Donald Trump Is Time’s ‘Person Of The Year’

In the end, there was no other logical choice.

Trump Person Of The Year

In what may be the least surprising decision of the year, Donald Trump was named Time Magazine’s ‘Person Of The Year’:

Donald Trump is Time’s person of the year for 2016, the magazine’s editor announced Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show.

“When have we ever seen a single individual who has so defied expectations, broken the rules, violated norms, beaten not one but two political parties on the way to winning an election that he entered with 100-1 odds against him,” Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs said. “I don’t think we have ever seen one person operating in such an unconventional way have an impact on the events of the year quite like this.”

Gibbs said 2016 “may have been one of the more straightforward years” in terms of selecting a person of the year, with Trump the obvious choice. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major political party and the likely winner of the popular vote, was the magazine’s runner-up person of the year. Hackers, taken as a group, came in third after an election cycle in which cyberattacks played an outsize role.

The Time magazine cover announcing Trump as its person of the year shows him seated in a chair and bills him as “president of the divided states of America.”

Time’s Editor Nancy Gibbs notes that Trump was, for better or worse, the most disruptive force American politics has seen for quite some time:

It’s hard to measure the scale of his disruption. This real estate baron and casino owner turned reality-TV star and provocateur—never a day spent in public office, never a debt owed to any interest besides his own—now surveys the smoking ruin of a vast political edifice that once housed parties, pundits, donors, pollsters, all those who did not see him coming or take him seriously. Out of this reckoning, Trump is poised to preside, for better or worse.

For those who believe this is all for the better, Trump’s victory represents a long-overdue rebuke to an entrenched and arrogant governing class; for those who see it as for the worse, the destruction extends to cherished norms of civility and discourse, a politics poisoned by vile streams of racism, sexism, nativism. To his believers, he delivers change—broad, deep, historic change, not modest measures doled out in Dixie cups; to his detractors, he inspires fear both for what he may do and what may be done in his name.

The revolution he stirred feels fully American, with its echoes of populists past, of Andrew Jackson and Huey Long and, at its most sinister, Joe McCarthy and Charles Coughlin. Trump’s assault on truth and logic, far from hurting him, made him stronger. His appeal—part hope, part snarl—dissolved party lines and dispatched the two reigning dynasties of U.S. politics. Yet his victory mirrors the ascent of nationalists across the world, from Britain to the Philippines, and taps forces far more powerful than one man’s message.

We can scarcely grasp what our generation has wrought by putting a supercomputer into all of our hands, all of the time. If you are reading this, whether on a page or a screen, there is a very good chance that you are caught up in a revolution that may have started with enticing gadgets but has now reshaped everything about how we live, love, work, play, shop, share—how our very hearts and minds encounter the world around us. Why would we have imagined that our national conversation would simply go on as before, same people, same promises, same patterns? Perhaps the President-elect will stop tweeting—but only because he will have found some other means to tell the story he wants to tell directly to the audience that wants to hear it.

It turned out to be a failing strategy when Hillary Clinton, who loves policy solutions and believes in them, tried to make this race a character test, a referendum on Trump. But it was certainly understandable. He presented so many challenges, so many choices about what America values. Her popular-vote victory, while legally irrelevant, affirmed the prospect of a female Commander in Chief. In fact, she crushed Trump among voters who cared most about experience and judgment and temperament, qualities that have typically mattered when choosing the leader of the free world. Even at his moment of victory, 6 in 10 voters had an unfavorable view of Trump and didn’t think he was qualified to be President.

But by almost 2 to 1, voters cared most about who could deliver change, and in that category he beat her by 69 points. This is his next test. The year 2016 was the year of his rise; 2017 will be the year of his rule, and like all newly elected leaders, he has a chance to fulfill promises and defy expectations.

And Michael Scherer emphasizes the big unknowns about the coming four to eight years:

The truth is no one really knows what is going to happen, up to and including the occupants of Trump Tower. “It’s a very exciting time. It’s really been an amazing time,” Trump says, as the country still tries to come to terms with what he accomplished. “Hopefully we can take some of the drama out.”

That’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Following a President who prided himself on sifting drama through the sieve of careful consideration, Trump’s methods, for better and worse, tend to be closer to the opposite. And this is now Trump’s America to run, a victory made possible either because of historical inevitability or individual brilliance, or some combination of the two.

It’s an America with rising stock markets despite the tremors of a trade war. A country where a few jobs saved makes up, in the moment, for the thousands still departing. This is a land where a man will stand up in a plane headed to Allentown, Pa., to demand allegiance to the new leader—“We got some Hillary bitches on here? Come on man, Trump! He’s your President, every goddamn one of you!”—and then get banned by the airline from ever traveling again. It’s where a hijab-wearing college student in New York reports being attacked and jeered at in the next President’s name, where American-born children ask their citizen parents if Trump will deport them, where white supremacists throw out Nazi salutes in Washington meeting halls for their President-elect.

It’s a country where many who felt powerless have a new champion, where much frustration has given way to excitement and where politics has become the greatest show on earth. Here men in combat helmets and military assault rifles now patrol the streets outside a golden residential tower in midtown Manhattan. And almost every day at about the same time they let pass a street performer who wears no pants, tight white underwear and cowboy boots, so he can sing a song in the lobby for the television cameras with Trump’s name written in red and blue on his butt. It’s an America of renewed hope and paralyzing fear, a country few expected less than a year ago. Because of Donald John Trump, whatever happens next, it will never be like it was before.

In the end, the selection of Trump as Person of the Year is hardly surprising. In the 89 years since Charles Lindbergh was named Time’s first ‘Person of the Year,’ the incoming President has been singled out by the magazine ten times, in 1932, 1948, 1964, 1976, 1980, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. That’s ten times over the course of the 22 Presidential Elections that took place from 1928 to 2012.  Additionally, as we can see the winner of the Presidential election has been given that distinction in each of the Presidential election years since 2000, something that didn’t even happen in the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The reason for this should be readily apparent. As Time’s editors have made clear from the beginning, the distinction is intended to recognize the person who has had the biggest impact on the news in the United States in particular during the previous year. It is not meant to be an honorarium, and it could just as easily be given to someone who has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on the world as it could to someone whose impact was overwhelmingly positive. That’s why people such as Adolf Hitler (1938), Josef Stalin (1939 and 1942) and the Ayatollah Khomeni (1979) are on the list alongside people such as FDR (1932, 1934, and 1941), Churchill (1940 and 1949), Dwight Eisenhower (1944 and 1959) and Popes John XXIII  (1962) and John Paul II (1994) ,  For better or worse, the person who wins the Presidency, including obviously an incumbent who wins re-election, will likely have dominated the headlines during the preceding year and their election will likely have an immense impact on the course the nation and the world take for next four to eight years, and possibly well beyond that.

Given all of this, there really wasn’t question that the editors of Time would pick the President-Elect for this year’s Person Of The Year. For better or worse, there is no person who has had a bigger impact on the news cycle this year than Donald Trump. After spending the last half of 2015 dominating the polls in the race for the Republican nomination, Trump proved all the critics who said that he had no chance of actually winning the nomination by turning that poll support into votes at the polls notwithstanding the fact that his campaign appeared to consist of little more than large campaign rallies, free media appearances on an almost daily basis during which he essentially set the tone of interviews by often appearing by phone instead of live in studio or on videotape, and late night appearances on Twitter that often consisted of little more than attacking the media and the other Republicans running for President. By spring, he had vanquished all of the sixteen Republicans running against him, including many long-serving politicians who had won elections for decades before facing a man who was running for office for the first time in his life at the age of  69. He held off a quixotic last minute attempt by conservative and mainstream Republicans to deny him the nomination. He engaged in vicious attacks against media personalities and fellow politicians, including men such as John McCain, the Judge presiding over the Trump University fraud cases, and the grieving parents of a Muslim-American soldier who had sacrificed his own life to save his men  And, he engaged in what can only be described as vile attacks against Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, and others, any one of which should have been disqualifying in a normal Presidential election year. During the General Election, he spent nearly all of the time from July through November behind Hillary Clinton in the polls and still ended up emerging victorious by winning on Election Night in states that Republicans had not won in a Presidential election in decades, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Finally, he did all of this while at the same time advocating policies that seem out of step with Republican orthodoxy, thus setting the stage for a Presidency where it’s conceivable that a Republican President will be pushing forward his agenda by making deals with Democrats and making end runs around Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. It was an extraordinary accomplishment that will be studied by pundits, professional political aides, and political science professionals and academics for years and decades to come. Whether it ultimately leads to good or ill for the country is, of course, a different question that we won’t be able to answer for years if not decades.

For all of these reasons, it was not surprising that Trump was chosen as Person of The Year. Arguably, it’s also a designation he should have received last year given the way in which he had already impacted American politics since entering the race in June of that year. Instead, that distinction went to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This year, though, there was no other logical choice. In fact, one could make the argument that Trump would have been the logical choice even if he had lost the election, even thought it’s likely that Time would have chosen Hillary Clinton in that case. Trump’s victory, though, made the choice inevitable.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    I disagree somewhat on this Doug.

    Steve Bannon would have been a good co-choice. Trump is giving the alt-right a seat at the most important table in America, the White House Table. I’m not kidding, on this either.

  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    So was Hitler. Underwhelmed.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Time magazine still exists?

  4. CSK says:


    Well, as Doug points out, The Person of the Year isn’t necessarily The Best Person of the Year.

  5. @al-Ameda:

    Bannon was merely the man behind the candidate, no different from a campaign manager or pollster. Trump was the candidate, and the disrupter.


    A correct observation, albeit one that seemingly fails to recognize what the “Person Of The Year” has been about from the first time it was awarded.


    Exactly my point.

  6. CSK says:

    I’m wondering if a copy will be placed reverently on the bedside table of every room and every suite in every Trump hotel.

  7. Moosebreath says:

    “That’s ten times over the course of the 30 Presidential Elections that took place from 1928 to 2012.”

    I get only 22 Presidential elections during that period.

    And some of the prior ones (including the PC in 1982 and The Endangered Earth in 1988) have proven you do not have to be human, so we can’t argue against Trump winning on that ground.

  8. Pch101 says:

    Referring to him as a “person” is an example of political correctness gone out of control.

  9. CSK says:


    “Colossal Deliquescing Yam of the Year” has a certain je ne sais quoi.

  10. Franklin says:

    @Pch101: OK, I LOL’d.

    But seriously, I agree with others that Time has never meant this to be the Best person of the year. I can also agree with Mr. Reynolds, in that I doubt I’ve read anything from Time in the last decade.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Bannon was merely the man behind the candidate, no different from a campaign manager or pollster. Trump was the candidate, and the disrupter.

    Point well taken, Doug, but Steve Bannon is an avatar of the previously thought to be fringe alt-right movement, and he is now


    man behind the candidate. The alt-right now has a prominent voice in our government. I don’t see “merely” in there at all.

  12. Time will tell what impact Bannon may have in years to come.

  13. SenyorDave says:

    @al-Ameda: The alt-right now has a prominent voice in our government. I don’t see “merely” in there at all.

    An overt white nationalist is a senior adviser to the president-elect. If Barack Obama was seen talking for 10 minutes with Louis Farrakhan it would have been a disqualifying episode and he never would have been president. But a racist, anti-Semitic white nationalist? No problem.

    The idea that he is “merely” an adviser to the president is ludicrous. Try telling that to person of color.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Franklin: It’s also gotten much more devoid of content.

    I had a subscription to the International Edition way back in the 70s and it was full of actual news and good analysis.

    Oh well, back to The Economist….

  15. @Moosebreath:

    There were 22 Presidents but several of those Presidents were elected more than once, including FDR who stood for election four times. FDR was POTY three times, but only one of them was in a year in which he won the election.

  16. MBunge says:

    @SenyorDave: anti-Semitic

    I know the “my best friends are Jews” dodge, but Breitbart under Bannon has been vociferously pro-Zionist and not because Bannon is an Evangelical who thinks the Jews must return to Israel before the Second Coming can occur.


  17. dmhlt says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    But what I think is being referenced is what you said:

    That’s ten times over the course of the 30 Presidential Elections that took place from 1928 to 2012.  

    Pretty hard to fit THIRTY elections that occur every four years between 1928 and 2012

  18. @dmhlt:

    My early morning pre-coffee math was off. The actual number is 22. I will update accordingly

  19. Tyrell says:

    “No other logical choice”: I agree Trump is a choice, but think about these:
    Coach Madden of the Chicago Cubs
    Payton Manning of the Super Bowl champion Broncos, quarterback of the ages
    Dennis Muilenburg, head of Boeing. The Boeing 777x is a marvel of modern flight
    Harold White – head of the research team that successfully tested an em engine. This engine will power a rocket from the earth to Mars in ten weeks. An engine that runs on nothing.
    Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan: creators of “Westworld” : one of the most significant tv series ever.
    James Patterson: writing genius seems to go on forever

  20. @Tyrell:

    1. Time is not a sports magazine, so it would be weird for them to name a baseball manager or NFL QB as ‘Person Of The Year.” Look to Sports Illustrated for that.

    2. Time is also not a business magazine, so the head of Boeing seems like an odd choice. Look to Business Week or Forbes for that.

    3. Time is not an entertainment magazine, so Westworld or James Patterson would be odd choices. Look to Entertainment Weekly for that.

  21. CSK says:


    Trump got POTY because of the uproar he caused. None of the people you cited caused an uproar. They may well be more worthy of acclaim (really, who isn’t?) but that’s not what this particular distinction is about.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    Trump embraced Keynesian-ism in that article.
    I wonder how long it will take the feckless Republican Congress to roll over?
    The butt boys – Garneri, Jenos, JKB, bill – already have.
    The election of Trump makes it absolutely clear…if it wasn’t already…that the Tea Party and the Republicans are simply racists…and any talk about deficits or the Constitution was just so much hooey.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    Which event supposedly brings on the Second Coming, after which Jesus will roast Jews in hell while Christians tut-tut from heaven.

  24. James Pearce says:


    Payton Manning of the Super Bowl champion Broncos, quarterback of the ages

    Well…..and I say this as a fan of the Super Bowl champion Broncos, if anyone on the team should get “Man of the Year,” it should be Von Miller, not Peyton.

    I don’t have a problem with Trump being “Person of the Year.” Hillary would have been it had she won.

  25. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    The criteria is “who affected the news the most in the past year.”

    Rudy Giuliani got it in 2001; I think Bin Laden should have gotten it.

    And I find myself wondering: if the election results had been reversed (Clinton winning the electoral college, Trump the popular vote), would her cover featured “the Divided States Of America?”

    I think we all know the answer to that one.

  26. Kylopod says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    Rudy Giuliani got it in 2001; I think Bin Laden should have gotten it.

    I was thinking about that myself. Despite their past history of picking people like Hitler, etc., they’re clearly aware that the choice is widely perceived as conferring some sort of honor upon the person, no matter how much they explain that it isn’t. So they balked about giving it to the clear choice of Bin Laden and instead gave it to someone who was widely praised for his response to the disaster.

  27. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    would her cover featured “the Divided States Of America?”

    Probably only if she lost the popular vote by 2 million votes, won a narrow unexpected victory, and couldn’t stop live-Tweeting her shower thoughts.

    But it would have probably focused on Femme stuff, you’re right.

  28. wr says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable: “would her cover featured “the Divided States Of America?””

    No. Because she would have won the popular vote by three million votes.

    Man, you’re dim.

  29. CSK says:


    If the criterion is causing the most havoc, then Bin Laden won hands down. But, as you’ve pointed out, the designation POTY is generally perceived to be an honor, no matter what monsters in the past may have been accorded it.

  30. rodney dill says:

    What? Alec Baldwin missed the cut again?

  31. Kylopod says:


    I know the “my best friends are Jews” dodge, but Breitbart under Bannon has been vociferously pro-Zionist

    Yes, and it also has included articles like this one which said about WashPost columnist Anne Applebaum, “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.” (And if you think that’s out of context, read the frickin’ article; it’s basically a long litany of anti-Semitic tropes.)

    And yes, I’m perfectly aware that, like Karl Marx (“What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.”) and Bobby Fischer (who maintained that the Holocaust didn’t happen), the author of the article happens to be Jewish by descent.

    I’m really sick and tired of this get-out-of-jail-free approach to bigotry, where you can just ignore what someone is saying or doing as long as they meet some threshold supposedly proving their non-bigotry. Yes, it is a variant of “My best friends are Jews.”

  32. Grumpy Realist says:

    By the way, Ohio is trying to put in a “heartbeat” abortion ban. The fact that it has no exemptions for women’s health means it will be shot down immediately as unconstitutional.

    …the fact that a heck of a lot of women have irregular periods so they may not even have an inkling that they are pregnant until after the cut-off date is, of course, just gravy.

  33. SenyorDave says:

    @MBunge: I know the “my best friends are Jews” dodge, but Breitbart under Bannon has been vociferously pro-Zionist and not because Bannon is an Evangelical who thinks the Jews must return to Israel before the Second Coming can occur.

    During Bannon’s reign over Breitbart, the website ran articles referring to conservative commentator Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum as “a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.” Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro accused the site of embracing “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism,” and Bannon’s ex-wife has testified in court that Bannon has “said he doesn’t like Jews” and didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews.

    I’ll go with anti-Semitic for $800, Alex.

  34. john430 says:
  35. bandit says:

    TS whiny little b!tchez

  36. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    And I find myself wondering: if the election results had been reversed (Clinton winning the electoral college, Trump the popular vote), would her cover featured “the Divided States Of America?”

    I think we all know the answer to that one.

    Answer: Trump would have sued to have vote recounts in every state that Hillary won.

  37. CSK says:


    Come on, Mr. Trump. You can do better than this with the insults. How about “sniveling pussies” or “limp-wristed losers” or something in that vein? You’re repeating yourself.

  38. Pch101 says:


    Please take your dog to the vet. You’ve probably given him rabies.

  39. Liberl Capitalist says:


    Trump got POTY because of the uproar he caused.

    I, for one, will gladly call Trump POTY.

    POTY rings true.

    Very much a fit. He is POTY.

  40. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    @CSK: You can do better than this with the insults. How about “sniveling pussies” or “limp-wristed losers” or something in that vein?

    It’s wr that make the homophobic insults around here, and he’s very jealous of that privilege.

  41. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I recognize it. My point was that I don’t much care about it – hence the “underwhelmed”.

  42. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Pro-Zionist =/= pro-Jewish.

    And no, it’s not because HE’S some Dominionist nutjob.

    It’s because many of his readers are. Pretty clever trope, all things considered. He gets to dog Jews (and thereby make his Nazi readers happy), be seen as being pro-Israel while also blowing the “when Jesus comes back they’ll all toast in Hell” dogwhistle (which makes his evangelical fruit loop readers happy).

  43. Moderate Mom says:

    @michael reynolds: I see it in my Dentist’s office, right next to the latest issue of Newsweek, that other dying news weekly.

  44. J-Dub says:

    They put him in a pose similar to that of Hitler and positioned him under the M in TIME so that he appears to have devil horns.

  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @john430: And why is Jeremiah Wright racist—because he calls white fwck3ry what it is?

  46. Matt says:

    @J-Dub: The pose was almost completely opposite how the hell is that similar? The only similarity was that they were both sitting like a variety of other covers…

    I didn’t even notice the devil horns and I had to look again for a bit before I even understood the claim. I grew up in a very religious area and all the devil images had tiny horns. So that’s probably what caused me to not see it. Either that or I don’t look that deeply into cover pictures.

  47. Matt says:

    So apparently there’s at least 35 other covers that have the “horns”..