The Soapbox: In Defense Of “Flip-Flopping” In Politics And In Life

One of the biggest criticisms of Hillary Clinton during the debate on Tuesday was her supposed tendency to be a “flip-flopper” on the issues. As I recall, this was also one of the major criticisms people had about John Kerry back in the day as well. “Ooh! But he’s a flip-flopper! He changed his stance on an issue! He said he was ‘for the war before he was against it!’ ” “She used to only support civil unions and now she says she’s for gay marriage? She used to support the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership and the Keystone Pipeline and now she doesn’t! How can this be?”

I am glad that Hillary Clinton changed her mind on gay marriage. I think that’s awesome. That’s a thing that we actively sought to change people’s minds on, and it worked! I’m also glad she’s changed her stance on TPP and now opposes it. This is progress!

Even if it is the case, as Anderson Cooper suggested, that Clinton’s flip-flopping is due to a desire for “political expediency,” or looking good, or going along with what voters want, so what? I’m actually pretty damned OK with that as well. Because that is also a win. I absolutely want it to be the cool thing to support gay marriage. I absolutely want it to be the cool thing to oppose the extremely messed up Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership and the Keystone Pipeline. We are supposed to put pressure on our elected officials and contenders to get them to support the things we want them to support. That is part of the political process.

I maintain now, as I did when Kerry was running, that calling a candidate a “flip-flopper” is a perfectly ridiculous criticism of anyone. Because I am, quite honestly, a lot more scared of people who dig their heels in and refuse to change their opinions and stances when presented with new information or life experiences.

Progressives, practically by definition, are more likely to be “flip-floppers” than Conservatives are. That’s generally what it means to be willing to progress. Conservatives, by definition, would like to either keep things the way they are or go back to the way they used to be. Therefore, they are much less likely to change their opinion when presented with new information. It’s why there is no science on earth that can convince many of them that climate change or evolution is real. That is a problem, not an asset.

Part of being a grown ass adult is being willing and able to grow and change. In college, I considered that it was perhaps better for the worst of two evils to be elected, as I felt that this would be more likely to spur a revolution. As a grown adult, this seems like less of a good idea.

I feel like “flip-flopping” is only a problem for people who are, as my mother so delicately puts it, not intellectually curious – who do not want to have their views challenged. Personally, if I’m wrong I want to know about it. I love having my mind changed. I will respect the hell out of anyone who can change my mind about something, or make me consider something I didn’t previously consider.

 

And when it comes to electing someone to public office, I’ll take a flip-flopper any day over someone who stubbornly digs their heels into the sand and refuses to be moved.