I am an open supporter of Secretary Clinton this primary season. I’m always eager for a level-headed debate about the two Democratic candidates. However, the level of discourse on social media platforms, particularly Facebook, often leaves me aggravated.
Two recent comments regarding my posts about Hillary Clinton have gotten me particularly riled up: “She flip-flops more than a fish out of the water” and “I appreciate that she supports my rights as a gay person as long as public opinion is on the same side too.” Both refer to Clinton’s change in opinion on these issues over the course of her long political career.
Flip flopping on issues as a politician is not inherently bad. In this election, as in many elections, politicians such as Secretary Clinton are harassed and criticized for past votes and statements that they no longer support.
Critics attack her for her vote supporting the Iraq War in 2002 or her gay marriage stance at the turn of the century. But, as a voter, I’m happy to see her stance change and to see that she has developed as both a person and a politician.
A politician’s job is to represent her constituency at a particular moment in time. She is elected to represent your interests and beliefs and to try to move your town, state, or country in a direction that their constituency supports.
To address the first comment, Hillary Clinton’s vote on the Iraq War, which she now condemns, was at a different moment in time. We felt our country was under attack, we feared weapons of mass destruction and the brutality of Saddam Hussein, and we wanted to be united against a cause.
Clinton made that decision at a moment in time, and in a way that stood with her party and her constituents, voting with other Democrats like Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Tom Harkin. Clinton, like many other Democrats, regretted that vote in October 2002.
I am more likely to qualify Clinton’s vote than she is; she outright says it was a mistake and if she could go back in time she would have voted differently. But, to me, the point of progress is not going back in time to grapple with a decision in the past. Rather, it’s about recognizing your mistakes and changing in the future.
Clinton’s service as Secretary of State does just that. After realizing the consequences of the Iraq War, she began to correct her record. She brought Iran to the negotiating table, she increased women’s rights globally, and she played a key role in the takedown of Osama bin Laden. As Secretary of State, she repaired many of the relationships damaged from the previous administration. She restored EU alliances, made important Asian allies, and built relationships in Africa and Latin America.
A vote in 2002 is not a plan for foreign policy in 2016.
Moving on to the second critique, or the idea that Hillary Clinton is not supportive of the LGBTQ+ community but merely sides with public opinion: yes, at the turn of the century, Clinton did not support gay marriage, but neither did most Democrats. At the time, my mom also didn’t support gay marriage.
My mom, the one who didn’t support gay marriage at the turn of the century, was married to my stepmom, Tracey, on November 12, 2008. They were the first gay couple married in Connecticut. Both of my moms, like me, support Clinton despite her past opinions on gay marriage. People change, opinions change, and the world around us changes. The problems of today are not a vote in 2002 or a past stance on gay marriage.
We are dealing with the issues of today. We are working in coalitions to combat the Islamic Sate (also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh). We are working against discriminatory policies that impact both gays and trans citizens.
History matters, but I urge us to think through the context of the times and examine the candidates of today in the context of the 2016 election.
Caroline Bye is a fourth-year in the College majoring in history and public policy.