A bona fide consensus

A BONA FIDE CONSENSUS…. In these contentious, divisive times, it’s difficult to get a large majority of Americans to agree on much of anything. That’s why it’s all the more encouraging when we see results like these.

Three-quarters of Americans say that they support openly gay people serving in the U.S. military, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a finding that could lend momentum to the Obama administration’s effort to dismantle the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The level of public support for allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly far outpaces that in the spring of 1993, when Congress and the Clinton administration established the policy.

Indeed, it’s not even close. When Clinton attempted to end the discriminatory policy 17 years ago, 44% of Americans agreed that openly gay servicemen and women should be allowed to wear the uniform, while a 55% majority did not. Now, it’s 75%-24% split in the other direction.

Even 64% of self-identified Republicans agree that it’s time for DADT to end.

The results were similar in the new NYT/CBS News poll, which found 70% of Americans supporting the change in policy, and only 19% endorsing the status quo. (Oddly, support drops when the question asks about “homosexuals” serving in the military, as compared to “gay men and lesbians.”)

Ideally, the polls wouldn’t really matter, and policymakers would want to do the right thing because … it’s the right thing. But given the political realities, members of Congress are far more likely to take a step they consider “controversial” if they believe the electorate will agree.

So let’s be clear: repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t “controversial” anymore — it’s the national consensus, which has been endorsed by the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Conservative proponents of the status quo are in a fairly small minority, and have lost the national debate.

Time for Congress to get it done.