America’s long-term interests are rarely served by near-term electoral strategy.
For instance, new data from the Congressional Budget Office released on Thursday projected that interest on the federal debt will become the second-largest line item in the federal budget this fiscal year, exceeding spending on defense and even on Medicare. Conservatives have warned for ages that unsustainable borrowing would lead to a fiscal doomsday in which debt servicing eventually cannibalizes other national priorities, but neither party wanted to risk the electoral backlash that would have followed from addressing that responsibly.
And so here we are. Doomsday has come sooner than expected.
The behavior of the Republican establishment over the past eight years is another illustration of the point. They accommodated themselves to Donald Trump in 2016, not wanting to alienate their voters by admitting that he’s unfit to be president. They did it again, for the same reason, after he plotted a coup and incited an insurrection. And now they’re doing it a third time despite 91 felony counts pending against him and counting. Their electoral logic is sound—the party can’t win if it’s divided over its leader—but they’ve unleashed a rolling civic disaster in the process whose outcome remains ominously unclear.
“Just win, baby” is a good motto for a football franchise, less good for stewards of the public trust.
But on Thursday the bill came due for Democrats’ own electoral short-sightedness too.