Politics The Good of Flip-flopping
posted by August 30 at 12:23 PMon
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.