In Defense of the Flip-Flopper and Compromise

Does changing your mind -- like Mitt Romney and other politicians have done -- mean you lack the courage of your convictions?


Romney on abortion. Obama on same sex marriage. George W. Bush on taxes. And right here at home: Lieberman on health care, and Dodd on AIG bonuses. 

All together, now: Flip-floppers!

But I am here to advance the notion that there are two kinds of flip-flopping. The first -- the worst sort -- is pandering and is the worst form of power-grabbing.

The second is not only better; it’s preferable to a lifetime of unyielding, dogmatic stubbornness. And when a turn from dogma means compromise and progress for all, then I say, flip-flop away.

And while every politician would have the voting public believe that every flip-flop is the result of a newly formed principled stand, we know better, don’t we? Do you really believe that Mitt Romney is pro-life, or do you think he changed his tune to appeal to a large and vocal social conservative faction to secure the presidential nomination?

And did President Obama not conveniently change his views on marriage in a timely fashion (thanks, Vice President Biden!), thus securing the vocal support of the social liberals who really have no choice but to support his candidacy anyway?

Yet there are undoubtedly principled flip-flops. One must certainly suspect that Obama, who promised to close the Guantanamo prison camp after taking office, discovered exactly why he couldn’t once he did. Funny how Guantanamo as an issue all but disappeared once February 2009 rolled around.

But we must applaud that decision, no? Clearly Obama discovered why shutting Guantanamo would be a huge mistake. For that, he deserves credit.

Imagine a world in which no one ever changed their mind or admitted they were wrong. Do you hold the same views today as you did 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago? Is not acknowledging that the other side maybe, just maybe, has a point the lifeblood of compromise? And do we not, as a nation, need bipartisan compromise desperately?

This past Sunday evening, I watched with interest as Mitt Romney spoke with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes. Romney appeared relaxed, confident and quite presidential (although a bit orange, truth be told, but perhaps that was just my television) as he described his policy plans should he win in November.  

Pelley pressed him on his economic policies, repeating the oft-heard criticism that Romney had not offered any specifics on how he planned to achieve sustainable economic growth. The devil’s in the details, said he.

Romney smiled and noted the country’s need, not just a desire, for a workable bipartisan plan. I paraphrase here, but the gist is that he would not approach Democrats with a preordained list of must-haves; instead, he would develop his policy together with the Democrats so that everyone can leave the deal table feeling like they contributed.

Real leadership-and ultimately, progress-means working together, he finished.


As I imagine what the next four years under President Obama would look like if he wins the election, I can’t help but shudder. Gridlock, higher taxes, stubborn rhetoric from both sides and, ultimately, little accomplished.

Governor Romney observed that while he led Massachusetts he worked with a vast Democratic majority (87 percent!) in an overwhelmingly liberal state. Yet under his leadership, the Massachusetts economy improved, largely as a result of increased revenues (fees, not taxes) and reduced state aid.

All together, now: Compromise.

MAC September 27, 2012 at 08:43 PM
The narcissist Obama, unrestrained by another election, would double down on his disastrous and FAILED "leadership" of our once great nation, turning it into a DYSTOPIA which we will not recognize as anything resembling the FREE nation we grew up in! Lisa, I agree with most of your assessment: "As I imagine what the next four years under President Obama would look like if he wins the election, I can’t help but shudder. Gridlock, higher taxes, stubborn rhetoric from both sides and, ultimately, little accomplished." Unfortunately, Obama has no respect for the Constitution, the "Separation of Powers" etc., and instead is totally committed to his misguided zero-sum ideology of DIMINISHING U.S. prosperity because he believes America must become poorer in order for people in third world nations to do better. "Little accomplished" would be a good thing compared to the havoc and "Dystopia" an unrestrained Obama will wreak through his un-Constitutional Executive Orders and the bureaucratic "Regulations" with which he ^^steals our Liberties^^, such as in the "HealthCare Mandate" imposed by K. Sebelius. And all that could be dwarfed by the takeover from within, by Muslim Brotherhood and other Muslim Terrorists who Obama has welcomed into the WH, while he will not allow our military and Nat'l Security agencies to even name these THREATS as what they are!!! Tonight 8 p.m. Pt 2 "The Project" documentary on TheBlaze.com/tv. Free 2 wk. trial avail. (or Dish Network 212)
Gideon Tomlinson September 28, 2012 at 10:40 AM
The problem is not that Romney changed a position or three based on new evidence, it is that ROMNEY'S ENTIRE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY HAS CHANGED to satisfy the right wing base of his party. According to Politifact: "In 1994, as a candidate running against a liberal icon in a liberal state, Romney said he was 'not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.' Then, 13 years later as he ran for the GOP presidential nomination, Romney spoke approvingly of the former president. Ever since, Romney’s affection for Reagan’s presidency has only grown. We rate this shift a Full Flop." http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/may/17/mitt-romney/mitt-romney-once-distanced-himself-ronald-reagan-n/ Your post does make a good argument for voting for Democrats for Congress just in case Chameleon Romney does win so that the group he needs to please will bring him back to the center.
Lisa Bigelow September 28, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Thanks to all for reading and commenting. Just an fyi ... I am in the midst of reading Bob Woodward's new book, "The Price of Politics." It's fascinating -- read it if you can. And although Congress has lousy approval ratings, the reasons for this lie squarely at 1600 PA Ave. My most interesting takeaway? Joe Biden is the unsung hero of this administration, a real dealmaker who understands compromise and how Congress works (bet you never thought you'd see me write that). Look for Patch Back next week. Thanks for being loyal readers -- I appreciate it! Lisa B.
John Jameson September 28, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Please, this man's positions on issues are all over the place. Trying to keep up with how he feels about the affordable health care act alone could give you whiplash. And Ms. Bigelow, are you saying that it's the president's fault that Congress has such low approval ratings? None of that lies with Mitch McConnell and his stated GOP goal of making Pres. Obama a one-term president rather than dealing with the issues Congress should have been dealing with? Are the record number of filibusters by the GOP a sign of people who understand compromise??
Lisa Bigelow September 28, 2012 at 01:02 PM
John, Yup. That's exactly what I'm saying. And you should read the full McConnell quote, by the way. The "one-term president" thing, like most of what's reported in the mainstream press, grossly misstates the gist of his statement. Look for my take next week. Lisa


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