Unless you reside deep in a cave, you may have heard that President Obama last week publicly stated his personal feelings on the subject of gay marriage. Coming on the heels of yet another ‘slip’ by Vice President and professional disgrace Joe Biden, Obama’s announcement was hardly a surprise. This show of support is only The President’s latest position on the hot button issue.
Later in 1998 while running for reelection incumbent Obama found himself “undecided on the issue” in 2004 while defending the same seat he had this to say, “ I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue. I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation.”
I was reminded that it is my obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided,” while a U.S. Senator, writing in his memoir in 2006, “The Audacity of Hope.”
While campaigning for president in 2007 “The government has to treat all citizens equally. I am a strong supporter not of a weak version of civil unions, but of a strong version, in which the rights that are conferred at the federal level to persons who are part of the same-sex union are compatible”
Last week as President in an ABC News interview the president had this to say, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
These are just a few of the 11 public positions that President Obama has taken on this issue at different points in his career. If you are confused I understand. His evolving opinion seems to “flip” and “flop” back and forth quite frequently.
So what is the difference between an evolution in an opinion and a pandering flip flop designed to gain votes?
During the 2004 presidential campaign John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, was hounded throughout the campaign for being a “flip-flopper,” someone who changes his positions depending on how popular they are at the time.
His most damning quote: “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
Flip-flops came to be defined in that campaign as 180s on such politically expedient issues as supporting the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, affirmative action and No Child Left Behind. Since that time the term has been bandied about to mean any shift in opinion.
Mitt Romney has changed his positions on Gay Marriage, Healthcare and abortion almost completely since running for Governor of Massachusetts. Holding more liberal stances on these issues when running in the very liberal New England sate, Romney has also referred to his shift as an evolution.
What is farcical in my opinion is the perspective that flip-flopping is pandering for political gain while the evolution of opinion is just that without political gain. The purpose of all publicly expressed opinion for a politician is political gain. Our partisan climate has made changing one’s mind political suicide.
Bottom line- Voters tend to view any change in viewpoint to be weakness. We expect a leader to have all of his positions formed before entering a race, ludicrous this may be. When view points shift we are skeptical of motive. With two of the finest flip-floppers in this Presidential race it is hard to say what will happen. My opinion of them both is sure to evolve and at this stage it can only improve.