Perhaps everyone but me knew this, but the military is doing a survey of service-members about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and its (increasingly likely) repeal. The survey is coming in for some pretty sharp criticism. For all the various critiques, see Michael Levy, Adam Amel Rogers, Nate Silver, Clarknt67 (at Pam’s House Blend) and Servicemembers United’s Alexander Nicholson.
The methodological problems are real, but the bigger issue is substantive. As Levy notes, similar surveys were done in 1942 and 1945, with results such as 76% believing whites and blacks should not serve in the same combat crews, and large numbers believing that the PXs should be segregated, and blacks kept out if only one PX was available. Truman ignored the survey, of course, and integrated the armed services in 1948.* Levy’s advice is to forget about the survey and just do what Truman did, “Lead, don’t follow.” I agree. This is a perfect opportunity for Obama to show the boldness that’s been wholly lacking in his presidency to date. While his advisers are, presumably, totting up the pros and cons of how it might affect him politically right now, it’s his opportunity to secure at least one glowing part of his legacy.
*Levy gives extra courage points to Truman for doing it during a tough election campaign. What I have always heard is that he did it to gain black votes. I.e., he was anticipating it would help, rather than hurt, him in the election.