The result of ‘a generational change’

THE RESULT OF ‘A GENERATIONAL CHANGE’…. For about a year, the strategy for getting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal through the Senate was built around making a couple of open-to-reason Republicans happy, and getting over the 60-vote threshold.

It seemed unlikely Dems would pick up eight GOP votes on anything, better yet a culture-war issue involving gay civil rights, which made yesterday’s outcome all the more heartening.

The Republican senators voting “yes” with the Democrats on repeal were Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John Ensign of Nevada, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine.

Burr, Ensign and Kirk did not announce their support for repeal before the Saturday vote. Burr and Ensign initially sided with Republicans in a procedural vote to bring the measure to the floor; they voted for repeal on the final vote.

But while Kirk and Ensign had previously indicated they were open to voting for repeal, Burr’s vote came as a surprise even to the sponsors of the legislation.

Susan Collins — who, to her enormous credit, took the lead in lobbying for Republican votes — never even reached out to Burr, assuming he was unreachable on this.

So, what changed his mind? Burr told reporters he still objects to the timing of repeal, but nevertheless concluded that we’ve had “a generational change.” He added that DADT-style discrimination is “not accepted practice anywhere in our society.”

It’s tempting to note that oddity of Ensign and Burr supporting the filibuster and backing final passage. There’s something of a disconnect here — they ended up supporting legislation that they didn’t even want the chamber to vote on.

But why quibble? They ended up in the right place and made yesterday’s breakthrough that much more one-sided.

The larger lesson here is that the national controversy, such as it was, is long since over. It’s one thing for moderates from Maine, Massachusetts, and Illinois to side with Dems on this, but it’s something else altogether when conservative Republican senators from traditionally “red” states — including one (Ensign) who’s likely to face a primary challenger in 2012 — to break ranks on an issue like this.

It’s indicative of where the public stands, and the extent to which conservatives failed miserably to persuade much of anyone to support the status quo.