Fair. Balanced. American.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reinstating DADT

Tim Pawlenty is a former governor of Minnesota, billed as the guy who's "too nice" to be an effective contender for the presidency.

So what did the nicest Republican presidential contender say on Republican talk radio today?

"I mean, families and traditional marriage is so important to that and I don't believe all other domestic relations should be on the same platform as traditional marriage, I just don't buy it," he said.

Pawlenty added that he thinks Roe v. Wade was poorly decided, and emphasized that he has "been a public supporter of maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I would support reinstating it as well."
Gays, a third of whom voted for Republican candidates in 2010, are outraged.

Today on Twitter, we saw furious comments like this one from @Clarknt67, which was retweeted several times:
"Note to Tim Pawlenty: #DADT repeal was supported by 80% of the country. Reinstating it is not a route to the POTUS."
Wrong. Pawlenty is doing what he needs to do to to be one of the final two. If anything, his assessment proves that at least some expression of homophobia remains a litmus test for the GOP nomination, unless you have the evangelical bona fides of a Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee, in which case the faithful will accept the wisdom of a stealth candidacy.

Could he actually reinstate DADT if he became President? Of course not; even some Republicans from battleground states and districts backed repeal. But that's what makes it such an effective tool. Republican president will spend exactly as much political capital to reinstate DADT as they do to banning abortion: zero. It's a freebie; a way to telegraph a satisfactory level of hatred to the bigots who comprise the majority of the party base.

And yet it isn't cynical. Statements like these do provide information to voters.  For the eventual Republican nominee, like his predecessors,  (unless, as I explained earlier it's Huckabee or Palin) will block further progress on gay rights. Values voters expect this at a minimum from any Republican president. A bit of moral opprobrium, however, is icing on the cake.

The bottom line about the 2012 presidential election is that it will be a referendum on the President; all things being equal, the economy will determine the results of that referendum. No one, not the President, not Haley Barbour, knows what the economy will look like in the decisive second and third quarters of next year.

Every presidential election (an exception being 2004, but ) comes down to a bloc of non-ideological voters, say 15% of the population, the preponderance of whose votes will go with or against the party in power based on the economy.  The eventual nominees' stances on Don't Ask Don't Tell may be important to some voters, but they won't matter to the voters who prove decisive. 

The name of the game for every Republican is to get the nomination and pray that the economy is bad enough that the public votes for him. That's the playbook for every presidential nominee, regardless of party when there is an incumbent president. It's why Dole lost in 1996, and it's why Reagan and Clinton won in 1984 and 1992.

By being the first GOP contender to back repeal, Pawlenty telegraphs the seriousness of his candidacy (even if he really only has a shot at VP), and the homophobia that remains, along with a hatred of African Americans and Latinos, at the heart of the post-1964 Republican Party. 

1 comment :

clar said...