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Obviously, if the award is to go to the person who had the greatest impact on global events last year, it shouldn’t go to Sandra Fluke. Obviously. I mean, come on, Angela Merkel and Mario Draghi have undoubtedly had more of an effect on the world last year than, well, just about anybody, so by any logic the award ought to go to them. Another entirely defensible choice would be to award it to President Francois Hollande of France as his win this year was part of an increasingly turbulent popular rebuke of austerity and right-wing governments in Europe, one that has buffeted not only Southern Europe but also Spain, the Netherlands, Britain and even Germany itself a little bit (though Merkel’s biggest obstacle to remaining in power isn’t domestic spending cuts, which are practically nonexistent, so much as that the usually hopeless German Left has gotten its act together while her own coalition partners are falling apart). Over the next three, four years, the effects of austerity and a double-dip recession are going to have a much bigger impact on more people than Fluke ever possibly could, and if trends continue new rightist governments in Britain and Spain will be swept out ignominiously after a single term. Considering the extent to which the European right consolidated power almost everywhere in the 2000s, this turnaround would be incredibly dramatic and meaningful, and Hollande’s victory could, if it plays out that way, wind up being seen as the catalyst. Could also give it to outgoing China President Hu Jintao, who has run the biggest country in the world for years, and who most Americans (myself included) probably could stand to learn a thing or two about. My guess is that the guy setting economic policy for a country of a billion people is going to have more impact than any figure in domestic American politics (except perhaps for the president).

But Time is an American magazine, and Americans’ interest in foreign affairs seems to be even less than usual at the moment. So if you’re only going to focus on domestic and social matters in America, then sure, Fluke is one of the more defensible choices you could make in recent years. Her testimony was mostly straightforward and utterly non-revolutionary, but the utterly bizarre Republican reaction to it really made the whole War on Women concept stick. For reasons surpassing rational comprehension, they really really hated her, to the extent that only deeply ingrained sexism could possibly account for that reaction. Yeah, yeah, I know, the Duggars and people like that hate their birth control, but since Republican women in the suburbs aren’t having twelve kids, clearly contraception is being used in that community. It was sexist and was seen as such by most people, and Republicans’ attempts to tear her down exposed the limits of what the rage machine could realistically accomplish (and perhaps emboldened future Flukes to speak out, since she’s shown that the wurlitzer can be withstood, even turned back a bit). It’s interesting because it really seems as though the politics of the abortion issue have become completely inverted this year–several years ago, Democrats fretted endlessly about offending Middle-American values, to such an extent that they recruited Bob Casey, a pro-lifer, to run a campaign against doomed Sen. Rick Santorum. In Pennsylvania! It’s insane to think about that happening now. More than any other individual (excepting perhaps Gov. Bob McDonnell), this is Fluke’s doing, and that is an accomplishment. If you have to pander to American self-obsession, Time, there are worse ways of doing it. Though I’m not sure anyone takes these awards seriously anymore, as my brother for years listed “Time’s 2006 Man Of The Year” on his resume because of this:

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