Is this the most important election of our lifetime? If it is, then for conservatives like me, it will have been the ninth or tenth such election in recent memory.
Were all those elections so vital? Some were important, but not in the way we often think. There was a joke after the 1964 election which went something like this:
"Everybody told me in 1964 that if I voted for Goldwater, there would be riots in the streets and we would be stuck fighting a bloody land war in Asia. Well, I voted for Goldwater, and they were right!"
The elections between 1964 and 1980, in retrospect, seem fuzzy and trivial. What did it matter in 1968 that Nixon beat Humphrey? Nixon legitimized two vile Marxists empires ("Only Nixon can go to China."). He created an FDR-like alphabet soup of domestic agencies which plague us to this day. Nixon appointed Harry Blackmun, author of Roe v. Wade, to the Supreme Court. Nixon committed American boys to fighting a no-win war in Vietnam. Oh, and Nixon tarred conservatives with his own scandals.
Did it matter that Carter beat Ford in 1976? Ford gave us the dumbest economic plan imaginable with his WIN, or "Whip Inflation Now," buttons. Ford obscenely refused to meet with Alexander Solzhenitsyn out of fear of offending Stalin's successors. Ford also appointed John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court.
Would America have been clearly better if Bush I beat Clinton in 1992? Bush had twiddled while the People's Republic crushed a national uprising which would have been truly important. He broke his "read my lips" no-tax pledge. His sole real accomplishment was putting Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, but before Bush did that, he put the odious David Souter there.
Yes, McGovern, Carter, and Clinton were dreadful, but at least they were not "our" candidates. Without becoming overly cynical, every presidential election is touted as vital to the survival of America. Surely everyone is saying that about 2012 as well -- but is it all that important?
Ending the threat of socialized medicine is vital, but if the Supreme Court does not strike major portions of the law down before November, the next president will be able to repeal the law only with sixty Republicans in the Senate, so the Senate races are as important as the presidential race.
Obama is tinkering with big cuts in national defense, but every other conventional military threat is mousy compared to our armed forces: that is not because of weapons, but because we have easily the best-trained, most battle-hardened, and most motivated conventional militaries around today -- or, for that matter, at any time in modern history. A nuclear Iran would be horrific, but that issue will be resolved one way or the other before January 2013.
The proportion of Americans living off government is near some "tipping point" in which the workers are outnumbered by the loafers, but actually that tipping point was reached decades ago. The cure is to do what Reagan did and create opportunities for ordinary Americans to begin to succeed again, and that, like repealing ObamaCare, requires a true conservative majority at the federal level, not just winning the White House.
Is the world slipping off into global chaos? Will our debt crush us to death? Yes, if we do nothing, but House Republicans can already decline to raise the debt ceiling. The residual wealth of our nation is as vast as our natural entrepreneurial spirit. The remarkable thing about our nation when it recovers is how much faster and more grandly we restore the dream of our nation when we want to do so.
So is this election the most important in our lifetime? It can be if a ticket of strong conservatives leads the Republican Party in November to a big enough victory to push dramatic changes through Congress (especially the Senate). That is the key. Obama already is a spent force, a puerile nonentity whose legacy will last as long as Carter's legacy lasted after Reagan began to lead us.
The Goldwater nomination in 1964 was a victory, even as the left tried to persuade us that it was not. The left was the last part of America to see in 1980 that Reagan would not only sweep to the Republican nomination, but sweep into the White House as well. The truly important presidential elections are those in which Americans can embrace robust conservatism. If that happens in November, this could be truly be the most important election in our lifetime - but only if that happens.