A GOP Conspiracy On DADT Repeal?

Greg Sargent thinks that the GOP’s stalwart opposition to repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has ulterior motives:

The White House strategy on repealing DADT was premised on minimizing the potential for a backlash by appeasing all the essential stakeholders — Congress, the military, and activists committed to repealing the policy. But by blocking repeal and allowing a judge to declare the policy unconstitutional, Republicans could sidestep the argument over an unpopular policy by turning it into one about unelected judges imposing their will on the electorate.

That strategy may seem cynical, but it ultimately fits the die-hard opposition strategy Republicans have deployed for the past two years. If DADT repeal is inevitable, they might as well make sure it occurs on terms most favorable to them — and that means being able to argue about the tyranny of activist judges, rather than the straightforward injustice of preventing patriots from serving openly simply because of who they are.

DougJ at Balloon Juice agrees:

The Republican strategy with so-called “cultural issues” is to keep fighting on them after the issues have been decided. That way the issues can continue to be political winners for them (perhaps in some small way) long after the argument is over for all intents and purposes. You can’t actually repeal Civil Rights legislation but you can tell endless stories about young bucks buying T-bone steaks, you can’t actually repeal Roe v. Wade (because if it was repealed, that would be the end of the modern Republican party, it would have to be reconstituted long different lines), but you can rail against activist judges etc. etc. In a lot of cases, people who are happy about how the issue was decided don’t really care after a few years, because they think (mostly correctly) that it’s over anyway, whereas Jesus freaks, oldsters, confederates can get fired up about trying to turn back the clock ad infinitum.

In some sense, that’s the entire logic behind the GOP’s Southern Strategy in the later decades of the 20th Century, and the appeal to social issues was a big part of George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. So is it really surprising that part of the GOP opposition to DADT repeal is a cynical desire to see it overturned in the courts so that they can run for a few election cycles against “activist judges” ?

No, it isn’t.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James Joyner says:

    A simpler explanation is that, while repeal has broad support and even most soldiers don’t care, the social conservative base remains staunchly opposed to gays serving in the military. So, it makes sense for Republicans to go down fighting in a losing battle rather than cave.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Since four or five courts of appeals have affirmed the constitutionality of DADT, I think the conspiracy theorists are counting their chickens before they hatch. The two district court decisions are advancing on the more specious grounds of sexual privacy in the military. If I were to put money on it, the SCOTUS would not repeal DADT, particularly if they only rule on sexual privacy, and not equal protection.

    But I won’t put money on it.

  3. @stackiii says:

    This is what I was talking about that day on Twitter when I said conservatives won the abortion war.

    @James- Incumbents may suffer conservative primary challenges for a cycle or two if they start letting stuff like this go–but in the end, the shrinking conservative base will simply be outnumbered.