Patience on don't ask, don't tell
Several months ago, I made a bet with a friend. He was despairing of Don't Ask Don't Tell ever being repealed and insisting that Obama wasn't doing enough to shepherd along its demise. I urged patience and promised that Democrats would repeal the law by the end of the year, or else I (in true Obama fashion) would buy him a beer.
Flash forward to Tuesday. I receive a text: "U got some 'splainin to do on behalf of Obama..." My friend was referring to the defeat of the defense authorization bill, which contained not just a repeal of DADT, but also the DREAM Act and an end to the practice of anonymous holds in the Senate. No doubt, the Republican filibuster was a blow to the progressive agenda.
But while I may still end up owing my friend a beer, the year isn't over yet. A lame duck session in December, with some lawmakers "liberated" by the election to vote their conscience, will be an opportunity to finish unfinished business. And the Pentagon review of a DADT repeal will be completed soon, giving cover to skittish lawmakers who didn't want to preempt military leadership on such a touchy subject.
But even if DADT doesn't get repealed this year, progressives and gay rights activist ought not use that as justification for sitting out the election. They certainly shouldn't tone down their criticisms either -indeed, it is politically helpful for Democrats to be seen drawing fire from the left. But the fact is, the best way to end discrimination in the military now or later is to deliver a solid repudiation to the gloating Republicans' dreams of House domination.
Gays have a right to be angry, and they should say so, but this is a moment that requires long-term, strategic thinking. And strategically speaking, the worst thing that could happen for the gay agenda would be a Republican party, who just inserted anti-gay language into their Pledge to America, with the House under its control and the political winds at it's back. Like it or not, the long-term happiness of gays in America is caught up in the short-term success of the Democrats at the polls. For my friend, this may be a bitter pill to swallow, but at the very least, he'll have a beer to wash it down with.
October 11, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
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