“Historic” says the NYT today. Well, it does in my dead tree version, anyway.
So let’s count all the positives. First, the President has been proven right, strategically and tactically. It is much, much more likely to settle the question of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell once and for all having repealed it legislatively–not through executive order, not through the courts. While everybody agreed in principle, many people (including me) agreed pragrmatically as well, the frequency with which bills and appointments have either failed completely or been gutted led many people to doubt the legislative goal line could be crossed. Failing that (and it looked like failure, recently) better to have the courts and an executive order.
Moreover, the White House used the same tactics on DADT as they used on health care–lining up all the interested parties first, like the military brass–and then put forward legislation with broad support outside the chambers. While there is some disagreement about whether this worked for health care, it worked really well here. In the end it became very difficult for the Republicans to hold their caucus to a filibuster in the face of recommendations from the military itself that the military would not be harmed. So there was vindication for the President’s approach of finding consensus on policy changes.
Second, this was a big win for the Democratic wing of the party, and a very big win for the left wing blogosphere. Atrios pointed out yesterday the left blogosphere has been both united and vocal on this issue. The pressure has been unrelenting, personified by Joe Sudbay at the blogger summit meeting with the President. Democrats are sometimes criticized for focusing excessively on their own interest groups’ interests, but here everyone was foursquare for a clear, principled position. As a tweet that flew by me too quickly to note the source said yesterday “Don’t tell me pressure from the left made no difference.”
I get all this. I also get the relief, satisfaction and joy for having won one, and having won one that is simply all good–life just got easier for people who really, really deserve it, with no downside for anything but bigotry.
This was way too much work. Beginning the term with 60 seats in the Senate, a huge House majority and a policy that is simply a no-brainer should not have taken until a lame duck session to get through. We are being forced, by an obstructionist Republican caucus, and ineffective, or worse, Democratic leadership in the Senate, to expend way too much energy and political capital on issues that don’t merit it. Contrast the ease with which, as Susie Madrak pointed out, the BP liability cap zoomed through the Senate. Or we watch another complete no-brainer, the START Treaty, held up by Republican demands for pork.
Some of this, of course, is due to a media that gives the GOP a pass on everything from obstruction to outright, blatant lies. But a lot of that also has to do with a caucus that chose Harry Reid.