McLaughlin: “Voters may not mind if you sold somebody else out to get their vote, but they will not vote for you if they expect you to sell them out as soon as he comes under fire”
… “voters also want leaders, people who announce their commitment to clear, principled positions and stick to them, even if it means having to try dragging the voters away from their current views,” argues Dan McLaughlin in an RS RedState post titled The Trouble With Mitt Romney (Part 3 of 5)
As I have written previously, in a representative democracy, it’s not necessarily fatal to hire leaders who echo what we want them to say, rather than what they’d do if they had their druthers. Many of our individual druthers, after all, aren’t so well thought-out. But what matters more than anything is not a politician’s fealty to his own internal principles but his ability to publicly take a principled position and stick to it. What we look for in leaders, especially presidents, is that ability: the willingness to say, “here I stand,” let the voters judge the merits of that stand, and keep faith with your promises, even when the going gets rough.
This is doubly important in the presidency, because of the president’s unique role in foreign policy – courage and constancy are vital virtues, even when that sometimes means not giving us what we want. Many voters in 2004 were closer in their own hearts to Kerry’s studied ambivalence about Iraq than to Bush’s stubborn commitment, but they respected Bush’s leadership, and rewarded him with another term to carry on the job.
Put simply: flip-flops buy votes, but do so at an escalating cost to a politician’s credibility. First, they erode a candidate’s reputation as a leader; then, in time, they come to cast doubt even on the candidate’s announced positions, creating fear that he will hold them only until a better offer comes along. Voters may not mind if you sold somebody else out to get their vote, but they will not vote for you if they expect you to sell them out as soon as he comes under fire. Which brings us to the four ways in which Romney’s flip-flops have extracted a particularly high cost to his credibility, which can’t be readily recovered in time for the 2008 election … etc.