I have a serious bone to pick with people who call politicians out on “flip flopping” on issues. That bone has to do with the fact that about half the time they are abusing the term outrageously.
There is a huge difference between a politician changing their mind on an issue over the course of months or even years, because of new experiences or new information, and a politician actually “flip flopping” on an issue.
There are two types of actual flip flopping that I have seen evidence of in politics.
The first is type where a politician supports one policy one day and then a week or a month or a year later supports the opposite position without even acknowledging the fact that they ever supported the opposite view.
Like, perhaps, a certain Senator from Texas who co-sponsered Fair Tax legislation in 2013, but inexplicably talked about the need for a Flat Tax when he announced his bid for the Presidency in 2015. I never found any evidence of his reason for switching plans, making this either a massive flip flop for him or a sign that he doesn’t know there is a difference between the two plans.
The other type of flip flopping is one we see fairly often in politics, more so than the first one in my opinion. This type is the one where a politician claims to have “evolved” on a topic, but never really explains how or why they changed their opinion.
An example of this would be Barack Obama’s constant fish out of water behavior when it comes to his views on same sex marriage. He doesn’t deny that he’s changed his opinion on the issue, but he also doesn’t actually explain how or why he “evolved” on the topic at any point. He doesn’t state any particular personal, religious, or political epiphany that changed his view…meaning his flopping about is probably more to do with impressing certain groups of voters than on any real change of conviction.
Several months back I addressed the issue of political “flip flopping” on my personal blog while discussing the views of Mitt Romney, here’s what I said:
To call Mitt Romney a flip flopper on the issue of abortion is to say that no man may have a change of mind or heart in the span of nearly 2 decades.
A flip flop is something that Obama does. A flip flop is when a politician says one thing and six months later they deny that they ever said it, while stating the exact opposite.
What a flip flop is not is a politician who believes something in 1994 or in 2002, but receives a shocking change of heart in the year 2004 due to some new information or even just a new view on the issue(in this case Romney changed his view because of the stem cell research debate), and admits in 2011 that he no longer believes his previous position to be true or the best possible position for him to hold.
Mitt Romney is no more a flip flopper on the issue of abortion than a woman like Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a flip flopper on the issue of her religion.
– Old Lies About Romney
I saw a Hot Air article earlier today that essentially accused Scott Walker of being a flip flopper on the topic of immigration, but by my definition of a flip flop…I just don’t see it. Even if it was true that Scott Walker changed from being pro-amnesty to being tough on illegal immigration that wouldn’t make him a flip flopper on the issue. Walker has clearly stated several times that his changes in policy on immigration have come from talking to voters and other politicians with experience on the issue and from seeing how the issue has been mishandled by Obama. He’s explained why he’s changed, he’s admitted that he’s shifted on the issue.
Many people, politicians and non-politicians alike, change their opinion on many different topics (I hated Shakespeare for years until the right teacher changed my opinion). Some of them do so because of new information or changes in personal conviction and some do it for political popularity, but we can’t lump all of those together and call them all “flip flopping” unless we want to completely water down what that term means.