James Madison, in Federalist No. 10, famously said, "Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths... A republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking."
And Chief Justice John Marshall explained, "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."
The Founders sought to mitigate the passions and imbalances of absolute democracy by placing the reigns of the U.S. government in the hands of a small number of representatives. These elected officials would meet and reason together, taking time to make and listen to arguments.
It is important to keep these early American political concerns in mind as we look to our coming elections. Are we presented with responsible candidates who will shoulder the duty of making wise choices in the interest of the voters they represent? Or are we faced with simplistic candidates who will rule according to the whims of the voters regardless of the consequences?
Parker is right that political flip-flopping is not always a bad thing. A representative who never changes his or her mind is a representative who does not take seriously his or her role as trusted leader.
That said, we should rightly be suspicious of someone who changes their positions frequently or flippantly (particularly during election season). In this sense, flip-flopping can be a warning sign of a self-serving, petty candidate.
The question is ultimately not whether our representatives change their positions. The question is whether they make wise decisions and assume responsibility for their actions.
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