If you believe that a midterm election in a time of relative peace and economic prosperity is the most important in history or even the most important in your fortunate lifetime, you either are oblivious to history or don’t have a single nonpartisan synapse firing in your skull.
Yet it’s now become standard for partisans to claim that every presidential election is the most important ever.
Seeing as many people view the president as an emperor, perhaps they believe it. That’s one thing. But now we have people foisting this insufferable cliche on us for House elections, which happen every two years in every single district.
The 2018 election is “the most important election of our lives,” writes a hysterical David Corn at Mother Jones. Prognosticator Charlie Cook explains, “Everybody always says, ‘Oh, the upcoming election’s the most important since Moby-Dick was a guppy.’ This one actually is really important.” “The most important election of your life,” tweets President Donald Trump’s spurned bestie Joe Scarborough. “The most important election any of us have voted in so far,” declares Joe Biden, who notes that “everything” is at stake in 2018.
“The most important election of our lifetime,” says Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. And Democratic National Chairman Tom Perez. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And former President Barack Obama.
As anyone who’s been paying attention already knows, this is utter nonsense, because 2016 had the most important election ever.
“I believe this may be the most important election of our lifetimes,” Hillary Clinton told us. Vice President Mike Pence assured America much the same. “Why 2016 may actually be the most important election of our lifetime,” a headline from The Hill read. Bloomberg Businessweek agreed. So did The Nation. “2016: The most important election since 1932,” declared the esteemed Brookings Institution. “The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime,” read a Franklin Graham headline. “This Really Might Be the Most Important Election Ever,” The New Republic added.
It really might have been. Though it surely was not so important as the 2012 election, which was “the most important election of our lifetime,” according to Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan agreed. “The most important election in our lifetime,” Jon Huntsman noted. The highest-rated cable news personality in America at the time, Bill O’Reilly, said the same. This is “the most important election since 1860,” Newt Gingrich added.
It seems that “the most important election in the history of the galaxy” is a notion that is mostly, although not exclusively, embraced by those out of power. Take 2008.
“This is certainly the most important election in my lifetime—not just because I’m running,” said an unconvincing Obama. Biden, who’s in the running for all-time platitude hits leader, explained, “So when people say ‘this is the single most important election in my lifetime,’ they’re exactly right.” This was the “most important election in our lifetimes,” agreed Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson.
“My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime,” John Kerry intoned in 2004. John Edwards agreed. Rep. John Lewis yelled the same thing. “The most important election in (our) lives,” 74 percent of Americans nodded in an ABC News poll. Bruce Springsteen said so, as well.
The National Rifle Association’s then-president, Charlton Heston, described the 2000 George W. Bush vs. Al Gore contest as “the most important election since the Civil War.” Rush Limbaugh did him one better: “No question about it. This is the most important election in our history.”
Bill Clinton, on the other hand, explained eight years earlier that 1992 was “the most important election in a generation.” Robert C. Byrd, still cheering for Democrats in 1988, said it “may be the most important election of (the) century.”
Walter Mondale told a crowd in 1984 that his contest was “the most important election of our lives.” President Ronald Reagan concurred, saying that Americans were facing the “most important election in this nation in 50 years.” Nancy Reagan, though, who lived through two world wars and a couple of other major conflicts, thought the 1980 election was the most important election of her life.
As elections go, 1976 was “one of the most vital in the history of America,” explained President Gerald Ford. Both Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy believed the 1960 contest was the most important. “I believe, my friends, that we are faced with the most important election in the history of the country,” said President Harry Truman in 1952.
Before the 1888 election between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, The New York Times claimed, “The republic is approaching what is to be one of the most important elections in its history.” In 1856, Stephen Douglas said it was the most important election since 1800. And maybe he was right.
But this midterm is certainly not the most important election in history—or your lifetime. Unless, that is, you’re younger than 2.