Friday, July 31, 2009

Frustration (again)

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. Chris Crain (via Sullivan) has a very reasonable post about DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) repeal. The gist of it is: it's understandable that Obama has moved very slowly on repeal; Obama runs huge risks of a major firestorm against him if he's not careful on this issue; and here's how he should proceed, using the next Chair of the Joint Chiefs appointment to get the military to take the lead in repeal.

Fine enough. I don't know if his case is sound or not; it seems to rest on two claims: first, that despite polling data favoring repeal the issue is still as treacherous for Obama as it was for Clinton sixteen years ago, and, second, that using a Chair of the Joint Chiefs as the front for repeal can diffuse the controversy. (Well, I don't know, but I think it's essentially a very sensible essay).

What's interesting from the point of view of democratic frustration is the comments. One could challenge Crain's claim that Obama would risk popularity by acting sooner, or challenge the morality of waiting on the issue, or a lot of other possibilities. For the most part, however, the commenters don't do that. Instead, they -- three of the four comments, as I write -- are simply convinced that Obama has little or no interest in supporting gay issues. That is, they specifically ignore the logic in the post they are responding to (which suggests that going slow is the best pro-repeal strategy). They don't get it; they don't get that, despite winning the election, the president can't just do whatever he wants. And so he must have faulty motives.

Again, I'm not saying that Obama is in fact following Crain's strategy (although I think he likely is, more or less), or that DADT will definitely be repealed (although I'd put my money on it), or even that Obama is clearly on the side of Crain's commenters after all. Instead, I'm arguing that the commenters -- engaged citizens (by definition, since they're posting to a blog on a political issue) have a terribly tough time even considering the possibility that a pol could have good intentions but still fail anyway.

OK, enough of that hobby-horse for a while.

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