There is scarcely a politician who has not been accused of “flip-flopping.” Whether it comes from the opposition or a political rival, many officials actively seek to avoid the flip-flop label. Switching opinions, policies, or tactics can typically turn hardline supporters and partisan bases against their chosen politician. And, for a career politician in this point in time, an inflexible, consistent manner should be the easiest strategy for staying in office.
In the 2004 presidential election, Democratic nominee John Kerry was widely denounced as a flip-flopper by the Republican Party, particularly in regards to his initial support, and then criticism, of the Iraq War. The label became so toxic for Kerry that it is perceived to be one of the main reasons why his presidential hopes tanked in what should have been an unquestionable race.
Today, however, the flip-flop is no longer based on hearsay, or opinion. The most prolific and proud flip-flopper in our political system currently lives in the White House; sits at the historic and most honorable Resolute Desk. Donald Trump has taken flip-flopping to a new level, one where truth is inherently questioned and any criticism stems from dishonesty.
Trump has flipped on countless positions. It’s natural for a candidate to make promises that a politician can’t fulfill, but Trump has not only changed his policies since becoming president, he has done so for issues that are easily achievable for him. Many of his supporters are predictably angry – although apparently not enough to get him to rethink his methods. This has caused his approval ratings to drop to 39%, much lower than the 61% historical average.
In addition, Trump’s greatest foe in his ideological battle is one that could determine the rest of his presidency -- it’s himself. No other president has had such a robust record of opinion and political criticism than Donald Trump. His Twitter page is built upon positions he took before public opinion was the greatest investment in his portfolio.
Trump criticized and warned President Obama against intervening in Syria, implying he would do so because of low approval numbers. While Obama never did attack Syria, Trump did so within his first 100 days in office, amid plummeting support. Trump accused Obama of being “the least transparent President ever,” but then decided to pull White House visitor logs from public view. Trump tweeted that the Electoral College is “a disaster for democracy,” despite only ascending to the presidency because of it. And trust me, the list goes on and on.
Politicians were once able to combat a flip-flop accusation, debating that their stance changed with the arrival of new information or that their conscience on a certain issue had softened. No more.
Simply put, Donald Trump has turned the art of the flip-flop into a public display of apathy. He doesn’t seem to consider, or care about, his past stances. The only position he’s concerned with is the one which achieves his short-term goals. Unfortunately for him, it’s much harder to change your positions when the public has the receipts.