Written by: Michael Kravshik.

Being known as someone who “flip-flops” is one of the most harmful characteristics to a politician’s reputation. There is good cause for this as changing your stance is often associated with political pandering, and selling out your principles for a few extra votes. Where this is actually the case, it is reprehensible and the damage done to the politician’s reputation probably isn’t enough. At the same time, there are many situations where a change of heart is a very good thing indeed. In just about every election I have witnessed, there have been countless accusations of flip-flopping, and while I’ve heard lots of denials, I haven’t heard many pointing out the situations where it is actually quite altruistic to do so.

Given the current state of politics, campaigns always seem to result in the digging up of things from the past that seem to contradict the current position of opposing politicians. This is to be expected, and politicians should take responsibility for anything they have previously said or voted on. However, just because they thought it was a good idea in 1984 doesn’t mean they have to still think it’s a good idea in 2012. Taking responsibility can also mean explaining why you changed your mind. New information or new understandings should be able to change our mind. We used to call it open-mindedness.

I would expect this from any profession so I don’t know why it is so frowned upon in politics. If doctors found out a drug they have been prescribing is actually harmful, would we want them to continue to prescribe it because otherwise they haven’t been consistent? The answer is obvious. Flip-flopping is a type of mind-change, one based purely on political advantage as opposed to thoughtful analysis and reconsideration.

The worst part of this pattern is that it actually makes it harder for politicians to do the right thing and change their mind when they should. If the assumption is that once they change their mind it’s a flip-flop, regardless of the reason, than who can blame them for wanting to avoid it? Well actually, the answer to that question is me. I blame them. Politicians should have the backbone to do it either way, and indeed many do. However, if we want to make our politicians more honest, I think this is one place to start. If there is a contradiction, than we should want to find out why, not just assume that they are inconsistent or can’t be trusted. If a politician can’t provide a good enough answer to that question, then make them pay for it. If they can, than that’s the type of person I want as a leader.

It takes far more courage to admit you were wrong than stick to your guns, and that’s something I’d like to reward.


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