Get access

On ‘flip-flopping’: Branded stance-taking in U.S. electoral politics


Address correspondence to:
Michael Lempert
Department of Linguistics
Georgetown University
37th and O Streets, NW
Washington, D.C. 20057


This article examines stance in U.S. political discourse, taking as its empirical point of departure Democratic candidate John Kerry's epistemic stance-taking in the televised 2004 presidential debates. Kerry's stance-taking is shown to help display the characterological attribute of ‘conviction’ and serve as a rejoinder to critics who had branded him as a ‘flip-flopper.’ His stance-taking is thus not primarily ‘to’ or ‘for’ copresent interactants, but is largely interdiscursive in character. ‘Conviction’ and its opposite, ‘flip-flopping,’ suggest further how stance-taking itself has been an object of typification in the agonistic dynamics of candidate branding and counter-branding. In moving from epistemic stance-taking in discourse to models of the stance-taker as a social type, this article addresses questions about the units and levels of analysis needed to study stance in contemporary political discourse.