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Is this the most important election yet? | Wiki­media

The elec­tions of 2018 are the most important in our lives. At least, that’s what former Vice Pres­ident Joe Biden thinks (so it must be true, right?): “This is the most important election any of us have voted in so far,” he said last week.

He’s not alone. Last week, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen said the November midterm elec­tions “might be the most important in our lifetime.” And Sen. Cory Booker (D‑N.J.), Demo­c­ratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Demo­c­ratic National Com­mittee Chairman Tom Perez, and MSNBC host Joe Scar­borough have each declared 2018 “the most important election of our lifetime.”

This worn-out phrase makes an appearance every two years, and though some attempt to nuance it by throwing in a vari­ation,  such as “in our life­times” or “in this gen­er­ation,” it’s rarely, if ever, true.

Young voters might be tempted to take this claim seri­ously if 2016 hadn’t also been the most important election of our life­times, and 2012 before that.

It seems the 2014 midterms were only of vital impor­tance to Dennis Prager, the radio talk show host, who also declared the 2012 pres­i­dential election the most important, “pos­sibly since America’s founding.” Of course, there was at least one person who dis­agreed with this assessment: Dennis Prager, from two years before. The 2010 midterm elec­tions were “not simply the most important of my lifetime,” Prager said, but “the most important since the Civil War.”

Isn’t this fun?

Let’s go back even further. In the 1990s, Repub­lican strategist Ralph Reed argued that the need to stop Bill Clinton in 1996 put America “on the brink of the most important election of our lifetime.” In 1984, Ronald Reagan said Amer­icans were facing “the most important election in this nation in 50 years.”

Wouldn’t it be nice, one of these cycles, to have an unim­portant election?

Of course, elec­tions have con­se­quences. Each election leaves a mark on the American political land­scape, preparing the country for its next “most important election.”

The upcoming 2018 midterms cer­tainly matter. Repub­licans could lose the majority in one or both con­gres­sional chambers and Democrats could make big gains in state cap­itals.

But is an election — any election — able to unhinge the American republic as we know it? Michael Anton thought so in 2016, arguing the country was doomed if Repub­licans didn’t vote against Hillary Clinton. “We are headed off a cliff,” Anton wrote in his essay “The Flight 93 Election,” in which he com­pared Repub­licans voting for Trump in 2016 to the brave men and women who sac­ri­ficed their lives to storm the cockpit of a hijacked plane during 9/11.

Again, Anton’s rhetoric isn’t original. The U.S. has driven itself off several cliffs depending on whom you ask. And though the very fate of the country appar­ently rests on each and every election, the U.S. con­tinues to march on, regardless of who wins and who loses.

This “most important” rhetoric isn’t just tiresome; it’s deceitful. Too often, pundits exag­gerate the import of an election to boost voter turnout for the can­didate they favor. And sure enough, it’s working. A new poll con­ducted by Fortune mag­azine found that more than 60 percent of Amer­icans believe the 2018 midterm elec­tions are more important than any other in their lifetime. And of those polled, 67 percent said they are “absolutely certain to vote.”

We’ll probably be stuck voting in the most important election of our life­times for, well, the rest of our lives. (Alas, re-occurring crises are boring.) This begs the question: What qual­ifies an election as “the most important?” And who gets to make the final call? The voters? God? Dennis Prager?

But who knows? Perhaps the 2018 midterms really will be the most important election ever. That is, until 2020.  

Kaylee McGhee is a senior studying pol­itics.