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Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Lingering in the Spotlight: Why Hillary Clinton's 'Flip-Flops' Aren't Her Biggest Problem

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Author: David Yee
Created: 13 May, 2015
Updated: 15 October, 2022
3 min read

Painting your opponent as an indecisive flip-flopper has long been a successful strategy in presidential politics. From George H.W. Bush's famous ship-sinking statement, "Read my lips, no new taxes," to Mitt Romney's flip-flops on abortion, gay rights, and socialized medicine -- flip-flopping has never been a desirable trait with voters.

Usually, successfully capitalizing on an opponent's flip-flopping effectively kills their chances of winning -- but perhaps not in 2016. Hillary Clinton's political evolution over the past eight years has given the GOP all the political ammunition they could ever want to portray her as a flip-flopping candidate. However, the harsh reality is that it might not even matter.

The concept of using the term "flip-flop" first became extremely popular in American political culture in the late 1950s. The very nature of campaigning had changed, from whirlwind whistle stop tours to battling it out on the radio waves and then later television. The Nixon-Kennedy debate of 1960 was the first televised debate, and it set in motion the candidate's ability to reach a national audience simultaneously and address changes in the opponent's message quickly.

With the invention of the Internet and social media, candidates have almost unlimited ways to spread their message -- and to give their opponents more than enough material to "hang them" with.

Hillary's "Evolution"

The Clinton camp makes no attempt to hide Hillary's so-called evolution -- if anything, it is presented with a level of pride.

Former President Bill Clinton recently spoke about Hillary's desire to undo much of his signature crime bill, stating that its implementation has done more harm than good.

The refinement of her political stance has been incredible, including issues such as immigration, gay marriage, trade, religion, foreign policy, crime, and the domestic economy.

This has given the

GOP every opportunity to label her a flip-flopper -- especially with the important Hispanic voting bloc in key swing states.

Howard Dean, a long-time Democratic strategist and author of the "every state counts" model of Democratic campaigning, has thrown his full support behind Hillary and has tried to make the "liberal case" for her as the best candidate, but the far-left isn't buying it.

Several well-funded far-left organizations tried to nudge U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) into the race in late 2014. While she has not joined the race (and probably won't), the Clinton camp will have to strategically deal with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt) attempt to "go big" on the far left agenda.

The political noise Sanders is making is demonstrating that Hillary isn't following the traditional winning strategy for presidential elections: pander the base, win over the center.

For Hillary to be a viable candidate in 2016, she's going to have to consolidate the base of the Democratic Party, something she has yet to do.

The Harsh Reality of Hillary's Flip-Flops is...

No matter how much the GOP tries to exploit Hillary's flip-flops, it's probably not going to matter in the end.

Howard Dean, in his op-ed in Politico Magazine, unintentionally handed the Republicans their most effective strategy on a silver platter, and Sens. Rand Paul (R- KY) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla) have pounced on the idea.

Hillary has been in the national spotlight since 1992, and if elected will be the second-oldest president at time of election. Like an actor who has been on stage too long, politicians have historically lost much of their goodwill after decades in the national spotlight.

On multiple occasions, Paul has called Hillary, "yesterday's news," while Rubio has embraced characterizing her as a "20th Century politician."

In a race that could come down to only eight or nine battleground states, winning the crucial center is going to be Hillary's biggest challenge. It won't be the flip-flopping that matters to the center, but more importantly what she's done in the past 25 years -- from her quasi-cabinet level health care panel in 1993 to her most recent scandal of missing emails, there are plenty of issues for any voter to single out.

If nominated, she will need a get-out-the-vote type campaign -- a Howard Dean specialty -- coupled with a message and vision that brings the center into the Democratic fold. But it will possibly be the Hillary Clinton of the past 25 years that voters are accepting or rejecting, and that's an enormous hurdle for any politician to overcome.

Photo Source: AP

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