“An ugly strain of populism reared its head in America this year.” Judging by the opening line, I knew that Foreign Policy magazine’s highly anticipated piece, “The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016,” would be questionable. I expected a showcase of stunningly innovative individuals, or perhaps a testament to a few brave souls who saved innocent lives at the expense of their own. This was not the case.
The opening spread, titled “The Decision Makers,” credits those who have “plow[ed] through political roadblocks.” Who was first on the list? None other than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Of course, as anybody around on November 8th could attest, Hillary Clinton did not plow through political roadblocks (otherwise she would be President Hillary Clinton, right?).
In the neighboring spot is U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, celebrated for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and for “outrunning Donald Trump to save the planet.” Not so fast. A different Foreign Policy article reminds us of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the humanitarian disaster in Syria, and the growing nuclear arsenal of North Korea. Congratulations, Ban Ki-moon!
Up next is U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, heralded for her role as “[the most] forceful and eloquent opponent of North Carolina’s ‘bathroom bill.'” True? Maybe. Effective? Not at all. The fevered and sometimes vicious battle over the “new Jim Crow” is far from over, but for now Ms. Lynch is out and the law still stands. Maybe some recognition for “almost swaying the election, but not quite,” would be more fitting—her tarmac rendezvous with Bill Clinton backfired and ended with a public apology instead of a Democrat victory.
Rounding out the competition is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As the only member still entitled to an official position, perhaps she is deserving of her front page spot. However, while the authors are correct in their statement that Chancellor Merkel “opened Europe to waves of refugees last year,” they are also correct in acknowledging the price she has paid in popular support. Could this be related to Germany’s eight terrorist attacks last year?
Suffice it to say, 2016 was a year that swept some to victory and left others flailing in the dust. Foreign Policy seems to have missed the mark with their famous feature piece, opening with those who floundered instead of led, and sank instead of swim. For them I propose a new working title—”The Leading Participants of 2016.”