Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: Most important election of our lifetime? Again?

A ballot is a blur as it makes its way through a mail sorting machine on Tuesday, Nov 2, 2021, at the Spokane County Elections Office in Spokane, Wash. Election Day is Tuesday, and time is running short for voters to turn in their ballots.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
A ballot is a blur as it makes its way through a mail sorting machine on Tuesday, Nov 2, 2021, at the Spokane County Elections Office in Spokane, Wash. Election Day is Tuesday, and time is running short for voters to turn in their ballots. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

If the steady stream of campaign commercials are to be believed – admittedly a questionable hypothesis – Tuesday’s election is the most important in our lifetime. Or possibly in recorded history.

One side contends that their collective losses could lead to an end to elections as we know them and the republic itself. The other suggests the country needs to back their candidates or become a crime-ridden hellscape where a tank of gasoline or a full basket of groceries will require a second mortgage.

In either case, we’re facing the end of the world as we know it, to borrow a line from R.E.M.

In almost a half-century of voting and nearly as many years covering elections, it would be hard for me to point to one in which some candidate or campaign didn’t claim at some point that it was the most important election in my lifetime. Usually, they meant it was the most important election in their lifetime because they really, really wanted the office they were seeking, or to pass an issue they were backing or defeat one they were opposing.

Sometimes the claim was on the national level. In 1972, Democrat George McGovern charged it was the most important election because President Richard Nixon had promised four years earlier to end the Vietnam War and so far had not. He ran a bad campaign, lost in a landslide.

In 1980, with inflation in double digits and American hostages in Tehran, Republicans made the case that the country was teetering on the edge of an abyss. Ronald Reagan won in a landslide, the GOP captured the Senate, as well as the Washington Legislature and the governor’s mansion. Four years later, Democrats claimed Reagan had the country in a dangerous arms race with the Soviet Union and gave voters the first chance to vote for a woman vice president. Reagan won in an even bigger landslide with his “morning in America” campaign.

Some supporters of Ross Perot in 1992 thought his independent campaign for president was the most important in their lifetime. Some supporters of Barack Obama in 2008, Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 thought the same thing.

In 1974, Democrats pointed to the Watergate scandal to convince voters it was time to clean up government, and gained seats in the House and Senate.

In 1994, Republicans used the “Contract with America” to convince voters it was time to clean up the House and end 40 years of Democratic control. They won big, but the contract generally went unfulfilled.

In 2010, the tea party movement convinced some voters the national debt and federal deficit were leading the country to rack and ruin. Their conservative populist movement helped the GOP regain control of the House, although the national debt continued to grow.

Many state initiatives were described as the salvation or ruination of the state, whether they involved limitations on taxes or changes to existing state laws on topics ranging from abortion to guns.

Washington voters approved physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and later same-sex marriage, despite dire warnings by opponents. They legalized recreational marijuana over the objections of many of their elected officials – none of whom has since objected to the influx of tax dollars – and the ominous predictions of law enforcement leaders, which have proven to be overblown.

These examples, however, aren’t meant to prove that doomsday predictions offered this year can’t possibly come true. I don’t have a crystal ball, and it’s logical to assume that if people keep predicting the apocalypse over and over, eventually someone’s going to be right.

Instead, it’s a suggestion that whether you vote because you believe it will make things better or because you believe it will keep things from getting worse, you’re right. The only way to be wrong is not to vote.

A reminder

If you are registered to vote in Washington, you should have received your ballot in the mail a couple of weeks ago. It has to be marked, put inside the two envelopes, with the outer envelope signed and dated, and either mailed or deposited in a drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday. If it’s mailed, it has to be postmarked by Tuesday, so at this point it might be better to take it to the post office rather than stick it out for your mail carrier to pick up.

If you lost your ballot, you can get a replacement at your county elections office. In Spokane, that’s at 1033 W. Gardner Ave. There’s also a Voter Service Center in the Spokane Valley at the CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place. Both are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

If you are eligible to vote but not registered, you can sign up at your county elections office during regular business hours until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

More from this author