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William B. Bradshaw

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Politicians and Flip-Flopping

Posted: 09/04/2012 3:45 pm

In the midst of the presidential campaign, we hear a lot about "flip-flopping." The democrats accuse Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on issues, for example, abortion, and the republicans accuse President Obama of flip-flopping, like, on gay marriage. So let's just take a careful look at what "flip-flopping" actually means.

According Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, "flip-flop" is a word that has been used in the English language since about 1600 and means "a sudden reversal, as of in policy or strategy." There is a big difference between flip-flopping and, after careful thought or consideration of changing times or additional research, reaching a new understanding of a matter.

I would be disappointed if a candidate retained the same mindset over a very long period of time. As we mature, as our knowledge of life increases, as the world in which we live changes, as new research surfaces, as war raises its ugly head or peace comes to the fore, and so forth, most of us change in attitudes, behavior, and beliefs. After all, haven't you changed your views on things since your teenage years, or after marrying someone, or after a serious illness, or after becoming a parent or a grandparent or a business owner or a teacher or whatever--or, for some people, after deciding to run for office or after being elected to office? I would be very skeptical of the candidate who is so stubborn, bull-headed, or ill-informed that he or she consistently refuses to consider important issues from a new point of view or to enter into civilized discussion and debate about matters at hand.

If a candidate suddenly changes his or her mind in the midst of a campaign based on the climate of the campaign or what polls are showing, we can legitimately accuse him or her of flip-flopping for political gain. But, in my opinion, it is not fair to accuse President Obama and Governor Romney of "flip-flopping" just because they have changed their positions on serious issues, even if what they say now differs from what they stood for in previous years or political campaigns.

I have known democrats who crossed over and voted for a republican candidate for a particular election or even changed parties, and likewise with republicans. Ronald Reagan is a good example of a very successful politician who did just that--changing from being a democrat to a republican. Bill Clinton changed his mind about welfare reform and signed into law very effective welfare reform. There is nothing wrong with politicians changing their minds.

I have detected that one of the most difficult things for deep-thinking persons to do at election time is to put aside their preconceived ideas and honestly pursue finding the truth of issues. One of the first things that all successful PhD students must learn to do is to discipline themselves to overcome their personal biases so they can engage in meaningful research that ends up with truthful conclusions. Every voter needs to concentrate on doing the same thing.

In my opinion much of today's media are guilty of stirring the pot of discontent among voters of both parties. Editorials are often disrespectful and inflammatory, as are the guests on many talk shows. Since the founding days of our country, the American people have depended on having a press that is free of government censure and that tells us the truth about matters at hand. It would be refreshing and helpful if all members of the media would put their personal political biases aside and spend their time in honestly trying to interpret the truth of the issues at hand. I fear that the old-time reporters who worked diligently at digging out the facts of a matter are becoming a dying breed.

It's easy for opinionated people to call something a flip-flop when it is not really that at all--when it is an honest, deep-felt and carefully thought-out change of mind. It's all right for people--voters and candidates--to change their minds about how they view very significant issues. In fact, I recommend our not being old "stick in the muds" who cling to the past--personally, professionally, politically, nationally, and internationally--regardless of the issues or the circumstances.

I am not suggesting that we should give up our heartfelt beliefs just for the sake of change. What I am recommending is that we all should open our eyes and minds to new ideas, making certain that, whatever our views are, we are on the right track--especially during this election time. These are very difficult times for all parts of the world, and this is a very significant election. It is important for all voters--for you--to make a very rational and informed decision about whom you are going to vote for and why.

 
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