. The deficit and debt will explode.
—William Saletan, Slate national correspondent
Bailouts: The GOP will repeal the mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance while maintaining the popular and more expensive components of the Affordable Care Act (such as coverage for people with pre-existing conditions). This will cause the private health insurance industry to approach complete and total financial collapse, requiring an emergency government bailout approximately double in size to the auto bailout of 2008.
—Jeremy Faust, emergency room physician
Tourism: Because Americans will feel less welcome in other parts of the world, the total amount spent on international tourism by Americans will plateau at $150 billion per year after steadily climbing for a decade.*
—Leon Neyfakh, Slate staff writer
Hospitality: Amid onerous travel restrictions and rising xenophobia under Trump, the United States’ hospitality industry—where more money is spent by international travelers than anywhere else in the world—will sharply contract.
—Cara Parks, editor in chief of Roads and Kingdoms
Charity: Whether the revised tax code hews closer to the vision of Donald Trump or Paul Ryan, several provisions—a lower cap on itemized deductions and a lower top tax rate, for example—will reduce incentives for charitable giving. As a result, charities and nonprofits will struggle as contributions fall.
—Henry Grabar, Slate staff writer
Silicon Valley: Trump will publicly feud with Apple over taxes, gay rights, and/or surveillance and privacy. The spat will make Apple products “cool” again, if only briefly, and sales of its devices will spike.
—Will Oremus, Slate senior technology writer
Income Inequality: Once the Republicans pass large, upper-income tax cuts, not only will the top 1 percent take home more of the country’s income, but affluent Americans will grow even more focused on acquiring wealth. Low income taxes on the wealthiest encourage executives and professionals to spend more energy bargaining for higher pay, because they get to keep more of it. (A theory proposed by Thomas Piketty and others.) We are likely to see CEO wages increase beyond their already atmospheric levels.
—Jordan Weissmann, Slate senior business correspondent
Celebrity Candidates: We are going to see a swift incursion of left-leaning pop-culture celebrities entering electoral politics. The Democrats are in horrific shape, and while their political bench can’t match the GOP’s, their celebrity bench absolutely dwarfs the right’s. This past election proves there’s no reason for the famous and the opinionated not to run. Maybe Bernie would have beaten Trump; I think Oprah or Tom Hanks absolutely would have. This development will probably be bad for America but still better than anything else that’s happened since November.
—Jack Hamilton, Slate pop critic
Television Tropes: As we witness more and more antisocial behavior at the highest levels of government, the antihero trope will lose traction in popular culture. The spectacle of strong men transgressing norms in service of their own moral codes will be less and less appealing, and television and movies will pull back from pro-machismo stories with fascist undertones.
—Rebecca Onion, Slate staff writer
Music: After Trump’s election, some started saying, “Well, at least the music will get good.” But there’s no direct link between “political” music and good music. As in the ’60s, what’s most distinguished the engaged sound of the late Obama era, from Hamilton’s Broadway to Kendrick Lamar’s L.A. and Maren Morris’ Nashville, isn’t literal protest, but a radical sense of possibility. Now, instead of the vitality of anti-Thatcher/Reagan punk, we could as easily get the defeated blandness of the Nixon years. (Witness the stunted aesthetic of Trump’s inaugural concerts.) Artists’ role isn’t to lead but to reflect our energies back transformed, the better for us to feel them. Unless the rest of us create cultures of support and resistance, today’s angry beats could be drowned out by escapist lullabies.
—Carl Wilson, Slate music critic
Preservation: If the National Endowment for the Humanities is eradicated by the new administration, we’ll see the shuttering of museums and archives—many of them small and local—whose preservation projects are dedicated to everything from film and architecture to railroads and the American Revolution. Analog recordings will degrade; handwritten diaries will never be digitized. Our grasp of our own history will start to slip away from us.
—Laura Miller, Slate columnist
Homelessness: As secretary of housing and urban development, Ben Carson will drastically reduce HUD programs as part of a larger crusade against “dependency” on the federal government. As programs for public housing and rental assistance for low-income Americans are slashed, the homeless rate for military veterans—slashed by a third over Obama’s presidency—will begin to rise once again.
—Kevin M. Kruse, professor of history at Princeton University
Opioids: We’re already not great at treating heroin addicts with the best evidence-based medicine, but provisions of Obamacare tried to address those problems. Its repeal will end this progress—and not only will fewer people have insurance, insurance companies will no longer have to pay for drug treatment. Under Trump, more people will overdose in the short run and there will be a still larger epidemic in the long run.
—Mark A.R. Kleiman, professor of public policy at NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management
Stress Eating: Thanks to a combination of lower protections for fast-food workers and general stress among the entire population, fast-food profits will rise.
—L.V. Anderson, Slate associate editor
Disabilities: The Americans With Disabilities Act will become harder to enforce due to GOP-led “ADA Notifications” bills; more disabled people will end up institutionalized (prisons, psych wards, nursing homes); and with a GOP repeal of the ACA, even greater numbers of disabled Americans will die or fall below the poverty line.
—David M. Perry, disability rights journalist and professor of history at Dominican University
Anxiety: The fearmongering and pending dissolution of so many bedrocks of our society is injecting a potent dose of anxiety into people’s lives. In response, there will be a rise in prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. I also worry that patients will start hoarding these medications, preparing to ration them out to themselves during the upcoming lean times.
—Danielle Ofri, physician and medical writer
Voting Rights: The Department of Justice under new attorney general Jeff Sessions will reverse his department’s challenges to the legality of Texas’ voter ID law and North Carolina’s law making it harder to register and to vote, leading more Republican states to adopt similar restrictive laws even before the Supreme Court may weigh in on these issues.
—Richard L. Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California–Irvine School of Law
Abortion: A bitter stew of anti-woman laws and policies cooked up by anti-abortion forces—blacklisting Planned Parenthood, excluding contraception from health insurance, cutting Title X family planning, further restricting and stigmatizing abortion services—will increase unintended pregnancies and abortions and push abortions later in pregnancy, out of state, and outside medical supervision, with ever-growing inequality in harms across states and wealth. That said, the American people will resist through lobbying, litigation, politics, and protest at levels unseen since the Reagan administration, though concrete success will be scarce until the 2018 elections, when Congress and the statehouses will become more pro-woman, pro-choice, and Democratic.
—Dawn Johnsen, Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Mass Incarceration: Despite the election of Trump and his rhetoric about high crime, and because most sentencing and corrections occurs at a nonfederal level and the support for criminal justice reform is broad and deep, we will continue to see—unabated—a reduction of the country’s incarcerated population and the number of people held in solitary confinement.
—Nick Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice
LGBTQ Rights: As the federal government all but abandons working toward transgender equality, there will be an uptick in hostile state and local legislative actions, akin to North Carolina’s HB2. But in a small but heartening response we’ll also see more gender-neutral bathrooms popping up (both official and adapted/commandeered), as local businesses and individuals take showing support into their own hands.
—J. Bryan Lowder, Slate associate editor
Police Reform: Under Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice will sharply cut back its involvement in police reform, reducing the number of investigations and consent decrees to a level at or below that of the Clinton and second Bush presidencies. That will lead to an increase in state-level legislative reform efforts, such as funding body-camera programs, establishing independent investigative procedures, putting limits on how local agencies can work with federal agencies (in the immigration or civil asset forfeiture context, for example), and establishing state procedures for police agencies to follow to participate in the 1033 Program.
—Seth W. Stoughton, assistant professor of law at University of South Carolina and former police officer
Unions: A conservative justice will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, conservatives will bring forward another suit to gut public-sector unions, and public-sector union membership will significantly decrease.
—Jim Newell, Slate staff writer
Cybersecurity: Despite much talk of “the cyber” from the new administration, there will be no actual decrease in the number of successful cyberattacks on companies and government organizations.
—Peter W. Singer, security expert and senior fellow at New America
The Fourth Estate: A prominent member of the media will be killed over his or her coverage of the Trump administration.
—Tommy Craggs, Slate politics editor
History: Authoritarians love to think they are making history and never hesitate to rewrite the past to suit their political agendas. Expect Trump’s administration to use a heavy hand on our national past. In keeping with the racist platform he ran his campaign on, there will be a concerted effort to delegitimize the history of civil rights struggles in our country. Trump’s attacks on Rep. John Lewis on Martin Luther King Day weekend are part of this. At the same time, his administration will seek to normalize past government repressions against nonwhites—such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II—using these episodes to legitimize any actions against Muslims, immigrants, or other potential target populations. “Make America Great Again” will entail whitewashing its history.
— Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history at New York University
Objectification of Women: Traditional beauty standards never really went away, but they’ll become even more dominant. Soon we’ll start seeing a wave of media about how feminism failed women and they’re finding self-actualization thanks to the “new femininity” or some other backlash slogan. Big hair, painful thong underwear, and spike heels will all have a comeback.
—Michelle Goldberg, Slate columnist
Hair Loss: Trump’s weird hair, until now an edifice so uncontroversially funny that even Jimmy Fallon felt comfortable teasing him about it, will become normal, even fashionable. Baldness is already considered undesirable by many, but it will finally be stigmatized at the level that Larry David has always imagined it was, and the sale of hair plugs, wigs, hats, toupees, Rogaine, Propecia, and other baldness-remedying and -concealing products will increase. This will be a small change, but you will notice it, especially if you are a dermatologist.
—Andrew Kahn, Slate interactives editor
The First Amendment: Speech will remain free—technically. But with Trump out to punish and intimidate critics, and many CEOs scared to give offense, a lot of Americans will slowly develop an internal censor. Before posting criticisms of Trump on Facebook, they will ask themselves, somewhere in a dark, little corner of their mind: Could this possibly—just possibly—cost me my job? The more people censor themselves, the more they will praise the courage of those who do speak up; and the more the remaining critics will be lionized for their courage, the fewer of them there will be.
—Yascha Mounk, Slate columnist and lecturer on government at Harvard University
*Correction, Jan. 24, 2017: This article originally misstated that the total amount Americans spend annually on international tourism is $150 million. It is $150 billion. (Return.)