Who Should Have Been Time's Person of the Year?

For reasons which may never be fully known, it’s clear that some people are still paying attention when Time magazine trots out its annual gala pageant of naming their Person of the Year.

To the shock and largely muted dismay of one subset of readers, the winner was not Barack Obama. We could spend the day merrily chewing over the relative merits of giving the nod to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, but in light of the long diminished status and stature accorded this recognition, we will likely make better use of our time in reviewing those who failed to win and the unwashed masses who weren’t even nominated.

Before we begin, however, it’s worth noting that there was a time when the Person of the Year award was actually held to mean something. In its heyday, Time magazine was widely read and well-respected, viewed not only as a premier portal of hard news in the dead tree media, but having a board of editors who were seen as both kingmakers and opinion shapers around the globe. Sadly, as time passed and the world grew up in a digital age, their increasingly bizarre choices of winners turned the once prestigious honor into something of a joke.

In a quick tour of the blogosphere, I immediately focused on the coverage of this momentous occasion provided by that most perspicacious of pundits, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Ed seemed to take particular glee in pointing out the fact that President Obama not only failed to win, but didn’t even make the top five, bumped out of contention by such notables as Usain Bolt and Nancy Pelosi.

It is at times like this when I almost begin to feel sorry for the president. Poor Barack Obama. When he is awarded some bauble completely beyond his control, such as the Nobel Peace Prize, he is lambasted for being undeserving. If he fails to bring home the laurel wreath in another meaningless beauty contest (over which he also has no control), he is chided for not making the grade.

Rather than focusing on the author’s cogent analysis, I decided to dip a toe into the lively, crowded and never shy comments section of Hot Air readers who struggled to answer Ed’s question of who was really the person of the year. Some interesting dark-horse candidates emerged, such as the Russian hacker cum whistleblower who snatched the CRU climate data emails from out of the ether. Another popular selection was the tea party patriots. (Yes, the award can be given to a group or class of people. In fact, “the Chinese worker” also beat out Barack Obama for top five honors on Time’s final list.) There were other suggestions, such as the American soldier, but let’s face it, you would be hard-pressed to name a year when our military wouldn’t qualify.

By far, though, the lion’s share of the readers’ votes went to Sarah Palin. While I freely admit approaching this issue from the position of a non-fan, the thought of it sent me into gales of laughter. The Sarahnator’s legions of adoring fans provided various reasons for the nomination, including her much touted book tour and her masterful yet socially influential usage of Twitter and Facebook. But after further consideration, I began to wonder if perhaps Governor Palin really was qualified. And, if so, might we have missed some other possible candidates?

While the award is ostensibly geared for accomplishments in the calendar year 2009, if we stretch out the window a bit more we can generate a list of prerequisites to find other, equally qualified choices. These should obviously include:

  • Writing (or having ghost written for you) a book which moves substantial numbers of copies
  • Losing an election (either general or … a primary)
  • Quitting their current elected office prior to finishing the full term
  • Being selected by a more successful electoral warrior for another position (either as a campaign running mate or, for example, a cabinet position)

Can we think of another influential, famous woman who ticks all of those boxes? Why, indeed we can! And yet not one of Mr. Morrissey’s readers was considerate enough to suggest that Time magazine bestow this hallowed honor upon Hillary Clinton.

I hope Time keeps up this tradition well into the future, though. Even if we don’t exactly flock to the stores to buy up every copy, it should at least continue to provide us with years of entertainment each holiday season.

And in the end, our reactions to their choices, as well as our own preferences among the also-rans, will probably prove more instructive and revealing than anything you’ll find between the covers of the magazine