President Clinton gets a lot of flack for instituting the policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” but I remember who the true villains of the day were. It is instructive to note that it was conservatives in the Democratic party, like Sam Nunn, who were instrumental in overturning Clinton’s desire to openly integrate the military.
I remember, as a submarine veteran, how horrified I was that conservative Senator Nunn had a press briefing onboard a submarine to prove how incompatible service would be for those of us who might be gay serving “in close quarters on a ship that spends lots of time underwater.” I wish some of those press stenographers would have interviewed me, inadvertently serving as Protestant Lay Reader while proving gays could serve in any environment.
Why is this important? Easy answer. Our relatively progressive Democratic party is only as intelligent and strong as the most backwards conservative member of the Democratic caucus when it comes to social policies. The Democratic party cedes inordinate amount of power to conservative Blue Dogs who continuously undercut its ability to move our country forward, and provide the opportunity to more starkly contrast itself to the ultra conservative Republicans.
For instance, I remember the pathetic response from my Democratic representative in congress, Dan Boren, regarding open military service for gays and lesbians. Of course, Dan NEVER served in the military, but does serve on the House Armed Services Committee, and his conservative principals, and maybe all those persistent rumors about his dad, Senator David Boren, guided him to decide open service wasn’t a good idea.
One needs to ask themselves, “How many times does President Clinton, instead of Senator Sam Nunn, get blamed for ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’?” and you will have your answer as to just how damaging it is to allow conservatives to craft policy.
Also, we would be remiss to not remind ourselves the overturning of DADT didn’t happen in a vacuum. The gay blogs and activists were directly responsible for stopping conservatives from ruining the potential to finally realize this victory. It is instructive to google “slow walk AMERICAblog Gay DADT” to read the number of times, here, here and here, this particular gay blog PUSHED AND PRODDED the Obama administration to do the right thing while conservative “Chicken Littles,” within the Obama Administration and Democratic caucus, pushed for Obama to back away from this obvious victory.
It would serve President Obama well, in the future, to use this example to note just how much attention needs to be paid to the conservative voices advising them to not move forward. If I were Obama, I would provide conservatives in the Democratic party attention inversely proportional to the amount of noise they make while gnashing their teeth over any policy that would please his base and move this country forward. In fact, his reelection might just hinge on his finally ignoring the wrong way conservatives in his own party.