Politicians make promises they can’t keep all the time. They may also fudge their beliefs in order to help tamp down opposition to their candidacy based on particularly problematic issue positions. Sometimes they might even take a direct stand, but after an outcry, “clarify” that stand.
But one development that seems to be fairly recent, starting around the Clinton years, is taking stands on issues, usually very firm stands, that those in the know are quite certain are the opposite of what they actually believe, and more importantly the opposite of what they will actually do, in order to nullify perfectly valid attacks on their plans and intentions.
This is not a “both parties do it” issue either as far as I can tell. This one’s only the Democrats, and I’ve got examples. However, anyone that can come up with apples-to-apples counterexamples of Republicans doing it are welcome to correct my ignorance if I’m wrong:
Democrats’ perennial opposition to free trade agreements as candidates and support for them as Presidents. Clinton’s TPP opposition is the latest example.
Obama’s stance on gay marriage
Obama’s stance on the individual mandate
Democrats’ stance on gun control, although that may qualify as a “fudge” since they never explicitly promised not to pursue gun control measures.
Religion. Although no President has been caught directly lying about their faith(well, Obama kinda was when he revealed his gay marriage position was his “political position” after saying it was a matter of his Christian faith during the campaign), some Dopers have said in another thread that they’d like a candidate to be a non-believer in reality. This seems to me an endorsement of the tactic. Fair or not fair?
Any Republican examples? Remember, promises that can’t be kept aren’t apples-to-apples. Everyone does that. Mexico is going to pay for the wall. No they aren’t. An apples to apples comparison would be Trump simply not wanting to build the wall once taking office.
Not apples to apples. No secretly gay Republican ran as anti-gay and then became pro-gay upon taking office.
What you’re referring to is simple hypocrisy, like Democrats evading the higher taxes they support. I’m talking about a very specific thing here: taking a firm stand on an issue and then supporting the opposite after taking office.
What about Nixon’s stance on communism? Nixon had always run on a firm platform of opposition to communism and promising to take a hard line against communist countries. But once he was elected he opened negotiation first with the Soviet Union and then with the People’s Republic of China. And he had promised his support to Taiwan, which he essentially abandoned in order to establish diplomatic relations with China.
That falls into “promise not kept” territory and I’d note that Bush has gotten a lot of credit from those who would normally be his political adversaries for his AIDS policy. A better example would be the “humble foreign policy” he believed in, but 9/11 provided a good reason for an overhaul of US foreign policy. Some “evolutions” are at least justified by events, or can plausibly be justified. Clinton will not even spend a quarter of what she promises to spend on anything either. Tens of billions to fight housing discrimination? Please. That’s just messaging to minority voters, she has like 50 higher spending priorities before she gets to that one and tens of billions is serious money. Housing advocates will be lucky to get an additional billion. But again, that’s an empty promise and that’s as old as democracy. I maintain that outright lying about your positions or plans when you intended to the opposite(Opposite is the key word here) to be a rather new development and it seems to stem largely from an understanding between Democrats and their supporters that in order to get anything done they have to win red states, and to win red states they might have to take positions on issues when running for office that are identical to what the Republicans support.
I have often seen Dems claim that their positions derive from deeply held beliefs, but their behavior puts their sincerity in question. But when a Republican sacrifices a virgin to their Dark Lord, there is no such doubt.
It’s how he gets people to do his homework for him.
Of course, he’s carefully crafted the question to discount all the obvious examples of Republican malfeasance. All those Congresspeople elected on a platform of impeaching Obama who have done exactly zero because they knew all along there were no grounds to do so? Doesn’t count! John Boehner opposing earmarks but quite happily pushing for legislation that would financially benefit him personally and substantially? Doesn’t count!
But I think Lance Turbo nailed the biggest Republican examples - Republicans harp on about small government and reducing debt and yet recent Republican administrations have greatly expanded both government size and government spending. As GOP elephants in the room go, those are pretty damn enormous ones.
And since ElvisL1ves has brought up Obamacare, let’s also mention GOP members of Congress who have filibustered their own bills and blocked their own nominees in order to prevent Obama from accomplishing anything.
(Also: I’d like some examples of “Democrats evading the higher taxes they support” please.)
For Republicans (various – not a monolith, just like the things in the OP are not monolithic for Democrats):
Cutting spending; privatizing social security; Trump’s flip on deporting millions; various Republicans that flipped on gay marriage (especially after a family member came out); a few Republicans that have made their peace with the ACA; McCain’s flip between 2000 and 2008 on social issues (he used to call Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell extremists, but in 2008 he sucked up to them); Romney on health care; Trump on abortion. From the top of my head.
But again, that’s a broken promise not a lie about core beliefs. Reducing the size of government is hard. Actually prioritizing it when there are so many other things you want to do is a lot more difficult. Might as well blame Democrats for failing to reduce poverty or end racism. Well, you can blame them, but it’s not lying about their beliefs. Sometimes your beliefs are hard to implement.
I’m talking about very direct lies about binary issues. Do you support X? Politician says “no”. Then gets into office and says “yes”. bonus points if people knew he was lying to begin with, as was the case with both Obama’s gay marriage stance and his individual mandate stance. Is there any Obama supporter who didn’t know that he was going to have an individual mandate in his health care plan and that he was only taking that stance to gain an advantage over Hillary Clinton? Oh yeah, Obama’s NAFTA stance too, which was given away when Austen Goolsbee assured the Canadians that Obama’s NAFTA stance was just “campaign talk”.
Tons of Trump supporters have dismissed some of the crazy things he’s said as “campaign talk”, while others (David Duke and other white supremacists) have dismissed the reasonable things he’s said as “campaign talk”.
I’ve definitely heard Rush Limbaugh dismiss various Republicans’ “reasonable” proposals as “campaign talk” or something similar, while still supporting the candidate. This kind of thing is common for most candidates, and certainly for both parties.
The idea that Republican politicians talk about large cuts – er, “reforms” – to Social Security and Medicare when talking to fiscally conservative audiences and then have never lifted a finger to do any such thing is far beyond a mere broken promise. It’s literally talking out of both sides of their mouths.
The only reform efforts that Republicans have pushed are rather modest cuts to Medicare to go after waste and abuse, and some tinkering with the COLA increases to Social Security. But if you listen to Republicans on the stump, there’s often a lot greater talk about fundamental reforms – not the tinkering they have proposed while in office.
This is clearly because once in office, they realize that actually carrying out their drastic talking points on entitlement reform will doom them.
I fail to see any difference whatsoever with how Democrats talk about trade deals, which was referenced in the OP: talk big while on the stump, crumble while in office.