Is it too early for predictions? We’re a week or so away from the announcement but Jazz broached the subject yesterday so I figured it was okay to chime in.
Trump is obsessed with the award and has been for years, for reasons aptly stated by Adrienne LaFrance: “Trump became a public figure and a celebrity at Time’s apex. But more than that, Time is the perfect manifestation of Trump’s attitude toward success.” Time was a big deal when he was a younger man and Person of the Year was the biggest deal of that big deal. The title encompasses the scope of POTUS’s ego like little else. Being president is great but it’s a particular job in a particular country. Being Person of the Year among everyone in the whole world, though? That’s real swagger.
He’s got a defensible case to win it again too, although he won’t. No modern presidential colossus bestrides the American imagination like Trump does because no president, Obama included, has managed to make the presidency as much a function of his own personality as Trump has. In an ideal world, government proceeds in an orderly, efficient, and completely uninteresting way; the president’s personality quirks are irrelevant. In our world, government proceeds chaotically and unpredictably even under normal circumstances but especially so with Trump in charge. Yuval Levin:
Trump’s sense of the president’s broader functions, meanwhile, has turned out to be fundamentally theatrical. In just about every setting, he is performing for an audience. Thus his obsession with ratings and audience size, his running commentary on Twitter (often calling for actions that he could instead just undertake as chief executive), and his peculiar tendency even to comment on his own speeches as he delivers them…
Trump’s role in the operation of our system of government may be understood in terms of an absence and a presence: He has left largely unfilled the part traditionally played by the president while playing this other, different part formed around the peculiar contours of his experience and personality. Everyone else charged with key roles in our system has to confront the implications (good and bad) of this unusual situation…
So far, Trump’s absence and Trump’s presence have mostly resulted in chaos.
No one, perhaps not even Trump, knows what tomorrow’s tweets or interviews will bring or whom the petty insults and inexplicable flame wars will be aimed at. Maybe it’ll be the NFL, maybe Jeff Flake or Chuck Schumer, maybe the nutjob building nuclear missiles in North Korea. He’s the Person of the Year because we’re all subject to his daily whims. But (a) he won it last year and repeat winners are rare, and (b) he hasn’t achieved enough by way of actual policy. If he had repealed ObamaCare, spent a trillion dollars on infrastructure, and passed tax reform — if he had complemented the brawling showmanship with major legislation — it’d be easier to justify giving him the award again. “Trump is remaking America, politically and culturally,” the argument would have gone. Instead, so far, it’s pretty much only the grandstanding that’s distinguished him. You’re not going to get Person of the Year for turning the presidency into the world’s greatest trolling platform.
So who’s going to win? Easy prediction: #MeToo, or “The Survivors” of sexual harassment and assault by famous men like Harvey Weinstein. It’s been the biggest story in the country for two months running with no signs of easing. Dominos have already begun to fall in Congress with Franken and Conyers implicated and the GOP at risk of losing a Senate seat in the deep south due to allegations against Roy Moore. The president himself has a dozen accusers dating to last fall. It’d be nutty of Time not to recognize the moment. In fact, if the Person of the Year award were truly value-neutral, arguably Weinstein himself should get it for triggering the cultural awakening to sexual predation within professional industries via his decades of scumbaggery. But the award isn’t value-neutral; if it were, Osama Bin Laden would have received it in 2001 instead of Rudy Giuliani. So my guess is it’s #MeToo, with Rose McGowan, Asia Argento, and maybe Annabella Sciorra — Weinstein’s three most prominent accusers — on the cover.
Interestingly, the three of them were together just a few days ago:
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) November 25, 2017
Was that a social gathering or the aftermath of a cover shoot for Time? We’ll see.
Speaking of Time, your exit question: What’s with the National Enquirer wanting to buy the magazine? Not only would that be peak 2017, with the country’s most famous tabloid acquiring the 20th century’s most august newsweekly, but given Trump’s chumminess with Enquirer chief David Pecker, it would probably ensure that he wins POTY every year for the rest of his life.