Posted at 1:46 PM on November 27, 2007
by Larissa Anderson
As the 2008 presidential candidates cross the country defending their votes and trying to sell their vision of the future to the electorate, Shankar Vedantam considers what he calls "The Inconsistent Waffle Factor" in the Washington Post.
He writes about recent research that suggests "there may be basic differences in how Republican and Democratic voters perceive waffling, and that voters may view inconsistency differently among Republican and Democratic politicians."
He cites researchers Cynthia Nordstrom and Susan Thomas, authors of an article for The North American Journal of Psychology called "To change or not to change: Examining the perception of political waffling."
Nordstrom and Thomas found in their research that while voters didn't like waffling from any candidate, "the Democratic candidate was perceived to be more of a waffler and was less likely to be voted for than the Republican candidate."
Even if the flip-flop label may not stick as much to Republicans, calling one a flip-flop can still make some bucks.
I think Republicans are more die hard and single issue than Democrats and that is why they are not as affected by Flip Flopping claims. It has taken this President and the Former Republican Congress in combination to drive down the moral of Republicans. Consider this, Bush still has a 30 to 36% approval rating. These people can not be driven away for any reason. Considering Clinton's approval rating dipped down to 36% for a sex scandal, I bet it would have gone a lot lower for starting a war on false pretences and then extremely mismanaging it.
Perhaps we should reexamine why we vote for politicians. When we vote for a candidate just based on how they match up on the issues, we are forgetting a very important part of politics. Ultimately the candidate should represent the best interests of all the constituents, not just the portion that elected them. Representing those interests means creatively finding solutions to complex issues that can help the most people. That translates into compromises that can be framed as a flip-flop. We should be looking for candidates that have high personal integrity, and demonstrate the wisdom, creativity and charisma to effectively bring people together to a common solution. Looking at only a single issue or a couple issues leads to a divisive environment in which we all loose.
I want to defend considering where a politician stands on issues when deciding who to vote for. It is always good to have a candidate with a high level of personal integrity, wisdom, creativity, and charisma (but only when they agree with you on the issues). One could argue that Bush has high personal integrity (he always thinks things through so he never makes a mistake), high charisma (more people want to have a beer with him than the other guys). Despite these positive attributes I think he has been a disastrous president. If I was a conservative and all I cared about was preventing women from having safe abortions and making it clear that homosexuals should not have equal rights, I would think he had done a fantastic job.
I believe that I vote for people who will do the right thing for all the people and I bet most people who are opposite me on the issues feel the same way. From my point of view, I would question a person's wisdom and character if they believed women should never have the option of have abortions or if they felt that homosexuality was such an evil that homosexuals should not have equal rights. If I had a different point of view, I might be the opposite.
Certainly I want to elect someone who will be willing to compromise in order to make some progress towards my goals if the alternative is no progress. I have many issues and I would be willing to see a politician cave on one of them to make progress on another.
Personally I don't give a flip (or a flop for that matter) whether my candidate waffles or not. I would expect a good, open-minded person to be able to change their stance if they are presented with compelling evidence. I choose my candidates mostly by their experience and character. So for example, Rudy Giuliani who is on his THIRD wife, is not on my short list of people i'd vote for no matter how presidential he might try to look.
Giuliani is just someone who is open-minded to changing his stance on being married to the woman he is currently calling his wife. He probably found some compelling evidence that another woman would be better for him.
I would not be impressed with a candidate that had a record of changing his mind on the issues I see in a pretty black or white way (tax cuts for Rich, rights of women to choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy, etc.). I can certainly forgive flip floppers on those issues I am not sure about (affirmative action based on race instead of income, death penalty, legalization of drugs, immigration issues, smoking bans, etc.).