I was a Flip-Flopper Before I was a Flip-Flopper

Much has been made about Mitt Romney’s downward spiral over the last two weeks. Every day we hear political pundits tell us how out of touch Romney is and how he hasn’t been able to connect with middle-class voters. Conservatives have attributed the fall to specific political missteps such as when Romney failed to mention the troops in his acceptance speech at the RNC or when a senior Romney campaign staffer compared his boss to an Etch-A-Sketch—which by the way—still remains my favorite moment from the 2012 election season. Democrats blame Romney’s downfall on the “out of touch” factor, frequently citing his great wealth, top-secret tax returns, and the elevator he had installed in his California home for his car. They simultaneously chide him for being wooden and inhuman. For this argument they often refer to his quote, “I like firing people,” which they usually tie to his record at Bain Capital, where Romney and his colleagues purchased ailing companies, sucked out any equity they could for themselves, loaded up the company with debt, and then filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying these debts. One of the many costs of this kind of vulture capitalism is that it resulted in the loss of thousands of American jobs. To further dehumanize Mitt, liberals also love citing the incident where Romney tied his dog Seamus to the roof of his car for a 12-hour road trip and then when asked about it, Romney claimed that Seamus “liked it up there.” No word on how the Romney family felt about Seamus defecating liquid down the windows of the car (yes this actually happened). For those of you drawn to this story, there is actually a facebook page devoted to the incident. This week political pundits are enamored with the footage of Mitt Romney speaking at a private fundraiser and stating that 47% of Americans are lazy free loaders and that he could win this election if only he were Latino. And the hits keep comin’.

These incidents (and others like them) certainly haven’t helped the Romney campaign, but I don’t think we can point to them as the primary reasons Romney will lose in November. The biggest reason he will lose is that people simply don’t trust him. Voters have shown time and time again that they will vote for criminals, philanderers, former drug users, and every other form of lowlife imaginable, but they don’t want a flip-flopper. Previous elections show exactly that. John F. Kennedy was born into extreme wealth and prestige, but voters didn’t care; Ronald Reagan was the first President to be divorced, but voters didn’t care; George H.W. Bush was classified as rich and out of touch, but voters didn’t care; Bill Clinton was known to be monogamously-challenged, but voters didn’t care; George W. Bush was notorious for putting his foot in his mouth at virtually every campaign stop, but voters didn’t care. Misguided or not, there was a level of trust with all of these candidates. Even with Slick Willie in the White House, many Americans trusted that this was a man who understood the needs and pains of every-day Americans.

With Mitt Romney, however, people have no idea what they are getting. As Ted Kennedy famously said in his debate with Mitt Romney in 1994, “I am Pro-Choice; my opponent is multiple choice.” A joke that keeps popping up throughout the campaign season is this one: A liberal, a conservative, and a moderate walk into a bar. Then the bartender asks, “What can I get for you Governor Romney?” These attempts at humor highlight a much larger problem for the Romney campaign. No one knows where he stands, and that makes voters uneasy.

In many ways, this election is similar to the 2004 election between John Kerry and George W. Bush. In 2004, the country was in the midst of two wars, one of which was extremely unpopular; no weapons of mass destruction had been found; bin Laden was still at large; the Bush Tax cuts did not give the hoped boost to the economy; the federal debt was spiraling out of control; the Bush White House obliterated the surplus created under President Clinton; no new jobs were being created and manufacturing jobs were vanishing. The election was Bush’s to lose. Democrats liked their chances, and why not? They were running against an unpopular president who was guaranteed to produce countless gaffes on the campaign trail.

But something happened. In the weeks before the 2004 election, George W. Bush said something that I believe was the single sentence that won him his re-election. He said, “You may not agree with me, but you know where I stand.” When I heard that I said, “Wow. He’s right.” The image of Bush’s conviction juxtaposed with John Kerry saying, ‘I voted for the war before I voted against it’ was the reason Bush went home the victor. (The actual Kerry quote was “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” referring to the war’s funding. The real quote about spending morphed into the quote you see above.) What became apparent is that the American people would rather have an honest thief than an indecisive flip-flopper. Apparently Romney didn’t learn much eight years ago.

– Nathan

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5 Responses to “I was a Flip-Flopper Before I was a Flip-Flopper”

  1. I forget where I read this gem, but it is gemlike. “The problem with Romney is he’s always saying what he thinks the audience at the time wants to hear — and then it gets replayed for all audiences.”

    • Different Anonymous Says:

      I disagree with this post.

      It’s not that you can’t change your mind or even shouldn’t. (I don’t fancy using catch phrases like “flip-fop”) It’s that you have to be able to explain in a believable and reasonable way why you changed your mind.

      This is but one of Romney’s problems. I’m not sure it’s the biggest, but no–he is not believable when he changes his mind on issues like abortion.

      I seem to remember a certain Senator Obama who said, “I believe Marriage is between a man and a woman,” only to later come out in support of gay marriage. One could slam him as a “flip-flopper”, but I believe it goes beyond that. I don’t think Obama particularly cares on the issue one way or the other. I don’t think Romney cares about a whole multitude of issues from abortion to Jerusalem being Israel’s capital.

      I just hope to God that changing your mind isn’t always viewed as a bad thing–“flip flopping”. Getting better information and developing better ideas and policy initiatives should be encouraged. If only it’s genuine. Other than that I’d opine that this blogpost is a bit of a over-simplification.

  2. While we strongly encourage readers to leave comments, we ask that people identify themselves at least with a first name. Anonymous comments (particularly critical ones) are not in the spirit of this blog, which strives for transparency and candor.

    In regards to your comment, no one said a candidate couldn’t change or modify his/her position on an issue. I hope all politicians are able to adjust their positions in light of new information. However, Mitt Romney has been amorphous unlike any presidential candidate before him. And comparing Romney’s behavior to other politicians—because every politician has changed his/her mind at some point—is as overly simplistic as it is disingenuous. Let me reaffirm that Romney’s political nosedive is the result of many problems. At the top of that list, however, is his inability to take a stance on any issue.

    • I’m the first Anonymous. Not at all used to leaving my name, so I forgot to fill out the fields below, and voila! anon is my new name.

      That being said, let me fix the last sentence you wrote: “his inability to KEEP a stance on any issue.” He’s held all the stances already.

      Also, I’d say it’s not the partisans who like guys who say “at least you know where I stand.” Those swing voters, the types in the mushy middle, the undecided-with-a-month-left folks are probably those want a candidate with impeccable predictability. I can imagine they admire the “resolve” and “integrity” that candidate shows in the face of so much data.

  3. Andy Diehl Says:

    You have clearly targeted why I have never been happy with Romney as a candidate for my party. At some point, everyone that honestly listens to a discourse with an open mind has the potential to be a flip-flopper. I agree with you that the difference is being able to explain why your position changed.

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