To label a political opponent a flipflopper has become akin to calling him a scoundrel: somebody who is duplicitous, lacks conviction and cannot be trusted.
Politicians get no credit for acting upon the wisdom that comes with experience and study. Greater knowledge often causes a graying of opinions on matters that once appeared to be black or white. Somehow, intractability seems to have replaced open-mindedness as an admirable political trait.
One of our greatest politicians, Thomas Jefferson, discussed the perils of this in a letter to George Washington in 1786:
[censored -- ed.]
Sorry, but no journalist or politician who advocates dozens of policies that Thomas Jefferson would find abhorrent are allowed to quote him -- ever.
Jefferson's wisdom is good counsel for the leaders of our institutions. Thus, there is a temptation to give Republican gubernatorial nominee J. Kenneth Blackwell a pass -- indeed, to laud him -- for changing his mind about a constitutional amendment that would prohibit state and local governments from spending more than 3.5 percent more than they spent the previous year.
When Blackwell last week asked Republican legislative leaders for a bill to permit the withdrawal of his socalled Tax and Expenditure Limitation, or TEL, amendment from the Nov. 7 ballot, there should have been cause to celebrate the maturation of a politician who, for all the right reasons, had changed his mind about the signature proposal of his campaign.
He could have said that he had benefited and grown from the learned opinions of political scientists, legal scholars and government officials who almost uniformly forecast disastrous consequences if Ohio voters imbedded the poorly written TEL in the state constitution.
These warnings laid the foundation for Blackwell during his heated primary campaign against Attorney General Jim Petro to back away from the TEL. Blackwell might have said that while he believed in its goal of reducing spending and he would follow that path as governor, the TEL was unintentionally ill-written and could be harmful to Ohio's future.
But Blackwell was boxed in by his own derisive rhetoric against changes of mind. He frequently had labeled Petro a flip-flopper, accusing him of not being able to "hold a position on an issue longer than six months without getting exhausted."
Had Blackwell steeled his spine and kept TEL, and if any Republican who previously opposed TEL took the party line and supported the amendment, Hallett and his pals in and outside of the Democrat Party would be jumping up and down crying "flip-flop" just like the rest of us.
I have yet to see a poll showing TEL support under 60% and many conservatives like myself support the amendment to this day.
You and your Democrat buddies won Hallett, save me the victory dance -- you do not come into this fight with clean hands. Open-mindedness, like "moderation," are in the eye of the beholder.