Posted at 1:00 PM on November 12, 2007
by Sanden Totten
Later this month, In The Loop will be looking at the "Flip Flop" and its role in American politics (wanna be there for this show? Free tickets here).
Apparently there is some art to a good flip flop. This article from Associated Content says there are three kinds of political flip flops. You've got your standard flip of a politician changing their opinion to stay in-line with the polls. The author, Mark Whittington, points to Kerry here as a prime example of this kind of behavior. Next, there is the flop that happens when a leader tries to be all things to all people. Here Whittington suggests some techniques for flopping without culpability:
"The trick is the parse ones words so that one can claim that there is no contradiction between the two positions. One is in favor of "targeted tax cuts" to encourage business and "revenue enhancements" to make the rich pay their "fair share." Then one hopes that enough people are credulous enough to buy it."
Lastly, he suggests that there is a third and more noble flip flop "when a politician can change his or her mind based on new facts". The prime example here, according to Whittington, is president Bush's change of heart on foreign policy. Although Bush came to office thinking he would take a lassie-faire approach to international relations, 9/11 presented him with new evidence that forced him to change his approach. This, Whittington argues, makes Bush not a true flip flopper but rather "a statesman who will be remembered for the ages".
Of course, not everyone agrees with Whittington on that last point. Check out this collection of high-end flip flops put out by G.W. & Crew for some counter arguments.
I think a there are several reasons why informed voters detest a flip flopper. A flip flopper based on polls is spineless. A flip flopper based on trying to be everything to everyone is either confused or dishonest.
I think the other major reason we detest flip floppers is because a lot of us vote on issues over the politician. If you vote on issues you want to make sure you will get what you vote for (assuming your politician wins). The chance of flip flopping reduces your ability to vote on an issue instead of a person.