Remember when an almost unpardonable sin for a politician was changing their mind on an issue? We called it flip-flopping: contradicting a previously stated position because of additional information, polling data, party/peer pressure, or atmospheric change. It was possible to evolve and have a paradigm shift, though you were sure to be scorned for at least two news cycles as a hypocritical opportunist, or at least wishy washy. Either way, implied was a lack of leadership and fitness to be “on the bridge” making the tough decisions in time of crisis. Mitt Romney was a prime casualty in 2008 and 2012, savaged for his fluidity by fellow Republican John McCain and a chorus of Democrats. An enterprising shoe company even marketed a rubber beach sandal bearing his name.
Recently journalists, pundits and politicians seem to have tired of the term flip-flop. Without a trace of irony they have abandoned it and begun to describe candidate vacillation as “pivoting.” The pivot appears less derisive and is semantically nuanced to take advantage of an office seeker’s flexibility and lack of bothersome core beliefs and principles.
I am no longer a flip-flopper or indecisive, forgetful, and disorganized. I am merely pivoting. My pivoting is more personal and possibly a function of age. I start for one room in our modest home and realize there is an item in the room I just left that I could take along and save myself a trip later. Cunningly, I decide to double back for it. Just as quickly I realize I may still need the item and it is best left where it is. (We are talking about a sweat shirt here, not the nuclear code.) Still, I have pivoted four times: bring it, leave it, etc. If I plan to go out later, hence the need for a sweat shirt, what else do I need? I am driving JoAnne (the editor) crazy and confusing my border collies who track my every step, all in an effort to save seconds in my busy day, which consists primarily of designing a helmet thru which to view the next solar eclipse as there is no way I can have it ready for this one.
Writing this, I became nostalgic for simpler times. Al Gore inventing the Internet, cranky Bob Dole parodied as an old man chasing kids off the White House lawn if elected, Dan Quayle’s “potato,” Gerald Ford’s pratfall, George (“heckuva job Brownie”) Bush, Sarah Palin’s Russia vision.
Politics has always been a blood sport. We are living in hell and fighting for our lives. There is plenty to parody. Buffoons and clowns abound. There is an underlying sense of decay. A tragically egocentric “comic” has commandeered the main stage. The doors are locked. A lone heckler is roughly escorted out. (“Lucky bastard,” we think.) The rest of us sit nursing our drinks, desperate and alone, too embarrassed to make eye contact with each other. The “performer” is after the crowd, and now insulting patrons nearby. At least it’s not us. Now he’s working blue—dirty, desperate stuff, slamming racial and ethnic groups. The booing increases but most of us simply squirm, placing our drinks down a little harder on the table and coughing occasionally. Not quite the acts of revolutionaries. There is a paralysis in the room. Why are we still sitting here, and why are some audience members laughing and clapping? Some of us exchange sly digs but the show continues… Why don’t we rise as one, turn over our tables and storm out?
Tom H. Cook dreams of the day that Robert Mueller III, with the soundtrack The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (Gene Pitney) playing in the background, will ride into Washington D.C. with enough subpoenas and evidence to Lock Him Up