Pundits and political observers invoke the cliche so reflexively and so often that it no longer has any meaning.
Candidates can be forgiven for misjudging or exaggerating the import of their own electoral contests. Of course Newt Gingrich thought the race he joined was fundamentally transformative. But what inspires pundits to declare that "this is the most important election of our lives"? Dennis Prager is the latest to do so. "The usual description of presidential elections -- 'the most important in our lifetime' -- is true this time," he wrote in his Creator's Syndicate column. "In fact, it may be the most important election since the Civil War, and possibly since America's founding."
That's a sweeping claim!
Why does he think the contest between Obama and Romney is possibly more important than the elections that brought us Lincoln, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Reagan? "Election Day 2012 will not be a presidential election. It will be a plebiscite. Americans will not only be voting for a president .... They will be participating in a plebiscite on the definition of America," Prager wrote. "If Americans reelect the Democrat, Barack Obama, they will have announced that America should be like Western European countries -- governed by left-wing values. Americans will have decided that America's value system -- 'Liberty,' 'In God We Trust,' 'E Pluribus Unum' -- should be replaced. The election in November is therefore a plebiscite on the American Revolution."