Since the 2004 presidential election, “flip-flop” has become, or at least tried to become, a potent political attack. When a politician changes their stance on an issue, they usually get savaged by their opponents for bending with the political wind. Todd Tiahrt is experiencing that right now after speaking about immigration during Tuesday’s debate with Jerry Moran.
However, is changing one’s mind always a “flip-flop”?
Tiahrt, during the debate, said the following about his stance on immigration.
“A long time ago, I thought it was compassionate to not punish the children for the parents’ sins, but I’ve listened to the people of Kansas. I’ve studied this issue. I’ve come to the conclusion that we must build the fence, that we must say no to amnesty.”
Almost instantaneously, the Moran campaign went on the attack, saying Tiahrt supported amnesty and lower in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants in 2003, as well as drivers licenses for illegal immigrants – implying that Tiahrt is going with prevailing trends in order to get elected.
“It’s disappointing to see Todd Tiahrt run from his Washington record of increasing spending and opposing greater transparency,” said Communications Director Dan Conston. “He can try to keep Kansans in the dark, but they know he is just another politician gone Washington.”
Included with the statement was a quote from a 2003 Tiahrt for Congress campaign mailer that said, “We must … Reform INS and create a status for undocumented, taxpaying workers that would make them eligible for a drivers license.”
There are a few things worth pointing out here. in 2003, immigration was not the issue it is today. The Mexican Drug War had yet to flare up to the level it is at now. Things didn’t get bad until 2006 – and even then it wasn’t near what it has become in 2010. Hence Tiahrt’s quote about not wanting to punish the children of illegal immigrants. Now, with violence spilling over the border, illegal immigration has become a national security issue. Some of these drug gangs are as well armed as National Guard units.
Is it not possible that Tiahrt did listen to his conservative base, and changed his mind on the immigration issue? If he did, can that be called “flip-flopping”? Or is it that he looked at the situation, listened to his constituents and simply changed his mind? If that’s the case, then isn’t that what we want our elected representatives to do? Is it good politics to stick with a bad call because even thinking about changing would be suicide? Is admitting you might be wrong on an issue a weakness?
No. I don’t think it is.
Being a passionate advocate for an extended period of time, then radically changing ones views to fit the political zeitgeist overnight is flip-flopping, and is worthy of condemnation. However, Tiahrt made these statements seven years ago, when circumstances were much different, and it’s unfair to go after someone for just listening to the people, and acting accordingly.
Flip-flop? I think not.