I find it so irritating when pundits declare a candidate “a waffler,” claiming that person lacks a moral compass or stands for nothing if they’ve had the good sense to change their mind about something in the last 30 years.
I call this growth and maturity. For me this is a primary criterion for relationships of any kind. If you have lived for over 30 years and you haven’t changed your mind about anything, then I don’t trust you enough to have a vote in Congress or to be President of the United States.
Changing your mind signifies a couple of vital things:
- Admitting you could have been wrong about something in the first place. Changing your mind shows humility and a willingness to admit when you’re wrong. It shows you’ve got your ego in check.
- Acknowledging that something in the world has changed. Changing your mind shows that you agree that new research not supporting your original opinion or hypothesis might have been presented between the time you made your original opinion and your current one. Something on the planet has changed. Changing your mind only shows that you have been paying attention.
- Illustrating there has been some personal growth. If you don’t grow from personal experiences and that growth doesn’t inform your opinions and positions, then I don’t I trust you as my political representatives. Humans are meant to grow.
- A willingness to be educated or enlightened. Changing your mind is sometimes about being educated about something you really didn’t know anything about before, or about letting go of an unfair judgement about a group of people you really didn’t know before or even just saying, “I don’t get this, but I see that it’s important to you and it really doesn’t impact me, so I’m willing to concede the point and give you what you want.” It’s about allowing light and compassion in.
- An ability to compromise and listen to your constituents. A Senate and House of Representatives full of stubborn people, on the extreme right or left, who believe compromise is a moral flaw is a broken system going nowhere. Nothing happens. The deficit grows. Laws don’t get passed. No one gets anything they want. Because our lawmakers are being pig-headed. I think I can speak for the majority of Americans when I say, ‘We’re sick of your childish pissing contests.’ We want balanced budgets. We want to pay off the deficit and we are willing to make sacrifices, though bitching and moaning on the Internet might be our hobby. Conceding a point or a position and allowing the other side to get something that’s important to them doesn’t make you a pussy and it doesn’t make you wrong. It moves things along. Stop thinking about your next election and do the next right thing. If the next right thing is raising taxes, raise them, equitably. We’ll suck it up. If it is outlawing second-trimester abortions, trade that for more funding of more forms of birth control like Plan B. If it’s letting gay people get married, just let them already; if you want to protect marriage, work on your marriage because it’s the only one that’s any of your business. Pick your battles. Decide what’s really, really important to you and the people who voted for you and draw the line there. Don’t draw the line everywhere because at this point all of the people are sick of all of you.
Voters, consider the political, technological, medical, pharmaceutical and information advancements of the last 30 years and ask yourself why many candidates are using the same canned responses about teen pregnancy, drug addiction, crime, health care, abortion, education, immigration, world politics, global economics, the domestic economy, Social Security, entitlement programs and taxation as Ronald Reagan did. If it was such a great plan would we be having the same problems magnified now? If a candidate doesn’t understand that everything has changed since 1980 then we don’t want them in office in 2012.
If a candidates believe they know everything they needed to know while cheering for Reagan at the Republican Convention in 1979 or even if they solidified their political ideology while campaigning for Barack Obama in 2007 and they haven’t experienced a shift in perception about anything since, then they won’t serve us well in the present or the future.
We need candidates that are ready to respond to the issues that concern today’s rapidly changing global economic structures, who have new and reasonable ideas about our vastly changed and changing medical and pharmaceutical landscape and can achieve an affordable and equitable system. We need people who understand today’s shifting global political climate and can be wisely diplomatic and who can look at new education research and can consider the possibility that all kids don’t think and learn the same. It’s time for a candidate who can look at a corrections system that fails us all and who can look at both parties and see one people.
We want people who understand they don’t know what’s coming next in the waves of advancement, but who have histories of responding to the flow of ingenuity, change and rapid upheaval with optimism and out-of-the-box thinking rather than digging their heals in the sand and screeching that the end of the world is near.
I want candidates who will say, “I didn’t foresee the impact of the Internet when I was in college,” “I didn’t have a full understanding of this issue when I ran in 1994,” “I was overwhelmed with anger and passion when I voted for Iraq and didn’t foresee a decade-long, extraordinarily costly war and if I had I would have insisted we finance it differently, but I also feel there was a legitimate threat to world peace in Iraq,” “I wish I wouldn’t have spoken so adamantly about not raising taxes, I think that might be a good idea now to help balance the budget,” “I didn’t understand the impact of sex education or how the Plan B contraceptive pill really worked when I said that,” “I was an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment and I still believe in the right to bear arms, I just don’t think you need a rocket launcher or an Uzi to kill a deer or to defend your home, and also think gang members and teenagers probably should have less access to them.”
Whatever the position or opinion that has changed, I hope voters can spot signs of maturity and growth and signs of immature pig-headedness and realize that the latter serves only their own ego.