Opinion changing, not pandering, can be commendable
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 20:10
When the New York State legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage in June 2011, Mark Grisanti, a State Senator from Buffalo, was one of four Republicans to vote in favor of the bill. Grisanti, who had voted against a similar bill a few years earlier, explained his change of opinion by saying “I would not respect myself if I didn’t do the research, have an open mind, and make a decision … based on the information before me. A man can be wiser today than yesterday, but there will be no respect for that man if he has failed in his duty to do the work.”
Although some will accuse them of flip-flopping, the actions of Grisanti and State Senator Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie, another former opponent who voted for the legislation, are not only acceptable, but commendable. Although changing a stance to pander to voters is despicable, when a politician genuinely does change his views, it is noble of him to publicly announce this and act accordingly.
Of course, there are some candidates who suddenly change their opinions when it’s convenient. Look at Mitt Romney. When he was running for Governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts, his views were very liberal, at least for a Republican. Once he started running for President of the United States, he became more conservative, since he needed to appeal to a conservative base. However, this changing of opinion is merely political pandering. I do not condone it, but it is not what I am talking about in this article. I am referring to genuine changes of view, such as those experienced by Grisanti and Saland.
Saland also happens to be my state senator, representing the district I live in when not at school. He was serving in the Senate since before I was born, so he is widely known in the local area. I gained a lot of respect for him when he crossed party lines to vote for the legislation, especially after he previously voted against a similar measure.
It took a lot of courage for Saland and Grisanti to admit that they had been wrong. It takes a lot of courage for anyone to admit they have been wrong in the past, in fact. However, this is the right thing to do. There is a popular quote which is commonly attributed to an anonymous author that says “When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he must either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest.”
Grisanti and Saland were faced with a choice in 2011 – they had to either cease being mistaken and come out in support of the bill, or cease being honest and pretend they still truly opposed it. They chose the former and deserve significant praise for that.
Of course, politicians are not the only people who are entitled to change their opinions on decisive issues. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a group of former police officers, narcs, drug agents and other former supporters of drug laws who fought the front lines and realized that the laws did more harm than good. At one time, these people all believed that by enforcing these laws, they were doing the right thing.
At some point, they all realized they were wrong. Rather than stick their heads in the sand and pretend that they still believed the laws were justified, they left their jobs and formed LEAP. Now they go around the country lecturing about the harm drug laws cause and how they wished they never worked to enforce them. This is commendable.
Although I am a supporter of both same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, I would still recognize and commend the courage of these politicians and law enforcement officials even if I weren’t. They have sincerely changed their opinions, as is their right. Once they did, they voiced their new opinion instead of pretending they still believed the old one, as is their responsibility in such a case. They decided to cease being mistaken rather than cease being honest. Not only is this an acceptable thing to do, but it is the only responsible thing to do in this situation.