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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Flip-Flopping Towards the White House

    Of all the qualities that people look for in a presidential candidate-experience, intelligence, likeability-one that is consistently left off that list is flip-flopping. John Kerry knows all too well how detrimental that term can be. In fact, there is probably no more damaging piece of footwear in the world of politics. When I hit the polling booths however, a good confident flip-flopper is what I look for.

    The basic premise of the idea of flip-flopping is that a candidate switches positions on issues, like immigration and the war in Iraq. When John Kerry ran for the presidency in 2004, all George Bush and Karl Rove could talk about was the pair of Reefs on his feet on Iraq war spending. Clever protesters brought huge cardboard cutouts of flip-flops to the DNC, Old Navy sold huge numbers of their sandals to Republicans seeking to mock and embarrass.

    But why is that? Why is a change of heart seen as a sign of weakness? I find it to be a sign of courage, a sign that the candidate has, after carefully reviewing the facts and immersing him or her self in the issue, reached a new and educated conclusion.

    Take the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the war back in 2002 and again in 2003. To this day she stands by her decision, claiming that based on the facts of the time, she made a reasoned decision.

    Of course, the facts surrounding the war and its motives have changed dramatically time and time again. But still Hillary stands by her decision. Why? No doubt she has some fear of being called a flip-flopper.

    So why is a change of opinion such a detriment in politics? In society, such turnarounds usually precede great change. The world was flat for hundreds of years until a flip-flopper by the name of Aristotle proved otherwise. Galileo flip-flopped on the geocentric model, and remember Pluto? The IAU changed its mind on the classification of the “ninth planet” in a memorable way two years ago.

    It may be hard to compare the Iraq war to the shape of Earth, but the idea is the same: the facts dictate reality until the facts change. Then reality usually changes with the facts.

    Of course, this is not true all of the time. There is the Flat Earth Society, which in 2008 still believes that the Earth is flat. And there are the deeply religious folks who refuse to accept that Earth is not the center of the universe and who scoff at the idea of Neil Armstrong actually landing on the moon (“It was a Hollywood set, dammit!”).

    There are hundreds of instances of these “pseudo sciences” that all claim to have experts and scientific evidence to support their claims. I’m sure I could find half a dozen brilliant scientists who can prove to you with cold hard facts that Earth was founded by a colony of mice and was built by cannibalistic sea monkeys using nothing more than graham crackers and icing. Like a gingerbread house if you will.

    But these people are usually called crazy.

    Not in politics. If tomorrow it were proven that gay marriage actually solidified the family foundation and caused divorces to drop, I can guarantee that 95% of conservative talk show hosts and politicians would still call for legislation banning gay marriage nationwide. Conversely, if socialized healthcare were shown to be a monumental mistake and that adapting a similar program would further damage the economy, liberals would still be pushing for it.

    There are cases though when flip-flopping is nothing more than clever politicking (think Mitt Romney’s 180 degree reversal from a liberal Massachusetts governor to a flag boy for the radical right). It is these instances that damage the idea of educated decision making.

    I do not wish to see John McCain in the White House in any capacity let alone as president. I do not agree with his stances on many key issues. But I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He has broken the rank-and-file party lines and has reached his own conclusions on issues like torture and immigration.

    And he has been attacked repeatedly by lowlifes like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who screech that his stances somehow make him a liberal politician, that he has flip-flopped on key Republican talking points.

    And were I a less intelligent human being (code for Republican), he would have my vote hands down.

    So while it may be the middle of winter, my Teva’s are ready to go this election season.

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