Today’s twenty somethings, especially those graduating from college this month, who want to lead their nation someday better spend some time figuring out what they’re for and against.
From taxes to spending to Medicare to national defense to global warming to gay marriage to abortion to school funding to drug prohibition to illegal immigration and to every other conceivable issue of national importance that might arise over the next 50 years of their lives.
And after thinking long and well about them, they need to stake out their positions and stick with them forever, never wavering in their conviction, never changing their mind about any of them.
Because if they do, they’ll be a nasty, dastardly flip-flopper. A vicissitudinous vacillator who can’t be trusted to decide what color shoes to wear let alone make decisions about whether college loan interest should be tax deductible.
Nope, we Americans want our political leaders to be immutable ideologues whose positions are pure with nary an ounce of irresolution anywhere in their past. Because, afterall, how could any good American trust someone who changes their position on important national issues like some weather vane turning with whichever political winds they think will blow them into office?
At least, that’s apparently what we want considering the content of most campaign TV ads these days. Campaign managers seem to think labeling a pol a flip-flopper is akin to calling him a puppy drowner. And who would ever vote for a puppy drowner?
That’s ridiculous, of course, but that’s what American politics has become – ridiculous.
Reasonable people change their mind. Situations change. New information arises. And reasonable people use the new information to re-evaluate what they think or believe and then amend their thinking or beliefs.
Abraham Lincoln changed his mind about slavery. Ronald Reagan changed his mind about taxes (several times). Strom Thurmond changed his mind about segregation.
We all change our minds as we age. We get smarter. We think better.
We used to think we looked good in leisure suits and feathered hair. Now we think better.
We used to think Eddie Murphy was funny. Now we think better.
Moreover, our culture changes its mind as it ages, too.
We used to think women were chattel and subservient to men. Now we think better.
We used to think a high school diploma was all the education you needed to prosper in America. Now we think better.
So why do campaign managers think opponent politicians changing their minds about an issue is such a mortal sin?
Who are we to question President Barack Obama’s moment of clarity this week about gay marriage? Or Jesse Kelly’s apparent epiphany about protecting Social Security?
If we don’t believe they’ve really changed their mind then we shouldn’t call them flip-floppers, we should call them liars because that’s what we really mean.
And if politicians don’t have the courage to call their opponent a liar, then they should keep their flip-flop aspersions to themselves.