Throughout the Republican primary, we have heard (and will continue to hear) much talk of “flip-flopping,” or, when an elected official changes his/her mind on any subject, contradicting a previous position. Both of the mainstream media’s darlings, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, are prime examples of this phenomenon.
For example, Obama was originally committed to closing Guantanamo Bay, was opposed to the PATRIOT Act’s domestic spying, and promised to veto NDAA. Instead, he has kept Guantanamo open indefinitely, renewed the PATRIOT Act, and signed NDAA into law.
On the flip (flop) side, Romney has made himself famous for his complete 180 degree turns on topics ranging from abortion, health care , and bailouts.
Supporters of these candidates say that even if that person flipped positions, it’s a sign of personal and intellectual growth, and even of modesty and willingness to admit past mistakes. Others say it is merely pandering in the hopes of being elected. Is either side right? Can we judge what is flip-flopping and what is honest change of opinion? Does it even matter?
No matter the root cause or intention, a politician’s change of position is a threat to representative government, and possibly a sign that the person is unfit for office.
First, when an individual runs for public office, he/she takes up a platform. This platform states their beliefs and objectives, and allows voters to decide which candidate’s policies they agree with and wish to pursue. This means voters are allowed to choose what they want their elected officials to do for them in the political arena. But if a candidate flip-flops, or is unreliable, then that voting population’s ability to choose is rendered meaningless. And if no consistent or trustworthy candidate is available, then the public is stuck with an oligarchy of unaccountable bureaucrats.
Second, if an individual has an honest change of opinion, then they have admitted that the previous position was wrong. The former opinion may have been the result of irrationality or simple ignorance. But are those desirable traits in a leader – a consistent inability to reach rational conclusions, examine all the facts, and make judgments based on good evidence?
A child who reaches false conclusions due to irrationality or ignorance, but learns more and grows in the process, may be forgiven. But a middle-aged adult who is constantly making these same mistakes again and again is a buffoon! And unfortunately, this person may hold the fates of millions in his hands.
Flip-floppers must be rejected at the ballot box. Their fickle decision making and poor judgments pose a very dangerous threat to the rest of the population. Instead of settling for these types of candidates, we must instead turn to those who exhibit consistent records, and strong critical thinking skills. In the 2012 race, one Texas congressman comes to mind.