Last night, when I tracked down the Gallup poll showing increasing number of conservatives favoring repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military, I saw in the margin a link to poll finding a Majority of Americans Continue[s] to Oppose Gay Marriage. This in line with Pew’s recent findings.
Indeed, while the number supporting state recognition of same-sex civil unions has steadily increased over the past six years, the number opposing gay marriage has remained relatively constant, hovering between 55 and 59 percent (it’s nowat 57).
So, while the President expressed a commitment to repeal both the military’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT) policy as well as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in his speech Saturday night to the Human Rights Campaign, the smarter move politically might be to put the latter on the back burner and concentrate on repealing the former.
That’s why I commended the Administration for reaching out to Senator Lieberman. He can help frame this as a national security issue, making it more difficult for the military from reacting as they did when, in 1993, Clinton first introduced the idea of lifting the ban. The Democrat announced the move with Barney Frank, a longtime foe of a robust military, standing by his side. And many in the military saw this as a move to enlist them in a social experiment crafted by legislators they did not trust.
That President Obama’s team has been working with the Connecticut Senator suggests the incumbent is aware of his predecessor’s mistakes and wishes to avoid them. With ever larger majorities supporting repeal, the time is ripe for action. But, he shouldn’t dither and should come forward with a time framer move forward on the issue or his promises will be for naught.
So, gay groups should focus on moving repeal, indeed, making this issue their priority, given that the chances of success are high. And to increase those chances, they need end their suspicion of conservatives and build partnerships with those on the right side of the political aisle who have shifted their views on the ban in recent years.
As Liz Mair who served as Online Communications Director at the Republican National Committee in the 2008 (and thus has worked with numerous Republican activists, bloggers and candidates) put it in commenting on my recent post on Lieberman:
National security hawks don’t do things that could be argued to compromise national security just to please or curry favor or campaign donations from particular demographic groups (fellow hawks not being a “demographic group,” at least not in the way I mean).
With Lieberman spearheading the effort at repeal and working together with conservatives who have a record of support for our armed forces, gay groups can reframe this as a national security issue and thus increase the chances of repeal.
Let us hope they are willing to avoid their own past mistakes and do something they seem most reluctant to do–work with conservative.