Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Evolution of the Flip Flop

I am reliably told that there are a lot of people out there who don't believe in Evolution, which is perfectly fine by me.  Evolution is a scientific theory and though there's a fair bit or corroborating data to back it up, there are also some terribly important gaps and questions that need to be adequately answered before it moves from the concept of a theory to established scientific fact.  What's more, since this is a scientific theory and not an article faith (regardless of what some on both sides of the argument would like to tell you), the concept of belief has nothing to do with its validity one way or the other.  The theory will be either proven, modified over time to fit the facts as we currently understand them, or disproven and discarded as no longer of any scientific use.

While theories regarding the 'Origin of the Species' may remain in doubt however, there is none whatsoever regarding whether the flip-flop exists in politics, and that it has evolved in this country throughout its history.  One could even go so far as to say that it has been doing so since before there even was a country.  

Was Benedict Arnold not the ultimate flip-flopper of his time; first as the hero of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, the Battle of Ridgefield, and the Battle of Saratoga, (where leg injuries cost him time on the battlefield and damned near his life).  Did he not then, for no better reason than retribution for personal insult, lack of promotion, and money betray the very ideals he earlier fought for and switch sides in the argument; eventually receiving a commission as a brigadier general in the British Army and leading attacks against former allies and compatriots in Virginia.

Didn't Teddy Roosevelt change his mind about running for President after serving two terms in office (one after stepping up following the McKinley assassination, and one of his own), promoting William Howard Taft as the next Republican nominee (and eventually President).  Didn't he then flip-flop, change his mind about about seeking yet another term, and go so far as to enter the election as a 3rd party candidate after losing his party's nomination in his attempt to unseat his former protege.   

But it's in the election of 2012 that we seem to have seen the flip-flop reach its highest evolutionary form to date.

It started of course, as Republican candidate (and now all but nominee) Mitt Romney fought to keep himself from being 'tarred and feathered' by fellow Republicans over whether he stood with his potential Democratic opponent as a supporter of what has become commonly known as Obamacare.  Having signed a law in Massachusetts as governor which called for an individual mandate for health insurance, he found himself flipping first one way, then flopping to another in order to distance himself from an unpopular position in the primaries, without repudiating his former stance on the issue.  Caught in an unsustainable and vacillating argument (seemingly with himself), he seemed finally to emerge with a self-satisfied position of being for what he was before, and not for what the current White House occupant is; in spite of the fact that the differences are all but indiscernible, except as to the number of people who must follow the mandate.

It is however, the incumbent Democratic President who has elevated the flip-flop to almost an art form, perhaps afraid he would fall short in demonstrating his ability to remain as verbally and intellectually flexible as his opponent where his core beliefs were concerned.  Where same-sex unions were concerned, it was the President himself that in fact called his stand "an evolution on the issue."  As detailed in a Miami Herald piece (which I am quoting extensively from), in 1996 when running for the Illinois Senate, he said "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."  In a questionnaire just two years later his answer was instead 'Undecided' on legalizing same sex unions.  When running for the US Senate in 2004, he stated "I am a fierce supporter of domestic partnership and civil union laws.  I am not a supporter of same sex marriage as it has been thrown about ..." 

FLIP,FLOP, and done ... right?  But wait, we're not even close to the end.

In his book 'Audacity of Hope', he defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  In a 2007 debate he supported civil unions with "all the benefits that are available for a legally sanctioned marriage", but not legal recognition of same-sex marriage.  In 2008 he said "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.  I am not in favor of gay marriage." And this year on ABC's 'Good Morning America'  he said, " is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

Don't get me wrong here.  I've spoken about my own theories of the place of government when it comes to the subject of marriage (none), so I am casting no stones at the position(s) that the President has taken over a period of SIX YEARS on the subject.  It might even be said that I am voicing a twisted form of admiration for the flexibility that Barack Obama is able to maintain in the face of changing public opinion, polling data, and same-sex marriage legislation at the State level (though I freely admit that my admiration may contain more than a little sarcasm and even a touch of irony).

What we are apparently seeing here is that having been inspired (outed) by the 'foot in pie hole' verbal discipline of his running mate, the Commander-in-Chief is turning the simple political flip-flop into into a gymnastics run involving at least five flip flops, with perhaps two and a half twists on the dismount (difficult 3.4, at least according the judges that I spoke to).

You know this is an Olympic as well as an election year, and I can't help feeling that we're somehow missing the boat by not having the political flip-flop as an event in the games (even if it's only as a demonstration sport).  It's obvious that we are blessed with at least two who are not only ready and able to compete at the international level, but whose skills might well guarantee bringing home both the gold and silver medals.  I am in fact lost in admiration as I watch these truly mesmerizing performances by what will apparently be the two major competitors for the highest office in the land, their efforts achieving what can be considered nothing less that the highest current evolutionary stage of what was once the simple political flip-flop.

Please note that the picture inserted above is not a composite, time-lapse one of my life.  The hair color is completely wrong ...

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