It’s Not a Flip-Flop If You Get It Right

Rob Tornoe watched the Vice-President discuss gay marriage.  He was taking his commentary in one direction when the President took it in another direction.


Here is Rob Tornoe’s commentary.

What is the definition of a flip-flopper?

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It’s interesting to explore the origin of the term. Famed New York Times columnist William Safire wrote about a U.S. politician in the late 19th century who was refereed to as “the Florida flopper” by an opponent. Safire noted that the “fl” sound appearing twice is an indication of ridicule, which is why “flip-flop” rolls off politicians’ tongues so nicely.

Safire also noted that the doubling of the sound worked well in other two-word phrases used to disparage someone, including “wishy-washy” and “higgledy-piggledy”.

Ironically, those are all words I would have used to describe President Obama’s over-calculated and highly-political stand on Gay Marriage prior to this week. Obama, who once came out in support of gay marriage before deciding to run for the U.S. Senate, had let politics get in the way of his personal beliefs, even as society’s acceptance of same-sex unions has changed drastically.

Leave it to Joe Biden, perceived as a gaffe-prone menace inside the beltway, to be the catalyst for the completion of Obama’s “evolution” on Gay Marriage. If Biden hadn’t gone on “Meet the Press” and told David Gregory he was fine with men marrying men, we probably wouldn’t have heard a peep out of Obama on the issue until well-after the election.

This comes as a small comfort to homosexuals in North Carolina. If Obama had spoken in defense of same-sex marriage earlier, maybe he could have had an effect on a constitutional amendment passed in the state on Tuesday banning marriage (or civil unions for that matter) for anyone other than a man and a woman.

Stepping away from the politics, the President made the right call. It’s wrong to discriminate against gay people just because they are gay. The Declaration of Independence enshrines three basic human rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t recall it being followed by a asterisk noting, “except for gay people.”

Civil unions, like the ones that are available here in Delaware, are a positive step for equal right. But like fountains in the south that spewed the same water, yet acted to separate society, we need to make the marriage of same-sex couples completely equal in every way to the marriage of heterosexual couples.

So I’m sorry conservatives. When you talk about the “tradition” of marriage (which included polygamy in the Bible) and how same-sex couples threaten our society, another disparaging two-word phrase comes to mind – “mumbo-jumbo.”


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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