Today’s Washington Post has an interesting article with a few key flip-flops and the justifications a few other politicans are willing to make for the favored candidates:
‘Flip floppery is everywhere in American politics these days.
‘Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) used to support abortion rights, but now, seeking the votes of conservatives in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he doesn’t. Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) voted to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but now that the state is hosting an early caucus, he opposes such a plan. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in 2000 that he saw no benefit from ethanol, but now, hoping for a win in corn-crazy Iowa, he sees the alternative fuel as practical, though he’s still opposed to subsidizing it. […]
‘Charges of flip-flopping are clearly effective, but is it reasonable to expect politicians who have spent years or even decades in political life to never change their minds on a single issue? And are there certain issues on which flip-flopping is okay and others on which it is political poison? […]
‘Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is supporting Romney in the presidential race, said that he struggled when he arrived in Congress in 1999 with trying to reconcile lessons learned in the private sector with votes he was taking on the floor of the House and, as a result, some of his policy stances evolved over the years.
‘DeMint said Romney had been far more consistent than he had been portrayed by the media. On abortion, DeMint said that Romney’s “values have always been the same” and that when Romney “saw his political position was out of sync with his personal values, he changed it.”
‘Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a backer of McCain’s presidential bid, also defended the right and necessity for politicians to occasionally adjust their positions.
“If you’re not learning, then you’re useless to your constituents,” Graham said. He added, however, that not all “learning” is created equal. “There are personal conversions, and then there are political conversions,” said Graham. “People will figure this out over time.”‘
“Learning” certainly sounds like a sensible rationale for a flip-flop, but it has hidden dangers as well. While our republican form of government does rely on election of living representatives rather than the universal caucus of a true democracy, voters choose candidates on the basis of their campaign promises as well as their intellects and personalities. There are certainly benign flip-flops, but political conversions can reflect on the priorities and character of a candidate and as such must be available for the public to make its own decisions. And that’s what Reality Check is for.