Dramatic and unpredictable. There’s no other way to describe the year in politics in 2019.  A year that began with the longest government shutdown in American history and saw the publication of the Mueller report would be defined by a 30-minute summer phone call with Ukraine’s new president. At this time last year, Volodymyr Zelensky wasn’t even registered with Ukraine’s Central Election Commission as a candidate for president.

So no one can predict what 2020 holds. And yet businesses, nonprofit organizations and industry leaders still must plan for the future, using the best available information. Here are five trends that could shape the political landscape in 2020 – and help in the planning process.

Joe Biden’s 2020 Apology Tour

Every politician with a long career must confront the evolution of their political views, and Joe Biden is no different, especially since he’s been on the national stage longer than most. He's already apologized for a long-ago reference to a "partisan lynching," past collaboration with segregationist senators, and an angry confrontation with an 83-year-old Iowa farmer. Watch for the phrase "Biden apologizes" to explode in 2020.

On race, LGBT issues, women's rights and a host of other issues, the Joe Biden of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s is out of step with today's Democratic Party, as are many  Democrats his age. But Biden’s bind is unique. His propensity for embarrassing gaffes, misstatements, and offensive comments makes him an opposition researcher's dream. Take his grilling of Zoe Baird, who was President Clinton’s nominee to serve as the first female attorney general of the United States. Back then, from his perch on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden demanded to know "how many hours she was away from her child: when she left at home in the morning and returned at night." At the time, New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis openly questioned Biden's sexist double standard: "Would he have asked that of any male nominee, for any job?"

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has never been more sensitive to strict adherence to politically correct terminology. Every new Biden campaign announcement can be welcomed by a trigger warning from Joe's own unwoke phrasing. The good news for Biden? If he’s able to survive the primary season, none of this will hinder him too much in a general election matchup with President Trump.

Quality of life issues, especially homelessness, will rise to the forefront in 2020

Global stock markets added $17 trillion in value over the past year. But that doesn’t alter the fact that many Americans feel their quality of life slipping away. It explains why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have gained such traction: Their campaigns are built around income inequality.

What progressives call the problem of income disparity, Americans in “fly-over” states consider more sweeping quality-of-life issues. The biggest such issue confronting many Americans is the rise of homelessness. In big cities, especially on the coasts, homelessness is inescapable. It’s going to become more widespread this year, thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision. In December, the nation’s highest court upheld a lower court ruling that established a constitutional right for the homeless to sleep on public property when denied access to shelters.

This means that local governments will be almost powerless to confront the problem. Americans already feeling a diminished quality of life will see the outward manifestation of their uneasiness every time they visit a public park or courthouse.  

San Francisco’s streets become Trump’s 2020 rallying cry

A master of rhetorical imagery, Trump connected with voters in 2016 by vividly describing policy problems and offering a clear visual of his solution. “Build the wall! Lock her up!” Simple slogans attached to a memorable image.

In tandem with the increased focus on homelessness, expect the president to shine the spotlight on San Francisco. The City by the Bay has become a haven for petty thieves, drug addicts, and the mentally ill, culminating in disturbing images of an American city once known around the world for its beauty earning a new reputation for streets with outdoor drug markets, discarded heroin needles, human waste on the sidewalk.

Trump beta-tested attacks on the liberal bastion in September, when he threatened to use the EPA to stop needles from flowing into the Pacific Ocean. That was before San Francisco voters elected a socialist as district attorney, who campaigned on a platform of ending prosecutions of gang enhancements and public urination. Every new "restorative justice" program launched in San Francisco is an opportunity for Trump to lampoon the left.

Democrats lose congressional seats, even in California

The media have focused on how their pro-impeachment votes will impact swing-state Democrats or freshman Democrats in districts Trump carried last November. That’s certainly a factor, but so is the basic issue of funding the party’s candidates.

Democrats regained the House in 2018 in no small measure because of the efforts of billionaires-turned-presidential-candidates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg. Steyer vowed to spend $120 million in support of Democratic candidates in the 2018 campaign. Not to be outdone, Bloomberg spent more than $112 million to aid swing Democratic campaigns, according to the New York Times.

To put those numbers in perspective, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $84 million during the 2018 cycle. Bloomberg and Steyer’s combined spending was nearly three times as much as the party’s official congressional operation.

Both Democratic super donors are now preoccupied with their own long-shot presidential campaigns. Without Steyer and Bloomberg underwriting their 2020 congressional campaigns, Democrats are likely to lose ground -- regardless of who is at the top of the ticket.

A serious third party candidate enters the presidential race

The dynamics of the 2020 presidential race will be too tempting for a serious independent contender to pass up. As Trump runs to the right and Democrats move further to the left, it creates the appearance of a centrist lane to the White House.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz briefly flirted with an independent campaign last year but was sidelined by a back injury. Billionaire Mark Cuban is another big-name billionaire with resources and ambitions for the presidency. Or, a former elected official, like former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, could see an opportunity to restart their political careers with a presidential bid.

A third party or independent candidacy could also emerge from the current Democratic field. Bloomberg, Andrew Yang, or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard could leave the party and perhaps even forge an unorthodox path toward the Oval Office.