Sometimes it’s OK to change your mind

Flip-flopping. It seems to have become an important litmus test for presidential contenders these days. Apparently, the less a candidate has changed her mind over the years, the more eligible for the presidency she is.

I can see where the whole idea of flip-flopping started. It is obviously a bad sign when a politician regularly changes his mind about a particular issue purely for reasons of self-interest. And even where self-interest is less of an issue, too many flips and flops indicate too much doubt and insecurity, or perhaps an inability to assess the facts in a reasonable manner.

But the flip-flop has (like many ideas bandied about by the media) been taken to extremes. Now a politician can change her mind about an issue just once, and be labeled as a vacillating pushover.

This is just silly.

Do we really want our leaders to take stubbornly dogmatic views on every issue during their first years in office, and then refuse to reconsider their stance even as they become more knowledgeable and mature in their thinking, or as new information comes to light? I doubt it.

The root of the problem comes, I think, from politicians’ allergy to admitting error. One of the funniest things to watch is a current or past president being asked what mistakes he has made. You get more obfuscation, prevarication, and circumlocution at such times than at any other in the politician’s career.

So, here’s an idea, in case any politicians are reading this: be willing to admit mistakes, and be willing to change your mind accordingly. It’s a sign of maturity.


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