Frozen. Gridlocked. Stuck. No matter how you put it, Washington isn’t moving. After more than a year, health care reform has passed by the slimmest of margins. Climate change legislation is going nowhere, and legitimate financial regulations are a pipe dream. Hyperpartisanship and misinformation have paralyzed our federal government. There is, however, one issue that Congress can act on with broad public support: repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
It is absolutely baffling that it has taken this long for the government to address DADT, which prevents gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. It is baffling because, of all our backward policies based on misguided fears and nonsensical arguments, this may be the only one everyone can agree is nonsensical and backward.
Progressives thought DADT was a bad idea from the beginning, but centrist Democrats have come around on the issue as well. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a blue-dog Democrat from Pennsylvania and Iraq War veteran, has been leading the charge for repeal in the House for more than a year. Over in the Senate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who endorsed Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., in the presidential election and hijacked health care reform last fall, introduced the repeal bill.
If it were just the Democrats on board, we’d be in the same place on DADT that we are on everything else. Only that is not the case. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 53 percent of Republicans support repealing DADT. Prominent Republicans, including one of the policy’s chief architects Colin Powell, have come out against it. If the guy who came up with an idea says it stinks, doesn’t that mean it is time to trash it? Even the military says it is time to end DADT. Both the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have testified before Congress saying it is time for a change.
What about the American public? The same Quinnipiac poll shows they support repealing DADT by nearly a 2-1 ratio.
As with anything, DADT still has a group of supporters, albeit a rapidly diminishing one. Nevertheless, those who remain will make the loudest fuss when it comes time to act. Currently that job falls to McCain, who has gone back and forth so much on the issue it is a wonder he hasn’t developed whiplash. Also, the media will assuredly turn any attempt to repeal DADT into a massive controversy — something most congressmen do not have the stomach for. The problem is repealing DADT isn’t controversial. These days, it may be the only thing Washington agrees on.