Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Brian Baird Loses a Constituen... | Rex on Larry »

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Good of Flip-flopping

posted by on August 30 at 12:23 PM

To describe the current political climate, a writer (whose name has slipped from my memory) referenced this famous line in a famous poem by a famous poet:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

The order of American politics: The ones who lack conviction are the Democrats; the ones who have too much of it are the Republicans. Over and over, we hear this story: The Democrats are all talk; they never live up to their word; they give in to pressure too easily. The Republicans, on the other hand, have conviction; it’s the party that sticks action to its words. If a Republican wants to cut taxes, he/she means it; if a Republican wants to go to war, he/she means it. Democrats are nothing but “flip-floppers.”

But in all this talk about conviction, we never question the actual value of a conviction in and of itself. The general understanding is that it’s good to have one, no matter what. But what if convictions are inherently bad? That a conviction is not simply a form or medium for a desired result—one that you may agree with (going to war); or one you may not agree with (universal health care)—but a way of blocking any real politics? Upon closer examination, we begin to see that the actual function of a conviction is to bring a political process to an end. Meaning, it’s destructive rather than creative, regressive rather than progressive. Flip-flopping turns out to be actually better than having a conviction: one opens; the other closes.

Another point: The fact that the conviction to go to war is easier to maintain than the conviction to extend maternity leave says something about the character of a conviction, and why the party that has the most of it is the Republican Party.

RSS icon Comments


I believe the line quoted is from Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance." It was true then and it is true now.

Posted by Zef | August 30, 2007 12:34 PM

His name did not slip from your memory! You liar! WBY!

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 30, 2007 12:41 PM

AHHHHHHHHH! I will NEVER understand you! 20,0000 paes of S, M, L, XL cannot explain this!

*pulling hair*

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 30, 2007 12:43 PM

We live in a climate in politics that has lost most of it's civility. At first the Republicans were the loudest and most committed to their beliefs to the point of being blind to reality. But we are finding that the many of the liberal talking heads (and yes they do exist) are taking the same page for themselves.

I have found while listening to the liberal radio shows that they are starting to sound just like the conservative talkers except on the other extreme. And just look at Slog as an example; the left is starting to no longer allow civil discourse or reasoned debate amongst itself any longer.

Everyone is attacking everyone and they respond by attacking. My advise, sit back and just go with the flow. Nothing will change. It will only get worse.

It is no longer passion; it is blind ambition in a world controlled by "gotcha" politics and seek and destroy media.

Posted by Just Me | August 30, 2007 12:44 PM

William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Ask Dan Savage about it; he referenced the last line in the title of one of his books.

Posted by Geni | August 30, 2007 12:45 PM

You broke Mr. Poe!

That's *awesome*!

Posted by Horace | August 30, 2007 12:54 PM

People are drawn to the charisma of those who display confidence, even if they are confidently wrong.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 30, 2007 12:57 PM

One can be a person of convictions and still change one's mind; it happens all the time.

What's problematic is that very often people aren't known for the substance of their convictions, but for having convictions at all. We tumble into the cult of personality with such people, forgiving them when they are wrong and overtly-celebrating them when they are right, without really pondering the issues beyond the personalities expressing them. Think Ann Coulter--and there are certainly others.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | August 30, 2007 1:02 PM

jesus christ chaz, why can't you be this lucid and non idiotic all the time?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 30, 2007 1:23 PM

Oh please. The Democratic party, the party of compromise, has played nice with Bush and his Minions from the start. What the United States is committing in Iraq right now is Genocide. We have more troops in Iraq now then before the last elections, for witch the Dems were given the majority to end the war. These are cold hard facts, and this blog is a string of psycobabble fluff. The problem is not “conviction” itself, it is the progressives in this country are cowards and puppets of fear that will probably vote for their own demise.

Posted by gj | August 30, 2007 1:33 PM

Puppets of fear is totally metal.

Posted by kid icarus | August 30, 2007 1:38 PM


He didn't break me. I'm just being a goof. #2 & 3 aren't meant for you to understand, anyway. Kind of like most Mudede posts.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 30, 2007 1:41 PM

It's all explained in a Ruben Bolling cartoon about baby-eating aliens, who form a political party and win a U.S. election.

Posted by Midwaypete | August 30, 2007 2:13 PM


I'm really disappointed about that. I imagined you stamping your foot and flinging your arms in the air in baffled fury and it was BEAUTIFUL.

Posted by Horace | August 30, 2007 2:20 PM

I only do that when I'm constipated. Sorry.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 30, 2007 2:31 PM

Yeats inspired emerson who inspired Martin Luthor King, who was not a person that flip flopped, say like the Demoratic Party in 2000, when one black congress person after another got up pleading the all white senate to challange the fixed election. Not one Patty Murray or Maria cantwell stepped forward to help the disenfranchised black voters. Thank God the Democratic party has good boys like you charles. Fuck You.

Posted by gj | August 30, 2007 2:36 PM

Dammmnn Charles, GJ just crushed your puppy bro. What you going to do about it? Are you not a Marxist? Silence and acceptece is that the Marxist way? No, but it is the Democratic way, to let go and flip flop around. Maybe you should drop the Marxist title, and just tatto a Democratic donkey on that butt of yours.


Posted by Wigger | August 30, 2007 3:30 PM

my marxism is not the end of a political engagement. it's meant to offer a starting point, an opening. i want to open, not close, a discourse. convictions, therefore, seem to be bad because they do the opposite of what i want: creative politics.

also, the conviction to cheat black voters might be stronger than the conviction not to cheat black voters because the nature of a conviction is in itself bad. bad begets bad.

Posted by charles | August 30, 2007 4:06 PM

Ok Charles, so help me understand what you are saying. Are you saying the Democrates are to be supported because they lack conviction to end the war, to protect the constitution, to oppose the surge, to protect the right for blacks to have their vote counted, to end funding for the largest military in the world commiting genocide in Iraq, as it grinds iraqi villages into dust with abrams tanks, which by the way supercharge the greenhouse effect? Please enlighten me Charles, please show me a black marxist in a world read weekly is not a ?

Posted by GJ | August 30, 2007 4:21 PM


Posted by GJ | August 30, 2007 4:44 PM

can we simply pull out of iraq? is that simple? are you that stupid? the conviction to get the hell out might be as dumb as the conviction to go right in. this is what i'm trying to show. i want another form of politics that doesn't worship conviction.

it's easy to go into a war, it's much harder to get out of one. it's easy to join the army, it's much harder to get out of it. conviction is easy, which is why those who care least about humanity resort to it.

Posted by charles | August 30, 2007 4:45 PM

Talk about myths to live by, tard. What makes you think we are there to supress sectarian violence? Did not the US loose a couple hundred thousand wepons. Think that was a mistake? THe Federal goverment could care less about the Iraqi people, what do you think shock and awe was about? A million dead Iraqis, and we are supressing sectarian violence? We are there becuse the Iraqi Parliment has not privatised the oil fields yet. Marxist indeed Chrales. A Marxist would know all this, and see this is about resource control, not democracy or supressing violence. THe more dead Iraqis the better, that means less gripping or violence when we steal their oil.

Posted by GJ | August 30, 2007 5:16 PM

I think Charles was referring to Joan Didion - she uses the Yeats poem as a unifying image for Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

Posted by Wayne | August 30, 2007 6:27 PM

Charles beautiful post.

The goi are agaist the war but for the occupation. Or they were for the war and they are for being against the war. It's typical muddled goi mind.

Din, Gevurah are loose in our time. We name our Israeli tanks Merkava after the prophet in our Torah and goi don't bother to look up the implications of the name. The goi have no conviction for anything other than Dan kvetching about potty putz pulling.

Charles you and Dan perform Tikkun Olam with every sentence you write confusing the goi. It's wonderful work and you have the perfect mind to keep Din -Gevurah flowing in Israel while America sleeps. Mazel Tov!

Posted by Issur | August 30, 2007 8:29 PM


You are such an idiot.

Posted by Fuck Charles | August 30, 2007 9:08 PM

Can we get the facts straight, 16? W.B. Yeats did not inspire Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson 1803-1882
Yeats 1865-1939

Posted by midwaypete | August 30, 2007 10:17 PM

@26 My Bad, Henry David Thoreau wrote a letter called "on civil disobdience" to Emerson, and it was this essay that inspired Martin Luthor KIng. King used the line,"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity." in one of his speechs. I think there are a few other connections but I can not think of them now. I get all them dead gay writers confused sometimes.

Posted by GJ | August 30, 2007 11:26 PM

Neither flip-flopping nor complete conviction are good or bad. What really matters is what is behind your convictions or change of heart.

If you flip-flop to try to make voters happy, you are just as bad as someone who ignores the facts and sticks with their conviction no matter what. Flip-flopping is good if there is a reason behind it - such as admitting you were wrong when new information shows up. Conviction can also be good if you are standing up to people who don't (or won't) understand a what is going on, but you hold to your position because the facts support you even if the masses don't.

In short, reality (and dealing with it) is more important than weather you stick to your convictions or flipp-flop.

Posted by Queeg | August 31, 2007 2:50 AM

who the fuck is issur and is he really just a troll by an anti semite?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 31, 2007 3:41 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).