John Stuart Mill objects to censorship and believes that freedom of speech is essential to a society that wants to progress to the ultimate truth. While watching the Republican debates, I can’t help but wonder if Mill would condone the flip-flopping politics of the candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. They have a right to voice their political beliefs, but is it okay to advocate contradictory opinions throughout the years? Yes, I believe people can change their opinions, which is encouraged by collaborating with other politicians and by experience, but I can’t help but wonder if the candidates are voicing their opinions just to get a vote.
Newt Gingrich has recently escalated in the polls, and many of his flip-flopping ideas have become more apparent. Gingrich, in the past, believed that American citizens could be required by mandate to buy health insurance. However, now he is completely opposed to the idea. In 2008, he filmed a commercial with Nancy Pelosi advocating action on climate change but now he regrets ever having done it (Boston Globe article).
Mitt Romney’s many flip flops have occurred not after winning elections to win further elections to create change, but rather after he loses. Not only is the timing odd, but the opinions he flip-flops on are extremely important. He once was pro-choice, but now pro-life. He did not support “Obamacare”, but it was modeled on “Romneycare” (Chicago Tribune article). He constantly has to defend himself in debate, but I think a candidate should spend more time voicing their own opinions, not defending their past.
Would Mill support the change in the candidates? Would he think that even though they are sharing their newfound beliefs with the public that they have a right to share so many different opinions? Does this flip-flopping show signs that the candidates do not truly believe what they share with the public? Have they thought deeply about their beliefs if they are subject to change so easily? Do we want a president that is unsure of the politics they want to practice?
I think Mill would appreciate the candidates trying to get out a vast array of ideas. The candidates do encourage the public to reflect and decided for themselves what they think is right, and Mill would think that our society would benefiting from the process. However, I think Mill would rather have the candidates ponder their decisions before speaking out to the entire country advocating for certain things, and then changing them in a future election. Do you think Mill would support the candidates even though they flip-flop?
“However unwillingly a person who has s strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it maybe, if it is not fully , frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as dead dogma, not a living truth” (Mill, On Liberty).