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Old 10-18-2019, 01:17 PM
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Characterizing every election as "the most important in our lifetime"


We're still over a year away from Election Day in 2020 and already the "This is the most important election of our lifetime" battle cry is in full gear.

Problem is, 2018 was called the most important election of our lifetime.

And so was 2016.

Even in 2012, The Atlantic noted that it was time to stop using this cliche (and yes, 2012 was dubbed as such as well.)

In 2004 and 2011, the New York Times gathered statements characterizing this or that election as "the most important."


Regardless of the outcome in 2020, we can expect 2024, 2028 and 2032 to be considered "the most important of our lifetimes" as well, when they arrive.

IMHO, this creates a boy-cried-wolf effect, and also turns voters cynical. This sort of rhetoric should be used very sparingly. If someone wants to say 2020 is the most important - OK, it does indeed have higher stakes than others before - but then none of the elections from 2000-2016 should have featured this sort of rhetoric - nor should any of the elections after 2020.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
This sort of rhetoric should be used very sparingly.
I would ask you to clarify what sort of rhetoric should be used extensively.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:22 PM
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Of course every election is the most important one in our lifetimes. In the same sense that every heartbeat is the most important one in our lifetimes.

After all, something goes wrong, it could be the last one.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:24 PM
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At least it's appropriate to say this time. And as time moves forward, the next one might be so, too. Just like the last one was.
ETA: And, what Tatterdemalion said.

Last edited by bobot; 10-18-2019 at 01:25 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:29 PM
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They all could be. Importance is in the eye of the beholder. Each election in the past would have been the most important election up to that point for many people. It is a pointless thing to say, but it's virtually a certainty that some people will see the next election as the most important election in their lifetime. In this particular case, I hope it will be.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:44 PM
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There is little doubt in my mind that the 2016 election will end up being more important than 2020. Preventing Trump getting into office in the first place, trumps( heh )preventing a second term. I think to a significant extent the most important damage his administration could cause, short of a truly apocalyptic war( which I don't think is likely ), is damage to the national psyche and that I think that he has already done.

Things might get worse in a second term, but letting the genie out of the bottle in the first place was the big mistake. Stuffing him back in again to limit the damage is certainly important, but not as important.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 10-18-2019 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:51 PM
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It's like when Bart Simpson complained to Homer that today was the worst day of his life.
Homer consoled him by explaining: It's the worst day of your life...so far.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:54 PM
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I would ask you to clarify what sort of rhetoric should be used extensively.
Rhetoric like "Brush your teeth" and "You can't have your dessert until you finish your dinner."
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Old 10-18-2019, 02:23 PM
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While I agree that hearing that each election is "the most important in our lifetime" may be counterproductive in terms of driving voter participation, I also think that, as the American electorate becomes increasingly polarized, the pace of technological change becomes increasingly rapid, and the threat of irreversible climate catastrophe becomes increasingly imminent, it may well be both entirely accurate and entirely necessary to deem each subsequent election "the most important in our lifetime." (Other increasingly-important areas of concern such as terrorism, economic inequality, geopolitical tensions, nuclear/WMD proliferation, public health threats such as Ebola/H1N1 influenza/etc. epidemics, et cetera could provide additional justification, but I figured the Rule of Threes was good enough.)

In the same way that, for someone free-climbing up the face of El Capitan, each subsequent handhold is more important for survival than the last, each election in an increasingly-polarized nation living in an increasingly-worrisome world is, in fact, more important than the last. But yes, there will be those who come to discount that designation, having heard it repeatedly.
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Last edited by mjmlabs; 10-18-2019 at 02:25 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
There is little doubt in my mind that the 2016 election will end up being more important than 2020. Preventing Trump getting into office in the first place, trumps( heh )preventing a second term. I think to a significant extent the most important damage his administration could cause, short of a truly apocalyptic war( which I don't think is likely ), is damage to the national psyche and that I think that he has already done.

Things might get worse in a second term, but letting the genie out of the bottle in the first place was the big mistake. Stuffing him back in again to limit the damage is certainly important, but not as important.
I wish I could believe that "Trump freed from any thoughts or concerns of re-election" would be better-behaved than Trump in his first term, but I can't. Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I think I'm a realist ... at least in that regard. I think things getting worse in a potential second term is pretty much a certainty, rather than a possibility.

Last edited by mjmlabs; 10-18-2019 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 02:35 PM
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I'm with Tamerlane. I called the 2016 election the most important in my lifetime but I didn't use the term for any other election before or since. It was more important in 2016 to prevent the slow-rolling disaster we are living through now.
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Old 10-18-2019, 02:37 PM
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Many Presidential elections are not overly important. Did it really matter much whether Carter or Ford won in '76? Bush-41 or Clinton in '92? Bush-43's election in 2000 didn't seem like a disaster until Cheney showed what he'd transmogrified into. Even the clown team of McCain-Palin might have muddled through had they won in 2008 — perhaps even passing a version of ACA with bipartisan support.

But historians in the future will lump the election-year of 2016 with 1861, 1929, 1941 and 2001 as particularly black and tragic years. As Tamerlane says, the 2020 election may be overshadowed by 2016. But it will still be the 2nd-most important Presidential election of my long life, leaving 1980 in a distant third-place.

Last edited by septimus; 10-18-2019 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 04:03 PM
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2020 is more important than 2018 and 2016. Each day these antidemocratic goons are in power is another day spent tearing down the guardrails against authoritarianism and kleptocracy.
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Old 10-20-2019, 09:05 PM
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My favorite variation on this is “This is the most important election in our lifetime, because several people on the Supreme Court are really old!!” Absolutely unprecedented, I tell you!
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Old 10-21-2019, 07:15 AM
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2020 is more important than 2018 and 2016. Each day these antidemocratic goons are in power is another day spent tearing down the guardrails against authoritarianism and kleptocracy.
This.

And 2020 is more important than 2018 and 2016 because we really are near the tipping point of now-or-never in terms of doing something effective about climate change.

I hate to say it, but if Hillary had gotten another 100,000 votes or so in the right places in PA/MI/WI and won in 2016, we'd have probably been screwed in terms of climate change. The 2017-18 Congress would have had the same partisan composition, and would have spent those years investigating her every move. The 2018 midterms would not have gone well for the Dems; there would have been no 'Resistance.' Assuming re-election in 2020, she'd spend her entire Presidency with the GOP controlling both houses of Congress. And prospects for 2024 would have been iffy.

Now, at least, we've got a fighting chance.
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Old 10-21-2019, 09:02 AM
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I'm getting quite pessimistic about climate change. As long as one party is firmly in denial and refuses to take any action that might have an adverse affect on anyone's stock portfolio, the US will not do its share in fighting global warming. Not that the US is the only bad actor, Brazil's deforestation is also very significant.

I believe 2020 is the most significant event in history and could prove to be the death knell for democratic government in the US. About 30% of the population is perfectly fine with authoritarian rule, as long as the strongman hates the same people that they do. If we think Donald is batshit crazy now, just wait till he doesn't have to worry about re-election.
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Old 10-21-2019, 10:54 AM
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2020 is a really important election because it's essentially a replay of the 2004 election. It's asking if the American voters are willing to accept a President who's doing a terrible job and endorse his poor performance. By doing so, we're sending a message to future Presidents that they won't be held accountable for doing a terrible job.

Politicians need to know that if they screw up, they will get voted out of office. In some cases, fear of losing their job is the only thing that keeps them from screwing up. So if we remove that fear and tell politicians they will get re-elected no matter how badly they do, we're giving them a green light to do wrong.
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Old 10-22-2019, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus View Post
Many Presidential elections are not overly important. Did it really matter much whether Carter or Ford won in '76? Bush-41 or Clinton in '92? Bush-43's election in 2000 didn't seem like a disaster until Cheney showed what he'd transmogrified into. Even the clown team of McCain-Palin might have muddled through had they won in 2008 — perhaps even passing a version of ACA with bipartisan support.

But historians in the future will lump the election-year of 2016 with 1861, 1929, 1941 and 2001 as particularly black and tragic years. As Tamerlane says, the 2020 election may be overshadowed by 2016. But it will still be the 2nd-most important Presidential election of my long life, leaving 1980 in a distant third-place.
I imagine if Ford got over the line in 76' and had four years as president in his own right then there would have been no Reagan.

1) Ford probably would have suffered the same economic crisis as Carter since many of the problems were years in the making and were beyond the president's control (it was Carter who appointed Volcker to the FED who is credited with curbing inflation towards the end of his term and through the 80s)
2) Ford was old and Reagan was older. GOP might have wanted/needed a new face.
3) Ford was a moderate and I doubt Reagan's populism to shift right would have got traction if he was running to be a successor not a replacement.
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