The most important election of our lifetime

It already happened back in 2016

Every presidential election is described as the most important of our lifetime, and the 2024 race will be no exception.

People mock this cliché, but on some level, I think it does capture something significant — because the United States pairs zero-sum non-proportional elections with a rising level of polarization in a two-party system, there really is a structural increase in the consequentialness of elections. But no trend is perfectly monotonic, and something like the 2004 race (which felt very consequential at the time) looks in retrospect to have been relatively low stakes. Liberals believed deeply in our hearts that Bush would do new terrible things if given a second term, but Social Security privatization fizzled, he didn’t bomb Iran, and while something legitimately terrible did actually happen in the form of the Global Financial Crisis, it feels unlikely that John Kerry would have averted it.

Somewhat similarly, I think we understate — even in retrospect — how big of a deal 2…

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