One way to differentiate yourself from someone who shares your views is to point out that you held them first. That’s what Martin O’Malley did Thursday when he chided Hillary Clinton for recently coming out in support of same-sex marriage and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
But of course, he disguised it as a back-handed compliment. “I’m glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right positions on these issues,” he said. He then added: “I believe that we are best as a party when we lead with our principles and not according to the polls. Leadership is about making the right decision, and the best decision before sometimes it becomes entirely popular.” It was the rhetorical equivalent of flipping someone the bird behind your other hand.
2008 is no doubt partly to blame for Clinton’s flip-flopping, at least on same-sex marriage. It’s hard to believe now, but every major presidential candidate was publicly against same-sex marriage (with the possible exception of Ron Paul, who nominally supported the right of any two people to marry, but whose libertarian attitude about civil marriage in general made it all kind of moot). In fact, next month marks three short years since President Obama’s phony “evolution” on the issue.
So, yes, politicians’ stances are strategic. And if they stay in the game long enough they end up flip-flopping. Personally, I think Clinton should be questioned on her shifting positions, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it comes in the spirit of opportunism.