1. Yes, pressure from the left, including Lt Dan Choi's heroic/dramatic efforts, helped bring about this day. But we must not forget the important sequence of events that lead to this *vote*.
2. DADT could only be repealed with the help of moderate Republicans - and Senators Snowe (R-ME) and Brown (R-MA) had placed the condition that the Bush tax cuts would have to be extended in FULL, before any vote on DADT. Much as Senator Kyl (R-AZ) may deny it, he had also imposed the same condition on ratification of START. (Unfortunately, DREAM just does not seem to have been part of this discussion, because even some Democrats were opposed to it.)
3. President Obama seemed more interested in getting START dealt with, and so made a (some say shitty) taxcut deal with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell. I have written about the advantages of, and need for, this deal earlier.
4. Even though the omnibus budget was crafted with bipartisan effort, Majority Leader Harry Reid found Republican support slipping away, apparently over the inclusion of $8 billion in earmarks out of a $1.1 trillion bill.
5. In a deft maneuver, Senator Reid chucked the omnibus bill, and filed for cloture on DREAM and DADT repeal while the Senate was talking START. I am not sure the White House was happy about this, as Senators Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham accused Reid of "poisoning the well" and hinted that START may not pass.
6. And finally today, Democrat Senators Kay Hagan, Jon Tester, Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, Ben Nelson and Joe Manchin blocked the DREAM of young immigrant kids even as Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Bob Bennett and Dick Lugar voted for it.
Luckily, however, DADT got 63 votes for cloture, clearing the way for final repeal. (Thanks to Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, George Voinovich, Scott Brown, and surprisingly, Mark Kirk (who voted against repeal while in the House.)
So to sum: GOP moderates used their leverage over DADT repeal to ensure a temporary extension of all Bush tax cuts. President Obama took a lot of heat from the Left for making this deal. Senator Reid deftly pushed DADT ahead of START.
Without the much-maligned taxcut deal and Senator Reid's adroitness, we would not be repealing DADT today. I hope "progressives" who are more concerned with taxes than with equality for the LGBT community, and excoriate President Obama for making that deal, learn from this episode.
p.s. Maybe the tea party is indeed all about fiscal issues. If teabagging Republicans had not pulled away from the omnibus budget over earmarks, we would not be repealing DADT today!