Patience

Andrew Sullivan acknowledges the success of what he calls “Obama’s long game.”

Andrew Sullivan acknowledges the success of what he calls “Obama’s long game”:

Like 2009’s removal of the HIV ban, which was as painstakingly slow but thereby much more entrenched, this process took time. Without the Pentagon study, it wouldn’t have passed. Without Obama keeping Lieberman inside the tent, it wouldn’t have passed. Without the critical relationship between Bob Gates and Obama, it wouldn’t have passed.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

11 thoughts on “Patience”

  1. I wasn't going to comment about this, but since it's been a while and hasn't been fixed: there is an open bold tag on the page — probably somewhere in the DADT is Gone post.

  2. All nonsense, of course. There was no 11th dimensional chess, no waiting for the right moment to get it done involved in passing the DADT repeal. What happened was that the Democrats, including Obama, realized that if they didn't at least throw a bone to their base then 2012 was going to be a bloodbath at least as bad as 2010. Repeal of DADT offered the best bang for the buck, and the lame duck session was their last chance to throw a meaningful bone. If the base had pressed earlier and harder, then they would have gotten more and 2010 wouldn't have been so bad, both because the base would have been more motivated and economic and political conditions would have been much better with, say a $1.4 trillion dollar stimulus weighed towards infrastructure and jobs and a public option on a health care exchange that was implemented immediately rather than in 2014. If Democrats were forced to believe back in early 2009 that a 2010 bloodbath could only be avoided by implementing good liberal policy then we'd have had a lot more good liberal policy implemented over the last two years, even if Democrats didn't understand why that policy is good.

    Democrats will always do their very best to lose until pushed by the liberal base to do things that improve the economy and people's lives.

  3. Chris, they would have needed Cheney, who was President of the senate for another few weeks when congress began two years ago. This time, however, there is nothing stopping the Dems. Vanquish all of their rotating villains in one fell blow, we'll see in January whether the Dems really want to be rid of them.

    Queue the hysterics about what the Republicans might do in future sessions if they get 51 votes in the senate. Regressive taxes, more wars, discrimination, etc… yawn.

  4. entrenched??? This can be repealed just like anything else. Remember, a new day is just around the corner. And patience only works if you have time on your side, but this dude is running out of time. I can't believe anybody on either side is buying this whole "strategic patience" argument. Oh yeah, the wise Messiah had some master plan. What a joke. Even if I thought repealing DADT was a good thing, I'd have to assess this one by saying even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  5. Bux, if you think that there will ever be a majority in both houses to re-instate a policy currently opposed by three-quarters of the voters, I'd like you to introduce me to your dealer. That dude must have the gooooooood stuff.

  6. Mark, thanks for this post, and kudos to Andrew for his gracious remarks.

    If we on the left want the benefits that flow from being the "reality-based community", then we've got to deal with reality even when it doesn't conform with our preferences. Personally, as someone who's disliked Sen. Liberman (as a public figure, I've never met the man) for the better part of two decades, I'd prefer not acknowledging the great work he did on this issue. As someone who hasn't forgotten Robert Gates' role in the Iran-contra scandal, I'd prefer not acknowledging that Obama's decision to keep him as Secretary of Defense helped Obama pull troops out of Iraq and win repeal of DADT. And, while we may never know the exact combination of forces that led to the Senate's vote yesterday, it does remain the fact that Obama campaigned on repealing DADT, that he early on committed to a strategy that gave the Pentagon a year to conduct their study (and save face), and that strategy was at least a contributing factor to yesterday's successful vote.

    As for patience as a strategy, with each passing year, 4 million Americans reach voting age—members of a generation that votes Democratic 2-1.

  7. Mark, then I'd be curious to hear your take on how DADT was able to be established in the first place (and under a democratic administration) if it is so wildly unpopular. I don't necessarily question the polls showing that currently three-quarters of the voters oppose it, but what were the polls showing back when it was first passed (which wasn't too long ago in the grand scheme of things)? If the polls showed the public being much more in favor of it back then, what is your perception of what has changed and how do you know that the public tide won't shift back there?

  8. Bux, good questions. Mark will have better answers, but off the top of my head polling on a range of gay-related issues (DADT, gay marriage, etc.) has slowly but pretty steadily moved is the same direction over the last 20+ years. I remember Nate Silver doing some analysis of polling on gay marriage, both nationally and by state, and he came to the conclusion that it's likely that over the next 10-20 years there will be majority support for gay marriage in most, or perhaps all states.

    My own sense of what's driving the change is that the first major factor is the number of LGBT people who've come out of the closet over the past generation. It's harder to demonize friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members than it is to demonize the residents of Castro Street and Greenwich Village.

    Another major factor is (in my view) AIDS. In the small town (population 17,000) I grew up in, at least three young men came home to die in the 1980s. A much beloved middle school teacher/church organist died of AIDS as well. There were plenty of conservative (socially, some politically) people in town who thought homosexuality as a sin and that big cities were best avoided, but they didn't think those nice young men—who went to school with their children, were Boy Scouts, were babysitters, were high school athletes and musicians—should have to be dying from such a terrible disease.

    Those are social/cultural factors. Obviously there's also the sustained political organizing led by the LGBT community over many years that has helped take advantage of those social changes to win structural changes (like repealing DADT) as well.

  9. Bux: As I recall it started with Clinton announcing his intention to remove the military rules against gays serving (was it by executive order?). The result of that was noises of mutiny by the military brass and outrage on the right. At that point Clinton came up with the Solomon cutting the baby in half compromise the was DADT.

    If DADT hadn't been enacted (so it could be dismantled) the ban on gays serving would certainly have remained in place and probably for a long time. It was the absurdity of the policy that led to it's inevitable demise. That and the realization by the brass that they couldn't afford to lose all those willing troops.

  10. On a deep social-cultural-politcal level, repeal of DADT is an outcome of same processes that gave rise to the Hostage Tax Cut deal.

    The decline in racial, ethnic and sexist prejudice — and, the decline of political and economic organization along those lines — makes people more accepting of the egalitarian claims of diversity, but that same decline in social in-group v. out-group parallels a decline, generally, in felt needs for social affiliation and feelings of social solidarity.

    The mass movements, from the Masons to Temperance to Women's Suffrage to the CIO to the Shriners, scarcely exist. Many, which do exist, do not command the felt loyalty, deference and trust of their nominal mass membership, which their predecessors once did. There's a rump of such organizations in American society, predominantly among the evangelical churches, the National Rifle Association, and, the old (e.g. AARP).

    The experience of the World Wars and the Great Depression went a long way together creating a sense of national solidarity, which made possible both the welfare state and the private spirit of non-profit mutualism and professionalism.

    The disappearance of the Communists as a mortal threat to the would-be plutocrats released a spirit of greed at the top, which went unopposed, as social affiliation and feelings of solidarity in our politics declined. Ambition bottled up by prejudice and exclusion was not available to fuel organization, in ethnic ghettos or labor unions, just as talented women were no longer available to staff public schools or bureaucratic administration, on the cheap. We lost many of the (usually religiously affiliated) non-profit hospitals in medical care; we lost mutual insurance companies and banks (aka savings and loans) in finance. And, of course, we've largely lost the unions.

    Our politics is financed by very, very rich people, and organized to suit their needs. Mass movements are resented and ridiculed. An important dynamic in our politics is the mutual disdain of liberals and populists.

    Mass movements always involved vast armies of followers, drawn from the lower rungs of the social and economic hierarchy, led, to some large extent, by talented and ambitious folks, who otherwise had few prospects in a society riddled with exclusions. The political psychology of "authoritarian followers" is not pleasing to liberals, who don't understand what it is to be afraid, anxious, powerless and resentful, and without incentive, education or experience to build an understanding of the elite political processes that dominate life. The authoritarian follower is eager to identify with an in-group against an out-group, to find some security in solidarity, and is notoriously credulous and prone to follow demagogues. The kinds populist appeals, which typically attract the authoritarian follower are disdain by the ideological liberal and his paternalistic progressive brother, who are all about principle and meritocracy.

    It is part of the liberal mythos, that LBJ sacrificed the Solid South to Civil Rights, and Nixon took the banner of racism for the GOP, and there's some truth to that. The Democratic Party as a motley majority of minorities, of out-groups against the more homogenous and coherent ethnic and class identity of the Republican Party far pre-dated the 1960s, and it was upper class whites in the South, who went most strongly to the Republican Party. The other side of the coin, though, was that liberal Democrats abandoned populist appeals, leaving the folks, who became "Reagan Democrats" to feed their resentments.

    Personally, I think the decline in ethnic identity and prejudice, and the increasing acceptance and embrace of diversity, is a good thing. I thought that the abandonment of the conformity of the grey flannel suit and the brushcut, which was an inheritance of WWII solidarity, was a good thing in the 1960s. (Did I mention I'm old?)

    My point is that DADT is the culmination of a broad social process incubated in the hothouse of WWII, and which took root as a social movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and which also left the American political economy with almost no institutions of mutualism or mass politics.

    Maybe the means of a new wave of mass organization and de-centralized political and economic organization is lurking out there amid Twitter, Facebook and the imminent collapse of the globalized world economy. I hope so.

    I fear, however, that plutocratic domination means a more authoritarian society, and, for most, a much poorer society. Whatever the gains in principle to the amelioration of arbitrary prejudice against difference will be more than undone by increasingly intense economic and political domination, the gain in civil rights overbalanced by a loss of civil liberty and social insurance.

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