The electorate tolerates all forms of behavior that are inherently bad, but not so televised flip-flopping, which as conduct should carry no judgment. Yet rejection for flip-flopping is nearly always swift and severe for those unlucky or unable to dodge their past.
Would we not be better off if our president and others would admit to having been mistaken or to changing a position because of new or newly learned facts and circumstances? Of course that would be preferable to lying about or obfuscating a flip-flop, particularly on hot topics such as immigration reform, abortion and gun control.
There was a time when consistency was belittled as coming from small minds, but nowadays television prefers game-like action: any strikeout, tackle or slam-dunk will do.
So, then, let’s flip-flop and embrace flip-flopping, at least when it suits us. It surely makes no sense to condemn a candidate because he shifted his position to yours. A small cultural change of this sort might even refresh the otherwise stilted debates we suffer. Knee-jerk name-calling politics works for television, but the candidates aren’t auditioning for the Jerry Springer show.
Where we find it, let’s distinguish between the expedient and the courageous flip-flops, and recognize the maturity of the latter. Highlight films of gotcha politics are more fun to watch, but the function of televised debates is more serious than what they’ve become.
While we’re at it, let’s also enjoy the answers to the first question of the next debate: “Have you ever flip-flopped, and which one made you proudest?”
Arnold Mazur is a retired attorney and international business executive who served in Robert Kennedy’s1968 presidential campaign.