by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
Can a wise man change his mind?
Apparently not if he is running for office. Nowadays, a change in thinking by a political candidate never results from the receipt of new data or information, new wisdom from experience with an issue, a better analysis of an issue or even a change in public opinion.
Nope, we all know — because the mainstream media tell us so — that any candidate who changes a position does so because of an inherent genetic disorder: the “flip-flop” gene. “Flip-floppers,” as they are known, have probably possessed this defective trait since birth, but only in the heat of a campaign can the flaw be observed.
No one wants to vote for a flip-flopper, and most of us never have. Right? We all know the best candidates are the ones who laid out their positions on all the issues a long time ago and haven’t budged an inch since. You know the type of candidates I’m talking about, the successful ones like Ralph Nader, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.
Just about every officeholder who has been around for a while has changed his or her view — er, I mean flip-flopped — on at least a few issues. In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation between the length of term in office and the severity of the flip-flop. Consider the Senate’s longest-serving member, Sen. Robert Bryd, who was once a member of the KKK. However, for the past decades in the Senate he has worked hard to support civil rights. Now, that is one hell of a flip-flop.
The naive person might think Sen. Bryd became more enlightened on the issue of race, or that the people he represents had changed their viewpoint and as a good representative Sen. Bryd reacted to that change. Nope, just another lousy flip-flopper.
In the presidential race, each campaign has accused the other of flip-flopping on a variety of issues. One attack of flip-flopping is countered by an attack on the other as an even bigger flip-flopper, the assumption being that voters will always cast their ballot for the lesser of two flip-floppers.
Of course, covering the flip-flop issue provides another great way for the media to handicap the presidential horse race without having to deal with all the nasty details of the issues at hand. It is a lot easier to say that McCain or Obama has “flip-flopped” on campaign finance than to take 20 minutes to explain the…