The trouble is that people do not pinch pennies in a crisis. What they want and need is support to keep them from going under, and they expect the federal government to provide it. Herbert Hoover prioritized balancing the budget over federal spending in the depths of the Great Depression, even going so far as to veto a multibillion-dollar relief bill in the election year of 1932. He got shellacked in one of the greatest landslides in U.S. history, a political debacle that made the Democratic Party the natural majority for nearly 40 years.

Republicans should instead focus on delivering what people need rather than providing everything interest groups want. People without work and with no prospect of getting work need help. People with good jobs do not need another round of federal stimulus checks. Schools that have to spend more money to provide safe in-person instruction or to develop workable remote learning options need help. Schools that aren’t providing real, effective education alternatives don’t. Similar distinctions can be made with regard to virtually every proposal being floated to ride out the pandemic.