Time names Merkel person of the year

Time Magazine has once again named their “Person of the Year” and they seem to have gone with the fairly safe choice on the final list. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has won the now rather dubious honor for 2015. Time highlights the fact that Merkel is only the fourth individual woman to hold the title, after Wallis Warfield Simpson, Queen Elizabeth II and Corazon Aquino.

Today, a fourth woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, joins that elite club. (Over the years, a number of other women have been given the title as part of a group.)…

Aquino was known as the “Mother of the Nation” during her rise to power. Merkel, meanwhile, has taken on a very similar moniker. “The Chancellor has acquired several nicknames: ‘Merkiavelli’ and ‘the Black Widow,’ for her ability to sidle up unnoticed before delivering a deadly bite,” TIME noted when she was running for a third term in 2013. “To her supporters, she’s Angie. But everyone in Germany knows her as ‘Mutti,’ mommy.”

Time is quick to note that their runner-up slots contained some familiar names as well. The Donald made it, but he came in behind the leader of ISIS.

Donald Trump has been named a runner-up on TIME’s 2015 Person of the Year list, losing out to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But he is the only American political figure on the list–a testament to his surprise influence on American politics this year. TIME’s Michael Scherer profiles Trump for the issue, putting him in the same category as Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, and George Wallace. “Each terrified some and delighted others, testing the nation’s very identity,” he writes.

I’m not going to argue that Merkel shouldn’t have been on the list, or even won for that matter. It goes without question that Germany has played a key role in the rocky evolution of the European Union and Merkel’s conservative fiscal policies have kept her nation positioned as a stable anchor in an otherwise rapidly fraying system. It was only Germany’s money (for the large part, at least) that staved off the complete collapse of Greece. And since negative attributes also play a role in the selection, Germany has been a huge mover and shaker in the Syrian refugee crisis. There’s also very little that’s inherently disreputable about Merkel and she’s widely respected, so the choice could have been a lot worse.

Taking a look at the full short list, I’m not sure who else might have been a more appropriate choice. Because the relative “Good vs Evil” attributes of the candidates aren’t considered in terms of how much impact they had, al-Baghdadi could just as easily have been the pick and I wouldn’t have disagreed much with them there either. The man is the living embodiment of evil to be sure, but there should be little or no debate about the vast impact he’s had across the planet as multiple nations stagger toward various stages of war.

Should Trump have gotten it? For that matter, should he even have been on the list? Historically Time doesn’t choose political candidates for the honor because simply running for office isn’t much of a global accomplishment. I argued in 2008 that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama should have held the honor because McCain’s accomplishments were more in the past and Obama really had none. (That didn’t stop them for giving Obama the title that year, apparently for the twin achievements of getting the most votes and being black.) Trump may have somewhat more of a claim than either of them because he’s certainly changed the playing field of American politics and begun any number of conversations on both the national and global level. But he hasn’t even won a single primary yet, say nothing of making it into office and actually doing anything. It would have been a stretch to give it to Trump in my opinion, so Merkel was probably not a bad choice.