Filed Under Polemics, Morality & Politics on January 4, 2012 at 9:38 pm
It’s primary time in the US, and Mitt Romney is running again, so of course you can’t drown out the chorus of pundits denigrating him for being a ‘flip-flopper’. It would appear that in the mind of much of the popular press on the west side of the Altlantic, keeping an open mind is an unforgivable crime!
Before you all think I’ve gone mad, I am NOT saying Mitt Romney is great, I’m saying the problem with him is not THAT he changes his mind, but his dishonesty about his many reversals. A good leader will be guided by his core principles, and reality. His principles should not change, but reality does, inevitably, and eternally. As reality evolves, the best avenues to peruse your principles have to evolve as well. If you want to live in a well run country you should applaud political leaders who have the courage to re-evaluate their plans and proposals as situations evolve.
Albert Einstein provides a great example of this. Einstein was always disturbed by nationalism and militarism, and repulsed by war. He wanted to do his part to bring about a future free from war, so he joined the pacifist cause. He was a very active pacifist, and support young men refusing compulsory military service. If one person refused service, they could easily be locked up as punishment, but if 10% of conscripts refused, the system would break down. Starving a nation of warriors diminishes that country’s ability to wage wars of adventure or aggression, so if all countries were constrained in that way, wars would be much harder to start. Given European history up to that point, Einstein’s campaign was not unreasonable.
Then, in the 1930s, the situation changed. Through fear, bribery, bigotry, intimidation, and the kindling of almost religious nationalism, the Nazi’s managed to come to power in Germany, and they started to re-arm the nation in a dramatic way. Nations which bordered Germany, like Belgium, scrambled to build up their defences before it was too late. A part of those efforts was the conscription of young men into the armed services. A number of Belgian pacifists refused, and beseeched Einstein to lend his support to their cause.
Not only did Einstein refuse to support the Belgian pacifists, he also made it clear why. Germany was the biggest threat to peace in Europe. Germany’s expansionist ambitions were clear, Hitler wanted to conquer Europe, and rule over it as an imperial dictator. The best thing any Belgian could do to defend world peace was to play his part in the defence of freedom. Refusing military service is a sensible way combat your own nation’s militaristic tendencies, but it’s not a good way to defend your free nation from a despotic neighbour determined to take your freedom away from you! The reality changed, and so did Einstein’s suggested actions. What did not change were his principles, he was still a pacifist, but one who was prepared to fight for peace when the universe forced his hand.
So, back to Mitt Romney, should be be condemned for changing his mind on abortion or healthcare or any of the other things he’s clearly changed his mind on? Nope, not at all. He should instead be condemned for trying to pretend he hasn’t changed his mind. For trying to imply that he was always held his current views, which is an argument that I certainly can’t square with reality! He should also be condemned for attacking people who point to his own words and deeds as evidence of his attempted deception.
Being open to change and to re-evaluating your position is good, being dishonest about those changes, that’s what’s bad, and that’s what politicians need to be attacked for doing. Politicians should NOT be attacked for keeping an open mind, for thinking, or for honestly explaining why they’ve changed their opinions on things.