There’s no doubt whatsoever that Hillary Clinton is very much a weather-vane when it comes to certain issues. Her history of flip-flopping is emblematic of the sort of thing that once led cartoonist Gary Trudeau, who draws the Doonesbury comic strip, to depict Hillary’s husband Bill as a living waffle. It’s fair to say that Hillary picked up this trait from her husband, if she didn’t already have it.
Do we really want someone this fickle running the country?
Let me first say that I’ve vigorously defended the right of any politician to change his or her mind. In fact, I’ve singled it out as a vital qualification for office. The last thing we need is a leader who sticks to his guns regarding a failed policy. We had that under George W. Bush, and while he was one of the worst presidents we ever had, nobody ever attacked him as a “flip-flopper.”
In other words, when the horse is going the wrong direction, you make sure your horse can turn in the right direction. If the horse won’t turn, you get a new goddamned horse!
The GOP calls it “flip-flopping.” I call it navigating with a rudder, and that means all those who do not flip-flop on occasion are completely rudderless.
But all that is just basic principle. Certainly there are some issues worth sticking to one’s guns about, and others that merit reconsideration and an altering of one’s position. Which is which? And more to the point, which is which regarding Hillary?
Let’s use the biggest attacks levied against Hillary as our examples and see if they pan out. How about Hillary’s complete flip-flop on gay marriage?
Yes, Hillary turned end-around on the gay marriage debate. But then, so did the entire American population. In 2004, Sonny Bush virtually won the election on opposition to gay marriage alone. Back in 2008, when Hillary supported DOMA, the Defense Of Marriage Act, the majority of Americans were against gay marriage. Even in hyper-liberal California, the sentiment against gay marriage was such that Prop 8, a bill to ban gay marriage, passed with 52% of the vote.
Only a few years later, the entire landscape radically changed. The younger generation had completely embraced the LGBT community, and they were now old enough to vote. They vigorously stood up to their parents on the issue of gay marriage and made them see differently. Parents suddenly found that some of their children were gay, and were put in the position of having to reject their own kids or rethink their philosophy. And if the kids weren’t gay, they at least had friends who were, and after meeting them, they couldn’t find much grounds for condemning them. The issue had landed in their back yard, and the gay community won them over with a combination of righteous indignation and sheer charm. It was such a paradigm shift that Mitt Romney suddenly found opposition to gay marriage to be a huge liability for him. The issue that won Bush II the election now helped drag Romney down below the threshold of victory.
We ALL flip-flopped, pretty much!
So we can’t really attack Hillary for that one. Her change of mind is one that those of us above a certain age all did. To attack her on this is to attack ourselves.
What about charter schools? There was a time when Hillary supported charter schools, and now she’s opposed to them.
Many people argued for a trial period to give charter schools a chance to show what they could do. Even I was in favor of this, so long as it excluded religious schools on the grounds of violating separation between church and state. After charter schools had been tried in various cities, including Milwaukee, they were shown to have failed in altering the outcomes of troubled schools, and have not succeeded in increasing the test scores of inner city children. It is a failed experiment. So I don’t blame Hillary for changing her mind, and neither should you. It’s a good issue to have changed one’s mind about, and many of us have.
What about gun control? There was a time when Hillary criticized support of “blanket rules” regarding guns. Now she supports stricter gun control laws, particularly on assault weapons. And what about immigration? There was a time when Hillary spoke very harshly about illegal immigration, and now she’s in favor of an expedited path to citizenship. What about mandatory minimum sentencing requirements? Hillary once was in favor of them, now she is against them. What about marijuana? She was once against legalization, now she's open to it. What happened on these issues?
What happened was that society shifted as well. Attitudes in both gun control and immigration have shifted, both because of increases in Columbine-like tragedies in Sandy Hook Elementary School and now a gay night club in Orlando. Attitudes towards immigrants, and particularly Latino immigrants, have softened because American society has grown to like and appreciate Latin culture. Mandatory minimums, usually billed as "three strikes and you're out" laws, were very popular during Bill Clinton's tenure, and a vast majority favored them. It was only years later, when we saw the disastrous unintended consequences, that we changed our minds as a society. And marijuana prohibition played a role in that shifting attitude. When society as a whole decided legalization was a good thing (and it has), it looked back at mandatory sentencing for drug offenses and said, "Shit! What were we thinking!"
In fact, Hillary’s changes of mind and position are a reflection of our own in society. Her flip-flops are not so much a weather-vane as a mirror showing our own reflection. And WE are the weather-vane! Hillary changes when WE do!
“But wait!” you say. “What about the TPP! What about NAFTA! What about KAFTA and KORUS and all those other free-trade agreements which many on the left are so opposed to?”
I will do an entire blog post later dealing just with free trade agreements. It’s a highly complex issue which needs its own separate breakdown. For now, I’ll simply say this: Free trade ships some jobs overseas while creating new ones through lower consumer prices and an expanded market-base. No, it’s not a complete wash, but certain jobs will eventually go overseas anyway. Might as well get the additional customers for the new businesses too and get some of those lost jobs back. That’s the way President Obama sees it, and that’s the way I see it too.
Let’s not reject flip-flopping. Let’s embrace it! It’s healthy to change one’s mind. I flip-flopped from a conservative Christian to a liberal atheist, and while some people may not see that as a positive change, I certainly do. Most of my readers are fellow freethinkers who have flip-flopped on any number of things too. ALL OF SCIENCE is built on being willing to flip-flop away from a hypothesis once it has failed!
Flip-flopping is a good thing!
And let's also recall the things Hillary has not flip-flopped about:
- She's never flip-flopped about women's rights!
- She's never flip-flopped on providing affordable health care for everyone!
- She's never flip-flopped on protecting the environment!
- She's certainly never flip-flopped regarding climate change!
- She's never flip-flopped on emphasizing and funding education!
- She's never flip-flopped on promoting small business.!
- She's never flip-flopped her stance on ending Racial inequality!
I guess she's not so fickle after all.
So let’s recognize that Hillary is indeed a flip-flopper.
Just like you and me.