Time Magazine has just named President Obama as their Person of the Year. This has been, of course, controversial, and for the usual reasons: much like with the President’s Nobel Peace Prize, one has to wonder what he actually did to deserve it. Surely getting reelected is important, but beside the point; what matters is what you do in office, and I just don’t see much in the way of achievement by the President this year, in which he spent most of it either campaigning or doing nothing to avoid rocking the boat before the election.
But Person of the Year is more of a measure of influence than achievement, and this is not something anyone can measure. After all, Hitler, Stalin, and Khomeini were given the same “honor.” Those of us who don’t work at Time will have to find our own way of understanding the year.
The President is the story of the year in the sense of historical significance, however. The 2012 American elections might go down in history as the tipping point at which it became impossible for America to right its course.
The country was in a bad way before the election, and before Obama’s election in 2008. The country’s three most central problems—government spending, cultural decline, and vulnerability to terrorism—are not the fault of the president, but he has done nothing to solve any of them. 2012 was the year when the American people gave the stamp of approval to all of his policies: Obamacare, the Contraception Mandate, Sandra Fluke, the stimulus, and soaking the rich, all things that would have sounded like lunacy to a center-right country just a quarter of a century ago. And he defeated an eminently qualified candidate in Governor Mitt Romney, who, in the debates (in which he could actually speak to the American people without a liberal filter), made the best case for conservatism since Ronald Reagan. Did John McCain, George Bush, or Bob Dole ever say anything so bold as, “government does not create jobs!”?
We might never be the same, and after the end of the Clinton administration in 2024, we may look back on 2012 as when it all changed.
Why did the country change? Was it because we discovered something? Were liberal policies vindicated, shown to be wise after all? Of course not. Did science show us that gay marriage is equal to actual marriage, abortion to be not the killing of a child but the expulsion of dead flesh, money to grow on trees, healthcare something that can be government-created? Of course not. The laws of reality are the same as ever, but we have changed.