As announced early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump will be America's new president-elect, and like those who came before him, Trump gets his own cover of TIME. According to the magazine's editors, this cover "captures the energy of the supporters who propelled Trump to victory." It features a snapshot taken after Hillary Clinton called him to concede the race. The image features Trump smiling from the podium at his victory party, but what it really shows is his supporters — their hands raised in the air with some holding signs and others holding phones. Their individual cameras are picking up the historic moment that no one seemed to expect, except for his loyal followers. But for so many, this cover is about seeing Trump's win from the outside looking in.
What makes this image so significant? It's a wide shot, taken from behind the crowd of supporters. Trump is in the background, peeking through this sea of excited Americans who feel their voices have finally been heard. To the viewer, Trump feels so far away, which feels representative of how those who did not vote for this presidential candidate — the first candidate to not have any political or military experience — must feel the day after his surprising win.
On Instagram, Time posted a clip that runs through every single election cover they've published, beginning with General Joseph Stilwell's Election Issue in 1944, after he had been called home from WWII by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. What you notice is that most of these covers — especially the ones of modern time — is that they focus on the candidate themselves. John F. Kennedy got a full page photo after being elected in 1960. Jimmy Carter stares back at us from his election special cover with the words "What I'll Do" taking over the right corner, while a 1980 cover of Ronald Reagan has him staring off with the words "A Fresh Start" stamped on his forehead. George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama also got covers all to themselves in either pre- or post-election issues.
The only ones that share the space with someone else are those covers that speak to something unexpected. When George W. Bush and Al Gore were still trying to figure out who won Florida in 2000, Time's cover called it the "Wildest Election in History." The image was the two candidates staring at one another, but the real focus was the shot of a group of protestors, one holding a sign reading, "I Demand A Revote Now."
That's exactly why it's so fitting that Time didn't use this election cover to show off the potential 45th U.S. President. We have all seen him before; he's been nabbing covers for 40 years. First as a businessman, then as a reality show star, and lastly as a politician who will lead America. Trump's photo couldn't possibly tell the story of this election, which may soon usurp 2000 for the wildest election title. Or at least, it could be an easy comparison for pundits, since once again, as the Los Angeles Times reported, the winner of the election did not actually win the popular vote.
This election was won by a group of people that we may have seen, but never paid any real attention to — TIME and most other media outlets included. This cover is both a celebration for those who are happy with the presidential results and a lesson to those who aren't. Even now, the audience's faces are hidden, but there's no mistaking that they are there. They can no longer be ignored and this cover quietly makes that point, but loud enough for us all to hear.