2 April 2014: Politics should not dictate how one’s views change

Politics should not dictate how one’s views change

There is nothing wrong with changing one’s mind, especially when confronted with new information.  In fact, it’s a virtue; intellectual honesty requires it.

Long-entrenched thinking takes time to “evolve,” as Presidents Obama’s has on same-sex marriage.  On that he’s far from alone; millions of Americans have moved to support the principle, a vast sea-change from homophobic days when a mad rush cluttered state constitutions with amendments defining marriage as between opposite-sex couples.

Evolution of thought is a healthy thing.  Rigidity of belief reduces the individual to a non-thinking, knee-jerk reactionary.  Free-exchange conversations cannot take place with such types since they’re interested only in participating in echo-chamber sounding boards.

After listening to and concluding advocates for open space made a more solid case, I changed my position on land use atop Floyd Hill and took pains to detail the reasons in my columns.  It was and is important that my credibility remain intact with my readers.

In some cases, such as presumptive Republican Senate nominee Cory Gardner’s, the credibility of the individual who “changes his/her mind” is suspect.

Gardner is a politician.  There’s nothing wrong with that; all elected officials are politicians.

There are, however, three phases in a politician’s life: before, during, and after the campaign.  During the first and third phases, he/she is perfectly allowed and even expected to change his/her positions.  It makes sense and indicates an open mind.  It’s during the second phase—the campaign phase when the push is on for votes—that he/she is on shifting sand.

And therein lies Gardner’s problem: He’s now anti-personhood after years of being pro-personhood.  In other words, he was for it before he suddenly became against it.

What changed?  National Republicans, panicked that Ken Buck would once again be their senatorial standard-bearer and thus desperate to find a photogenic, scrubbed-face youthful male to take on Mark Udall, tapped Gardner, luring him away from a safe House seat by promising him millions of dollars in financing.

The problem with Gardner is that while his Tea Party shtick has played well on the eastern plains, it doesn’t chime with the majority of Coloradans.  To the bone, though, Gardner is a fire-breathing, pitch-fork carrying rightwinger.  His record proves it.

“This was a bad idea driven by good intentions,” Gardner told the Denver Post about his years of active support for the personhood amendments.  “I was not right.  I can’t support personhood now. I can’t support personhood moving forward.”

Gardner is right about being wrong, but he fails to detail why he changed his mind.

His record is, indeed, a litany of wrongs and the timing of his Road to Damascus conversion to reasonable thought correlates time-wise with his statewide candidacy.  What plays well in Limon and Kiowa doesn’t necessarily do so throughout the state.

Further, Gardner won’t tell us where he stands or stood on secession and creating the state of Northern Colorado.

Gardner is not alone.  Rep. Mike Coffman is attempting as well to don the robes of a moderate now that his district has been altered.  His Achilles’ heel issue is immigration reform.

Coffman justifies his shifting stance on the fact his constituents have changed, thus violating Edmund Burke’s dictum about how a legislator owes his constituents not only his/her industry but also his/her judgment.  So, for Coffman what was once a bad idea is now a good one.   We can only conclude he judged poorly.

To be sure, there are “justifiers” who come to their defense, such as Republican strategist Katy Atkinson who told the Post that there will always be extremists who demand 100 percent purity.  She’s right about extremists demanding purity, but wrong about correlating them to Gardner’s and Coffman’s cases.

This isn’t about ideological purity but rather opportunism and expediency.  It’s a matter of integrity.

It comes down to a question of character.  Shape-shifting politicos lack credibility because once they have proven they’re willing to alter a fundamental belief in the hopes of getting a few more votes, they can no longer be trusted.  In their private lives, Gardner and Coffman might be admirable characters.  In their public lives, though, they personify exactly what is seriously wrong with politics today.

Note of gratitude and congratulations to Rick Scott, George Clark, and the rest of the Clear Creek Veterans Coalition for their work in getting the county’s eastern portal named the Veterans Memorial Tunnels.  Their efforts transcended party politics and helped unite the Clear Creek community for a common purpose.

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