Time has selected its Person of the Year for 2020: President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Time says its decision to select the two leaders, who were recently victorious in an election that Donald Trump continues to deny the reality of, is about the hope for common ground that their partnership offers Americans in a year marked by division and widespread uncertainty about how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I got widely criticized,” Biden recalls, for “saying that we had to not greet Trump with a clenched fist but with more of an open hand. That we weren’t going to respond to hate with hate.” To him, it wasn’t about fighting Trump with righteous vengeance, or probing any deeper rot that might have contributed to his ascent. Biden believed most voters simply wanted reconciliation after four years of combat, that they craved decency, dignity, experience and competence. “What I got most criticized for was, I said we had to unite America,” he says. “I never came off that message.”
Biden had the vision, set the tone and topped the ticket. But he also recognized what he could not offer on his own, what a 78-year-old white man could never provide: generational change, a fresh perspective, and an embodiment of America’s diversity. For that, he needed Kamala Harris: California Senator, former district attorney and state attorney general, a biracial child of immigrants whose charisma and tough questioning of Trump Administration officials electrified millions of Democrats. The Vice President has never before been a woman, or Black, or Asian American. “I will be the first, but I will not be the last,” Harris says in a separate interview. “That’s about legacy, that’s about creating a pathway, that’s about leaving the door more open than it was when you walked in.”
Biden and Harris were selected from a shortlist of Person of the Year finalists which included frontline healthcare workers and Dr. Anthony Fauci (a familiar face for Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic), President Donald Trump, and the movement for racial justice that dominated news and the streets this year in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police.
Time says it selects candidates for its person of the year honor based on who affected the news or our lives the most, for better or worse. The Biden-Harris ticket earned more than 81 million votes in this year’s election, the most ever cast for president. And the groundbreaking significance of Kamala Harris being the first woman and Black person to be elected as vice president is unquestionable. But in a year where the coronavirus upended all of our lives, and most of the summer punctuated by thousands across the country—and the world—marching in protests against the unjust treatment of Black people, it does feel a little hollow to champion Biden and Harris as most pivotal to our lives in 2020 when they haven’t yet had the chance to move on those issues that made this year one that will be remembered.
Still, there were massive celebrations in the wake of the Democratic candidates’ electoral victory in November, mostly because the Biden-Harris win signaled a possible turning point for all the bad that has happened in 2020. And in recognition of the contributions of all those who made a difference this year, Time named frontline healthcare workers and racial justice organizers as Guardians of the Year. Lebron James was also honored by Time as Athlete of the Year for his admirable work to get people to the polls with his nonprofit More Than a Vote.
Trump, a notoriously bad loser, spent years whining about not being chosen for Time’s annual award until he was honored as Person of the Year in 2016 after winning the presidential election. He has yet to respond to this latest loss to Biden and Harris, and his Twitter page on Friday shows he is still most preoccupied with trying to find a way to steal the already-decided 2020 election through litigation.