Why "Flip-Flopping" on Marriage Equality Is Nothing Like "Flip-Flopping" on, Say, Universal Healthcare
Right-wingers instantly settled on "Flip-flopper!" as their principal line of attack after President Obama declared himself in favor of gay marriage -- the word "war" was taken out of that Fox Nation headline, but it went from "Obama Flip Flops, Declares War on Marriage" to "Obama Flip Flops on Gay Marriage," and Rush Limbaugh whined the same talking point ("So when Obama flip-flops, it's called 'evolving.' When Romney evolves, it's called 'flip-flopping'").
But here's the thing: we're used to seeing people change their minds about homosexuality. An awful lot of older Americans had to go through an evolution of thinking before they were able to see gay people as fully human and worthy of respect. (That's true even of people who are gay themselves and who internalized society's contempt.) Fewer young people have had to go through this (although it's not as if homophobia is nonexistent among the young) -- but even young people who've never had a struggle on this issue have watched plenty of people struggle and evolve, quite possibly including their own parents and grandparents.
You can't say the same thing about, oh, say, the bailout of Detroit, or universal health care coverage with an individual mandate, or many of the other things Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on. Nobody grew up hearing picked-on kids being called "auto bailer-outers," only to realize years later that auto bailer-outers are human beings worthy of respect. Obama's changed position on an issue that taps into deep feelings people have about themselves and others; Romney flip-flops on ... well, pretty much anything.
And even when Romney flip-flops on more profound issues -- gay rights in general, abortion -- he's self-righteous on both sides of the issue. Here he is on abortion in 2002:
He's self-righteous on the other side now -- as he's been self-righteous on multiple sides of multiple issues. Obama used to oppose gay marriage, but he was never a self-righteous opponent. It's different.
So, no, the "Obama flip-flopper" dog won't hunt.