Trusting democracy on gay rights
Charles Krauthammer offers what I think is the most persuasive argument from a conservative perspective for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He says that the issue wasn't whether it would be repealed, but by which branch of government:
This is the way you want to do it. It was inevitable. It was always going to happen. It's a generational shift. It's good it happened in Congress not only because it lends legitimacy and authority but because the way the language is written, unlike a court decision which would happen overnight, it will allow a gradual implementation which the military will appreciate.
There will certainly be no insubordinate resistance. They [the military] do what civilians tell them to do, but done in a reasonable way. I think it will be done in a rollout starting with the Pentagon and ending in the outer reaches, the further outposts in Afghanistan where the integration and implementation is most difficult. I see this as exactly the way you want it to happen if it was going to happen -- and it was going to happen inevitably....
Everybody understands there has been a shift in the culture of public opinion.... And now the military will have to adapt, but at least it will have understanding and respect as it does gradually with the deep respect for readiness and the feelings of the troops.
Although it may be too much to hope for, it would be a sign of political maturity, not to mention intellectual consistency, for gay rights activists to take the same approach with regard to other items on their agenda. If they can persuade 65 senators to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," can't they trust the voters in various states to decide marriage and other gay rights issues? If they agree that we are in the midst of that "generational change," (as some Senate Republicans argued during the DADT debate), then it would seem to be a smarter political tactic to work on changing hearts and minds, and then legislation, through elected leaders.
The monopolization of the abortion issue by the courts fueled a sense of unfairness, aggrievement and frustration by pro-life Americans. That, in turn, manifested itself in large, well-organized and influential conservative groups that focused not only on abortion, but also on a variety of other social issues. Would that have happened had states, one by one, decided the issue in legislatures? It's hard to imagine it would have.
But legislation takes time, and states would reach different results, advocates complain. Indeed. Democracy is very ponderous at times, since you need to, you know, forge a majority among the citizenry or among their representatives to change the law. It's so much easier to run to the courts and bypass all that messy democracy.
But if advocates of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" enjoyed not only a victory, but a sense of pride that the country had come a long way, maybe they will take the experience to heart on other causes. If they do, along the way, they will earn the respect of their fellow citizens. And that is a very valuable commodity.
| December 22, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
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