Why we need our politicians to flip flop

Let’s make flip flopping something we look for in our politicians.

Flip flopping has become a bad word. More than that, it’s a symbol of failed campaigns. Although this was the case before the 2012 US election, Romney cemented flip flopping in its role as a campaign-killer. That Romney was capable of, let alone that he did, change his apparent position on various topics (especially medicare and abortion), was a key component of the early campaign against him and a major factor in the minds of many voters who might otherwise have been convinced to vote for him (even if they weren’t traditionally Republican).

The thing is, we need our politicians to be able to flip flop.

Flip flopping amounts to changing ones’ mind on a topic. You, I, and everyone else do this all the time. Faced with evidence that contradicts our worldview, we adjust. We probably should do it more often than we do. So should our politicians. A huge part of our political process involves activism, showing our leaders that there is popular support for a worldview about which they may not have been aware. Identifying facts or opinions that may change people’s minds. If we don’t believe that our politicians are capable of changing their minds, why are we bothering to be activists outside of the election cycle?

OK, but here’s my point: if we run campaigns that focus on an ‘inconsistent record’ or flip flops as a negative characterization of an opponent, we’re doing ourselves a disfavour. We’re forcing the winner, whether it be our candidate or an opposing one, to be resistant to suggestions during the course of his or her mandate. Rather than seizing on a candidate’s ability to change his or her mind as an easy target for negative advertizing, we should be seeking to show that our candidate can change worldviews, is responsive to changes in the way the world works, and is willing to listen to and accommodate for dissenting opinions. This makes for strong leaders.

It also means that if our candidate does not get elected, the person in power may be just that much more willing to listen to reason on issues between elections.

Let’s turn flip flopping into a good word.

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