The most important election of your lifetime?
Yes, and the next one will be even more so. Here’s why
The political importance of Pennsylvania was underscored over the weekend as no less than three presidents landed in the swing state in the final weekend of campaigning. President Joe Biden joined former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump in the Keystone State, and the three presidents agreed on one central message to voters: This is the most consequential election of your lifetime.
It’s easy to roll your eyes at the comment, but it’s not an exaggeration. This election really is the most important ballot of your lifetime. By the way, barring some completely unforeseen development, the next election will be even more important. That pattern is almost certain to continue. Why?
A bit of perspective is in order. In the first place, I make no claim that this election is more significant than, say, the elections of 1788 or 1860. We will put the elections of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in a special category. But our own age has brought a new political dynamic, and Christians need to understand what this means for citizenship.
If you have a bit of time on your hands, compare the platforms adopted by the Democrats and Republicans in 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon squared off. That election was famously close, but so were the party platforms. Gov. George Wallace of Alabama would later complain that there was not a “dime’s worth of difference” between the two parties. He was not wrong.
The two platforms are so similar that it takes a skilled political eye to tell them apart. If anything, the platform adopted by the Democrats in 1960 was more conservative than the Republican version. It was the Democrats who warned of a “missile gap” with the Soviets. By 1964, they demanded a cut in the capital gains tax. What’s missing from the platforms? Any mention of abortion, the redefinition of marriage, the LGBTQ revolution, etc. Those divisive and urgent moral issues remained on the horizon, but not for long.
Everything began to change in the 1960s, and a key turning point came in 1968. Nixon, who narrowly (and controversially) lost to Kennedy in 1960, defeated Hubert Humphrey and won the White House in 1968. But the big news was the fact that a resurgent left gained control of the Democratic Party in the aftermath of Humphrey’s defeat. Social pressures brought by protests against the Vietnam War and the births of feminism, the sexual revolution, and identity politics led to a redefinition of the Democratic Party. Nixon’s landslide victory over liberal Democratic Sen. George McGovern (Nixon won 49 states) in 1972 put a damper on the Democrats’ move leftward, but only temporarily.
Fast forward to 1980 and the “Reagan Revolution.” Nixon had adopted a position against abortion, and the 1976 Republican platform mentioned the issue. But the big move came when Reagan converted to the pro-life cause and wrote the issue into the platform with new emphasis. Reagan won his own landslide victory, and subsequent Republican platforms would grow ever more pro-life.
On the Democratic side, the opposite pattern was emerging. By the time we arrive at the 2016 presidential election, the Republicans were demanding pro-life policies while the Democrats advocated for abortion on demand and called for taxpayers to pay for them.
At this point, the two parties face off over an entire constellation of issues, ranging across a predictable range of moral, cultural, social, economic, and political issues. The two parties agreed on most things in 1960 but agree on almost nothing in 2022. LGBTQ issues? Religious liberty? Affirmative action? Immigration? Size of government? Defense policies? At this point, the two parties can hardly agree on what time it is.
Will Congress vote to codify same-sex marriage and abortion rights? That will be decided in this election. President Biden promised that if Democrats control both houses of Congress, the first bill he will sign will be a federal guarantee of abortion rights. The same holds for federal legislation to codify a federal version of same-sex marriage. The bill brought by Democrats to the House explicitly eliminated any right of citizens to appeal on grounds of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The left is solidly in control of the Democratic Party at the national level, even as the Republican Party has shifted farther right. There is no mistaking the comprehensive and opposite directions taken by the two parties and their candidates. The stakes will be higher in 2022 than they were even in 2020 when Joe Biden ran as a moderate. Moderation marks neither party in 2022, for the issues now at stake resist any middle way.
The partisan division of our day reveals a more basic worldview divide. With each national election cycle, the divide grows deeper and the issues loom larger. Biological males competing as girls and women on sports teams? This election may well determine that question in terms of national policy and law.
They aren’t lying. This election is the most consequential of your lifetime. The next one will be even more consequential. Wake up and smell the coffee. This isn’t 1960.
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These daily articles have become part of my steady diet. —BarbaraSign up to receive the WORLD Opinions email newsletter each weekday for sound commentary from trusted voices.