The Plum Line had a very sharp observation about DADT last week:
The White House strategy on repealing DADT was premised on minimizing the potential for a backlash by appeasing all the essential stakeholders — Congress, the military, and activists committed to repealing the policy. But by blocking repeal and allowing a judge to declare the policy unconstitutional, Republicans could sidestep the argument over an unpopular policy by turning it into one about unelected judges imposing their will on the electorate.
That strategy may seem cynical, but it ultimately fits the die-hard opposition strategy Republicans have deployed for the past two years. If DADT repeal is inevitable, they might as well make sure it occurs on terms most favorable to them — and that means being able to argue about the tyranny of activist judges, rather than the straightforward injustice of preventing patriots from serving openly simply because of who they are.
The Republican strategy with so-called “cultural issues” is to keep fighting on them after the issues have been decided. That way the issues can continue to be political winners for them (perhaps in some small way) long after the argument is over for all intents and purposes. You can’t actually repeal Civil Rights legislation but you can tell endless stories about young bucks buying T-bone steaks, you can’t actually repeal Roe v. Wade (because if it was repealed, that would be the end of the modern Republican party, it would have to be reconstituted long different lines), but you can rail against activist judges etc. etc. In a lot of cases, people who are happy about how the issue was decided don’t really care after a few years, because they think (mostly correctly) that it’s over anyway, whereas Jesus freaks, oldsters, confederates can get fired up about trying to turn back the clock ad infinitum.
I’m not completely convinced there’s that much in it for Republicans to keep blocking DADT; certainly the only reasonable angle is that it gives them another venue to whine about activists judges and the librul agenda.
Our current political system is a lot like an endless Civil War reenactment, only with worse consequences. (And who enjoys Civil War reenactments? White male southerners, the heart of the Republican party.)