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Bernie Sanders was winner of the 2015 TIME magazine’s Person of the Year online poll, yet his name was absent from the shortlist prepared by TIME editors for the final winner of TIME Person of the Year. Sanders got 10.2 percent of the total online votes, five percentage points ahead of his runner-up, Malala Yousafzai.
Republican front runner, Donald Trump, was on the TIME shortlist as were seven other national and international personalities. Sanders’s closest contender for the title, Yousafzai, was also missing from the TIME shortlist. Eventually, the title went to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who, reportedly, was the unanimous choice of the TIME editors.
TIME’s the criterion for the nomination is “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.” “So ideally,” TIME says, “we want our Person of the Year to be both a snapshot of where the world is and a picture of where it’s going. Someone, or in rare cases, something, that feels like a force of history.”
Unlike Sanders, Trump was on the shortlist of Person of the Year title. Indeed, Trump has been shaking things up in the presidential race, but the poll put him in the 14th position well behind Sanders. Doesn’t this show that voters do not attach as much significance to Trump’s message as they do to Sander’s?
Although well behind Sanders, Trump towered over the rest of the Republican field in the online poll. The Republican contenders that figure in the poll were not even close to him − Marco Rubio (37th position), Ben Carson (40th position), Carly Fiorina (53th position), Ted Cruz (55thposition), and Jeb Bush (56th position). The poll had Paul Ryan, who has been eying the presidency, in the 38th position.
Like Sanders, Hillary Clinton was not on the shortlist, but in terms of the online votes she got, she was not even near Sanders. Ending up in the 29th position, Clinton was behind even Trump. While Clinton is running ahead of Sanders in the race for democratic nomination, the voters in the poll seemed to say that she does not exemplify the kind of leadership that they expect from president of the United States.
Angela Merkel, the winner of the Person of the Year award, was 10th in the online poll. Other people on the TIME shortlist did not even make it to the top 10 in the online poll. These were Vladimir Putin: (14th position), Trump (19th position) Caitlyn Jenner (32nd position), Hassan Rouhani (45th position), and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (52nd position). Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, was on the TIME shortlist but did not figure in the poll. Also shortlisted were Black Lives Matter activists but they were not acknowledged in the poll possibly because they embody a movement, not a personality.
TIME acknowledged that Sanders has helped define the presidential race and mobilized the party’s liberal support. Indeed, if anyone feels like a force of history, it is Sanders who has attracted bigger crowds and gathered more small donations in the history of U.S. presidential elections. The agenda Sanders is proposing is bold and ambitious, and he has already changed the direction of the Democratic Party, forcing Clinton to embrace many of his ideas. In his respect, as David Axelrod said, he has already won.
While a chorus of mainstream media maintains that Sanders is not electable, the very fact that the online poll participants nominated to him for Person of the Year title reflects that a large segment of population believes that the Sanders campaign is consequential. In fact, Sanders might well win the 2016 elections, as many of his ardent supports believe.
While the TIME poll was unscientific, the selection process of TIME was also subjective. If TIME is asking Internet users to express their views by taking part in the poll, it is bizarre that it should ignore those views entirely when it comes to the final selection. In fact, TIME would be well advised to give more weight to opinions of the voters in the online poll since that could enhance the level of participation, giving greater credence to Person of the Year selection.