Political Flip Flopping

Guest post written by Chris Lloyd

Consistency is a highly rated virtue in politics. Accusing political opponents of being a flip-flopper is sure to generate headlines and put them on the defensive until they come up with some sort of response.

It’s not hard to come up with examples. John Kerry never really recovered against George Bush after his famous ‘I voted for it before I voted against it’ comment. Arlen Specter is currently facing an uphill battle against both sides of the political spectrum after he switched parties (and several positions) in the face of a pending primary loss.

I’m sure you can think of many others. In fact, it would probably be harder to think about any campaign of significance that didn’t include some of these accusations. Any competent opposition research focuses on finding those “gotcha” opportunities of someone saying something different than they are currently saying.

Why is this such a powerful weapon in a campaign? I think it is because it confirms are worst suspicions about most politicians. We think politicians are nothing more than used car salesmen with no principles higher than getting us to vote for them. Why else would they say one thing one day…and something else on another?

Is that really fair though? You have changed your mind and I bet you don’t think you are worthless liar. If someone changes their mind based on new information, we should admire and respect that.

So how do you know when a politician has had an honest change of heart? There is no way to be sure, but there are some clues. If their new position isn’t driven by a recent poll, it is hard to say they did it for political advantage. If they mention their previous position, you can have a little bit of hope that their change of position is sincere.
You can have even more hope if they provide even a little bit of a story on what exactly changed their mind. If they don’t provide that explanation until they have been caught by a reporter or an opponent, I tend to be more skeptical.

And in fact, I am usually skeptical when a politician changes their positions, but I think we would all be better citizens if we gave them a chance.

This was written by Chris Lloyd. When he isn’t being an amateur political pundit, he tries to help people find the perfect Austin apartment.