Giving Political CandidatesThe Same Rights

I am entitled to change my mind. As far as I know anyone is. I would suppose it would also be so in a totalitarian regime. Unless one’s mind is controlled one can change one’s mind. In fact changing one’s mind is expected. How often each one of us has heard, wait ’til you get older inferring that age would teach us something and guide us to see whatever in a different light. Of course it’s not age per se, but the experience that automatically comes with it, and to be sure the learning that we may have had more time to engage in. It is clear then: for us, the factor of time and the learning and experience it implies, makes changing our minds a positive and seeing a given issue differently expected. Why doesn’t this seem to be so for politicians? As a rule we criticize those who change their minds. They flip flop, they bend with the wind, they adopt a stance for political reasons. Rarely do we seem to give them the benefit of the doubt or apply to them the same criteria: that time, its learning and experience may, and usually does, change one’s mind. When John Edwards ran for President a few months ago (seems so much longer doesn’t it?) it wasn’t enough for him to change his mind about having voted for the war, he had to apologize, then his change of mind could be taken seriously. It’s quite possible that while the change of mind was genuine, the apology was political–the opposite of how it was generally interpreted. But regardless of examples (and none that would be recent enough to illustrate this would come without an emotional charge that would negate the benefit of illustration) we seem to distrust a politician when he or she professes a different view on a given issue. We go back and look at their record and say, oops, he–or she–voted differently, he–or she–must be lying, or spinning their vote to appeal to this or that demographic group. Indeed there are times when a record is telling, when there is a consistency that tells us something, or some pattern that is revealing of something we ought to understand about them. But as we do, we ought to factor in the dimension of learning and experience, we ought to grant them the right we each have to change one’s mind. It may seem a small thing but it is an election year, soon we shall be deluged with political ads touting the record of so and so as an omen of whatever fear the other side wants us to feel. Hopefully we shall be wise to that, grant the candidate the same rights we have and come to our own conclusion.