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A Balance View of An Issue

Post # 207, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

In Politics, "Flip Flopping" is impardonable. Or is it?

Among the very first lessons learned in politics is usually, 'don't commit to a vote until you thoroughly understand it.' Just postpone an announcement until you have all the information. Or at least disclaim that you may change your mind, if circumstances change.

But the second and even more important lesson is once you announce your position, if you don't offer the disclaimer above, whatever you do, don't change it. Those who change their positions become part of the long line of "Flip Floppers," most of which are doomed to political death.

It is ironic then that I found a form of vote changing that does not fall into the deadly "Flip Flop" noose. This form of vote changing is really an adaption of the expression, "walk a mile in my shoes and see what it is like." We as a country are not doing that today, although we have done it before and it helped bring and keep our country together.

Let's take the issue of social trends in our country. The left have concerns about race, anti-semitism, and anti-vaccines. On the right, the concerns are woke, cancel culture, and vaccine mandates. For understanding the other side's issue, is there any attempt to "walk a mile in my shoes to see what it is like?" There is no way either side will budge other than perhaps to belittle the other side's opinion. People are talking past each other. There are no "Flip Floppers" within the left and right, so it is politically correct. Critics of this intransigence have often said, "You are yelling so loud, you can't hear what I am saying."

I noticed that problem in the legislature some forty years ago and tried an experiment. I was the Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Delegation in the State with 32 members--almost 1/3 of the whole legislature. I had found that my members were very good at handling bills for their constituents. But they had little interest in legislation of concern to the neighboring districts, represented by someone else. I decided to try the experiment described above as "walk a mile in my shoes." I offered to handle bills for the Orlando and Jacksonville area and asked those legislators affected to handle my bills of interest to Miami and the Florida Keys. I know you probably asked why the switch since it was not in our individual interest? Because our titles were State Senator and State Representative. We didn't just represent our district, we also represented the whole state, even if some state issues were not present in our own districts. But this might mean that we could learn something about another area of our state that caused us to re-think our positions. Bingo. That is when changing your position or vote is not only smart, but it is to be applauded. But it is important to offer the disclaimer described above at the very beginning of this process. Not all 32 members of my Delegation participated, but a number did and found the exercise enlightening.

Many groups are forming across the country to start this kind of participatory consensus building and start moving our country back together to the center. In Tallahassee, former Tallahassee Commissioner Alan Katz created The Village Square which includes a long table hosting a sit down meal for stake holders of both sides. There are ground rules and sometimes hurt feelings, but it is a way to get the issues out for both sides to consider. Another group is called Listen First Project in North Carolina is run by a former staffer in the U.S. Senate. It organizes disparate groups that attempt to bridge their philosophical divide among each other. Businesses see the benefit of these attempts at dialogue and offer funding--Walmart, Microsoft and Twitter among them.

The sponsors say this effort is at least a start to pulling our great country closer together again.



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