29 January 2012

It Ain't Dead Yet

When you get to be my age, you realize there isn't an idea that's so bad that nobody will try to keep it alive.

In fact, if it's a bad enough idea, someone will try to cross-breed it with an equally bad, and outmoded, idea.

So, what's the bad idea that just won't go away?  Why, it's none other than our old friend, Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT).

So who's breathing new life into it?  Someone of whom I hadn't heard until now: Oklahoma State Representative Mike Reynolds.  And what Mendelian scheme is he using to keep it alive?  Well, it looks like he's crossing DADT with the Grandfather Clause.

Oh, talk about a piece of legislation only a lawyer could love: The Grandfather Clause said that all men who were eligible to vote in 1867--the year before the reforms of Reconstruction took effect--or men who were lineal descendents of such men--were eligible to vote.  Most of the Southern States adopted it, in one form or another, during the last years of the 19th Century.  

Oklahoma, which didn't become a state until 1907, was late to that party.  However, Oklahoma lawmakers wasted little time in getting their own version of the Clause, which was enacted in 1910.  Oklahoma was in on the fun for only a few years, though:  In 1915, Guinn v. United States effectively struck down various States' Grandfather Clauses as unconstitutional.  

That didn't stop Oklahoma or any other state, though, from stopping blacks from voting:  They found all sorts of other ways, including poll taxes.

But I digress.  Folks like Reynolds know a bad old laws become good laws after a generation or two--especially when they're combined with bad, not-so-old, laws.  So, voila--He combines DADT with the Grandfather Clause, and what does he get?  The new law he's trying to get the state to enact:  People can serve in the Oklahoma National Guard only if they would have qualified for military service under the Federal laws that were in effect on 1 January 2009.

So, while the rest of the country is benighted by the repeal of DADT, good ol' Mike is trying to bring it back for Oklahomans.  By combining it with the Grandfather Clause--the way you combine fabrics or ingredients in a sandwich--he's trying to give his people a new, improved version of the law--or "Don't Ask, Don't Tell on steroids," as someone quipped.

Of course, I was happy when DADT was repealed.  But somehow I knew it wouldn't go away. For once, I wish I had been wrong.