THE PENTAGON — The Defense Department has announced plans to repeal a long-standing policy that barred Democrats from serving in the military, sources confirmed today.
"Democrats, liberals, and swing voters will now be able to serve openly in the armed forces," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement. "As long as they meet readiness standards."
"I can't believe this day is actually here," said Spc. Wade Serkis, a Democrat from California who enlisted in 2016. "It feels like I'm no longer living a lie."
Not everyone was pleased with the announcement. Several Pentagon officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, condemned the decision.
"The military shouldn't be used as a social experiment to see if communists and conservatives can work together," one official said. "This is bad for unit cohesion, bad for morale, and it's just plain wrong."
Originally instituted in 1951 to target communists and socialists, the military political-orientation ban found new life under President Richard Nixon in 1971 as a way to ensure those "damn dirty hippies won't be dragging down our troops in Vietnam," Nixon said in one taped White House conversation.
But the policy had its drawbacks, since many draftees claimed they voted for Hubert Humphrey in an attempt to be rejected from service.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton attempted to push a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, allowing liberals to enlist as long as they didn't share their abnormality with others. His changes were never formally enacted.
"It was a half measure," said Joshua Nand, a political science professor at George Washington University. "Clinton would lose a large part of his base if he spoke out against Democrats serving, but he also knew there was no good way to allow them to serve without changing the culture of the military itself."
This latest move from the Pentagon comes after years of in-depth studies and policy discussions. Meanwhile, critics of the ban have often pointed out its ineffectiveness.
For example, Green Party members are free to enlist, though none have. In addition, the percentage of service members who vote in elections has decreased sharply since the 1990s, despite constant complaints about government ineptitude and the corruption rampant in Washington, D.C.
The Pentagon estimates that roughly 10 Democrats currently serve in the uniform, albeit secretly. And a 2014 study by the Marine Corps cautioned that, "although Democrats may be useful in support roles, they should not be permitted in combat roles."
"That's the next fight," Serkis said. "It's ridiculous to think we can't serve in combat. I personally know two liberals who are in the artillery, and one of them voted for Bernie Sanders."