At least a few times in presidential election cycles, we will observe a candidate changing their position on an issue, or flip flopping, usually because their previous stance didn’t align well with the ideologies liked by their supporters. Sometimes a candidate will even change their views to target a new audience, hoping to receive votes from a demographic that would otherwise have no reason to support a specific candidate.
Flip flopping is usually a negative characteristic for a presidential candidate to have. Voters want a candidate that can actively voice their opinions and firmly stand by their statements. It is in this that the electorate finds the leadership it has come to expect in Washington.
But, if you’re Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, your opinion changes based on which way the political winds are blowing in a given week.
While Clinton is undoubtedly the frontrunner in the democratic primary, she is constantly flip flopping to gain the support from progressives in her party. Progressives are attracted to the radically left wing ideologies exhibited by Bernie Sanders, who is gaining ground on Clinton in many states. To stay on top, Clinton has flip flopped to match his stance on certain issues. We’ve seen Clinton do this a handful of times already, and we’re only in October of 2015.
Earlier this week, Clinton announced that she is no longer supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement between the United States and 11 different nations in the Pacific Rim, because the agreement can no longer “meet the high bar” that she has personally set for free trade deals.
The TPP is an economic partnership endorsed by the Obama Administration that aims to reduce or eliminate tariffs and expand free trade, creating one of the largest trade unions in the world. The 12 countries involved in negotiations, including the United States and Japan, are responsible for approximately 40 percent of world trade.
The irony of Clinton’s flop is that during her term as secretary of state, Clinton was a major advocate of the TPP, and is even quoted saying that the deal “sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” In her book “Hard Choices” Clinton called the TPP “the signature economic pillar” of the Obama Administration’s economic strategy in Asia.
It wasn’t until Clinton acknowledged the support that Bernie Sanders was receiving on the issue of free trade that Clinton turned her back on the deal. Sanders has made several speeches during his tenure in the senate about how, in his opinion, free trade agreements like the TPP further enhance income inequality in America and exports jobs. Progressives in the Democratic Party agree with Sanders on this issue, and it is clear that Clinton’s move is an attempt to connect with that base.
And just two weeks ago, Clinton finally took an official stance on the Keystone XL Pipeline, breaking her long term silence on an issue that had been plaguing her since she resigned as secretary of state.
When Clinton began campaigning in primary states, she boasted to voters about how she started the process of negotiations in getting the pipeline approved. But when asked by voters in New Hampshire on her specific stance regarding the pipeline, Clinton initially refused to take a formal position, despite all of the pro-pipeline rhetoric she had been using in her campaign.
Then on Sept. 22, Clinton publically denounced the pipeline at a community forum in Iowa, citing her “strong” stance on the environment and climate change as reason for opposition. Clinton called the pipeline a “distraction from the important work we have to do on climate change.” Where was this talk years ago?
Not so coincidentally, Sanders’ campaign released a formal press release in July that criticized the Keystone XL Pipeline, a move endorsed by many progressives and environmentalists in the Democratic Party. Sanders’ position was well received with liberals because of Clinton’s flakiness on the issue.
While it is truly absurd for a presidential candidate to change their opinions this many times on key issues this early in a campaign, it is even more alarming that Clinton is playing catch-up to a less popular and more radically left wing candidate. Clinton is now afraid that she isn’t liberal enough, and so to retain votes and stay on top, she believes she must offer the same radically left wing solutions that Sanders has.
The TPP and Keystone XL Pipeline legislation could lift many in this country out of poverty by creating millions of jobs. Clinton’s intentional repositioning of her stances to mirror Sanders’ is a dangerous, cowardly, and partisan move that negatively influences issues that have much bipartisan support.
Clinton may think riding the wave of public opinion will help her stay on top, but eventually the voters will lose trust in her. It’s already clear to me that there is nothing candid about Clinton’s candidacy. Her entire campaign has been spent testing progressive public opinion, only to change her original stance and remain ideologically aligned with those who are supporting Sanders’ campaign. Each day, Clinton is moving hazardously farther to the left.
She may not see it now, but Clinton’s impulsive need to be liked by everyone in her party will presumably end in her being disliked by the average voter.