Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Insincere Flip-Flop

(Previous post and comments on

I have been asking myself just what it is that makes us call some position shifts "flip-flops" while others are not so disrespected. Most of it is because "they flip-flop" while "we reconsider." But it's really more than that. And when the subject comes up, we want to convince the uncommitted that "our guy's" recent change of mind is because he's thoughtful, he’s had new insight into the issue, and now he's got it right. It wasn't just a pander to some political group he'd like to add to his base.

To do this takes a couple of steps.

First, define "flip-flop." Not to use it as part of an argument, but to understand the phenomenon.

A flip-flop is a change of position that generates political gain. Without the aspect of political gain, no position change will ever be called a flip-flop.

Thus John Kerry's vote against the war after he had voted for it, in both cases voting with the usual Democrat gang of suspects, qualifies as a run-of-the-mill flip-flop. It was nothing special, and he ended up in a position he'll have to keep. It worked against him mainly because the reasons he gave for the position change were weak.

The second and most important step: Determine if the change of position is sincere and permanent.

This question was the defining factor during the primary competition for Mitt Romney. Conservatives didn't really care if he gained politically by switching to pro-life. The question was about his sincerity. Did he really mean it? Was it permanent? If it was sincere and permanent, the political gain was a by-product of the change, not the reason for it. Some of us were convinced it was sincere (for the reasons Romney gave). Others weren't convinced and tried to use the "flip-flop" charge against him and in favor of "X."

Similarly, the far-left is having a collective cow because Barack Obama has changed his position on FISA. We shouldn’t fall for that, however. This is the variety of flip-flop known as the “cynical pander.” It’s a feint to the right in this case, attempting to pick up some right-centrist political votes on the security issue. In other words, it’s an insincere flip-flop.

The insincere cynical pander flip-flop is followed by a reverse flip back at the earliest convenient time. There is no chance Obama will keep his new-found approval of the FISA law if he attains his White House goal.

If I’m right, how do we use it most effectively? On defense. In any discussion of Obama’s surprising and numerous flip-flops on FISA, withdrawal from Iraq, the Second Amendment, faith-based initiatives, and states’ rights, his supporters usually say, “But McCain flip-flopped on immigration and drilling for oil.”

That’s the time to bring in McCain’s principled commitment to recognizing the right of the American people to have energy independence and national security, starting with secure borders and robust American energy production. Then add, “There is no reason to believe he will now back off from those positions. They’re consistent with his basic conservative beliefs”

Obama, OTOH, has made a 180 degree reversal on all the issues listed above, and all since the end of the primary election season. There is every reason to believe he will flip back to his original positions once he’s in the White House, because they contradict his basic political beliefs. He’s a liberal Democrat, and he’s taking conservative positions. How believable is that?

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