The Case for Flip-Floppers

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The room is cold but you feel yourself sweating profusely. Only an idiot could fail to grasp your logic at this point. You’ve said what needed to be said; you’ve presented your argument with utmost eloquence; all the evidence is on your side. You meet your adversary’s gaze, relishing the self-doubt manifested in his face. By all standards you have won, even he knows it… Or so you thought. You observe as his temporary lapse of uncertainty melts instantaneously into vivid aggression. Then out of nowhere this platitude, this fallacy, this utterly false contrivance hits you like a punch in the gut: “That’s what I’ve been saying this whole time!” Your blood boils, your face burns, you want to scream, shout, yell at the top of your lungs. This liar has made a fool of you, and all you stand for by throwing his own integrity into an eight lane expressway during rush hour. Coward! Yellow! …Flip-flopper! How dare he rob you of your moment of glory? In the heat of the moment you are utterly speechless, blinded by rage but let us step back a moment and examine the true meaning of his lie.

There is only one reason why someone would change their stance on any issue of great import and that is because they have been convinced otherwise. Regardless of whether or not he admits it, by consciously changing the premise of his argument, he forfeits any credibility he had to begin with. This reversal, or flip-flop of opinion should then be seen as a good thing. It is your opponent’s way of saying, “You’ve won” while attempting to hold the shreds of his tattered ego together. So why should your natural reaction to this statement be anger? The answer is that it shouldn’t. Rather accept this flip-flopper for what he is, a flip-flopper and thank whatever deity you believe in that these kind of people exist because if they didn’t, society would be a hostile place indeed.

The only way for a society to function is if all participating members adhere to an unwritten social contract. This contract may vary between cultures, cities, neighborhoods, or even families but the overarching premise is the same: individuals must make certain concessions in order to belong to part of a whole. The key word being “concessions”. It is crucial that we as functioning members of society know when to concede to the greater good or, as is the case in arguing/debating, the more logical train of thought. In doing so, we learn and grow. We learn about our own weaknesses and flaws in logic, character and otherwise and we add on to our understanding of the world. So while on the surface, the flip-flopper may appear confrontational and cowardly, deep down, he is actually learning and growing from his mistakes. The reason he has changed his mind is because he is swayed by your logic. It is truly a shame that we should look down on them for this because in actuality, admitting your flaws when you’re wrong is the most logical thing that anyone can do.

The problem with society nowadays is that we have twisted our interpretation of concession into one of weakness. Thus when a politician changes his view on a subject, we criticize him for going back on his word, being immoral or simply weak-minded. This is the product of an increasingly polarizing political party system. Politics is no longer about the issues but rather focuses on sticking to “the party platform” whatever that may be. Any deviations from this platform are seen as transgressions of fidelity to one’s party punishable by endless public ridicule. This keeps politicians in their “place” and keeps them in fear of questioning the logic of their decisions out of fear of being labeled as a “flip-flopper”. This is a shame because perhaps now more than ever, we need more flip floppers. People who are willing to listen to logic and make decisions based off of what makes sense, not what their party says they should do. Politics as usual has become a matter of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Under these circumstances, no progress can be made. It’s about time we stood back and asked ourselves what we really want from our leaders: complete and unwavering idealism or well informed decisions based off of facts and logic?

In the past I have spoken out against President Obama for his apparent inaction on many issues which he had promised to address. But after having read this article disclosing the amount of thought, reasoning and planning that went into forming his plan for Afghanistan, I have full confidence that this is the right man for the job at hand. It clearly demonstrates how rationally he acts when confronted by such a situation. Despite having run on a platform that outlined specific plans for the war in Afghanistan, he chose not to just go ahead and carry them out. Instead, he spent months of planning in order to arrive at his decision and thus took on the label of “flip-flopper”. Rather than rush action, he contemplated the issue with the help of advisers representing multiple differing opinions in order to arrive at a logical plan for action. Although the press at large has criticized him from both the left and the right, I must laud him for taking the time to make a decision based off of logic rather than partisan allegiances.

Perhaps this is the “hope” that Obama promised to bring when he became president. The hope that government can be rational and logical rather than idealistic and stagnant. Although I do not necessarily agree completely with all of his actions thus far, it gives me great comfort knowing that we have a level-headed, rational individual in the Oval Office that isn’t afraid to look past partisan politics. Liberals criticize him for not doing enough while conservatives ridicule him for acting too fast but in reality, it’s not the policies that matter the most but rather the method by which these policies are derived that’s important.

The next time you think of labeling someone as a flip-flopper for changing their opinion, step back and think, is that necessarily such a bad thing? Of course, often times people will flip sides on an issue just to save face but more often than not, it’s the result of careful internal deliberation that brings them to a new conclusion. We should not punish people for changing their minds in the face of logic and facts. Rather, we should commend them. Would you rather have a leader who bases decisions off of what their gut feels or one who listens to both sides of an argument to arrive at a logical conclusion?

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