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How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

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September 20, 2011 marked a civil rights milestone for the United States. By order of Congress, the 17-year ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military -- commonly known as "don't ask, don't tell" -- was overturned. But how did this historic change come about? And why did it take so long? In "How We Won," Aaron Belkin argues that the public needed to be persuaded tha September 20, 2011 marked a civil rights milestone for the United States. By order of Congress, the 17-year ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military -- commonly known as "don't ask, don't tell" -- was overturned. But how did this historic change come about? And why did it take so long? In "How We Won," Aaron Belkin argues that the public needed to be persuaded that gay troops would not harm the military before Congress could be convinced to repeal the ban. Belkin, a scholar with more than a decade of hands-on experience in the repeal campaign, shares an insider's perspective on the strategies that he and others used to encourage this change of mind -- and change of heart -- in the American people and its Congress. His top strategy, a tactic which, surprisingly, progressives often fail to pursue, was targeting conservative lies. The implications of Belkin's tactics extend far beyond the grass-roots movement to repeal "don't ask, don't tell". They challenge some of the left's most conventional wisdom about how to successfully set social policy. And the lessons that emerge could help progressives persuade the public about the merits of other big, liberal ideas, including the benefits of higher taxes and the dangers of an excessively strong military. But for now, as Belkin says, it's time to celebrate this one great victory.


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September 20, 2011 marked a civil rights milestone for the United States. By order of Congress, the 17-year ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military -- commonly known as "don't ask, don't tell" -- was overturned. But how did this historic change come about? And why did it take so long? In "How We Won," Aaron Belkin argues that the public needed to be persuaded tha September 20, 2011 marked a civil rights milestone for the United States. By order of Congress, the 17-year ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military -- commonly known as "don't ask, don't tell" -- was overturned. But how did this historic change come about? And why did it take so long? In "How We Won," Aaron Belkin argues that the public needed to be persuaded that gay troops would not harm the military before Congress could be convinced to repeal the ban. Belkin, a scholar with more than a decade of hands-on experience in the repeal campaign, shares an insider's perspective on the strategies that he and others used to encourage this change of mind -- and change of heart -- in the American people and its Congress. His top strategy, a tactic which, surprisingly, progressives often fail to pursue, was targeting conservative lies. The implications of Belkin's tactics extend far beyond the grass-roots movement to repeal "don't ask, don't tell". They challenge some of the left's most conventional wisdom about how to successfully set social policy. And the lessons that emerge could help progressives persuade the public about the merits of other big, liberal ideas, including the benefits of higher taxes and the dangers of an excessively strong military. But for now, as Belkin says, it's time to celebrate this one great victory.

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