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Changing opinion, not 'flip-flopping'

Posted: December 8, 2011 9:05 a.m.
Updated: December 9, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The term “flip-flop” has come to be one of the most caustic charges that can be thrown at a political candidate, and rightly so. It’s hard to like a candidate who appears to bend his views to suit whichever audience he’s addressing, and candidates who insist on taking one position one day and another the next day don’t appear to be serious. But sometimes we as voters and political observers take this position to an extreme, pushing people into never changing their positions lest they be termed flip-floppers.

Actually, changing one’s mind on an issue isn’t all bad. We live in unprecedented times, and changing conditions demand flexibility. A few years ago, who could have predicted the economic chaos that would descend upon this country? A housing policy that made perfect sense then could be worthless now. A health care directive that could have seemed grounded in common sense could be unworkable today.

Good leaders, just like good business people, learn from their mistakes. They don’t always make perfect decisions, and there are times they should be able to own up by saying, “I thought that was good policy when I did it, but I have changed my mind. I would not do that now.” Unfortunately, our political system and its attendant emphasis on criticism often make that difficult.

We aren’t saying we want to see constant shifting opinions come from our candidates, whether they are running for president, state representative or county council. But people should be able to change their opinions under the proper circumstances and not always be branded with the term “flip-flopper.”



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