Sunday, July 06, 2008

Who wants a politician who never changes their mind?

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One of the things that has struck me about US presidential elections (not just this one, but the previous ones as well) is the hysteria with which any evidence of a change of opinion by a candidate is greeted. A new take on any issue from an individual is called everything from a flip-flop (with its connotations of floppiness and indecision and unreliability) to words like betrayal and lack of principles. The press and the opposition scour the voting records of candidates to find inconsistencies and then treat them with scorn.

True, a politician who blows this way and that depending on a political wind is a bit of a useless reed, with no backbone and adhering to no principles because he doesn't actually have any. But let's not go overboard on this.

A politician who changes his mind is not necessarily an unprincipled idiot. Quite frankly, when it comes to a job like the President of the USA, I'd appreciate knowing that the world has in it a president of a powerful country who actually was capable of weighing up an issue and deciding that new developments warranted new directions. That seems like wisdom to me, not a lack of principles.

4 comments:

hrugaar said...

I can see that people would want someone that powerful to stick by the principles for which they were voted in, once they were in office ... though that sounds like expecting someone to stick to their election campaign promises, which is usually doomed to go wrong. :D

Of course if someone changed their voting pattern in the past, then you can raise the question why they did so; but if they give you valid reasoning for their change in direction then that's fair enough. As you say, it shows they're capable of weighing up new developments in an issue and understanding where change is needed.

US elections have always appeared to me to be more about mud-slinging and ridiculing the opposition, and throwing enough catch-words and cash at the right people to muscle your way to the top. But then I'm an outsider and only see what the media shows me, so what would I know? :D

Jason said...

I'd rather our political leaders weighed each case on their merits, and made a reasoned decision; ideally, also (if anyone cared) providing a rationale for why they came to that conclusion. Thus, for any given elected official, it would be more interesting to understand the ethical stance held in broader terms, rather than getting to caught up in specifics.

As Hrugaar pointed out, suspiciously different stances could imply either insanity, or (hopefully more likely) a susceptibility to the dollars and/or persuasion of special interest groups... which, while very much a part of US politics (sigh), seems to be something of a negative at the moment.

But all in all, as long as a politician is making rational decisions for well-articulated reasons, I couldn't care how well they did or didn't fit a pattern. What would be *really* impressive would be a politician who honestly admitted when they were wrong in the past, and changed their approach to ensure they didn't keep making that mistake.

Of course, if you're GWB, then everything you do is right, because JC told you to do it. Such certitude must be comforting (if horribly damaging in terms of the consequences to the rest of humanity).

hrugaar said...

I don't know Dubya was friends with Jose Carreras...

Glenda Larke said...

Lol, Hrugaar. You know, I would love to sit and listen to you two have a conversation in real time.