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Kingdom of Fear: Getting it Wrong

Given the attitudes of many (both on the right and left) towards marijuana legalization, the politics of fear sometimes employed are not always devious or malignant, but simply ignorance made manifest. As a clearer picture of the reality of the situation emerges, through science and news reporting and firsthand evidence, politicians simply change their tune when it becomes politically expedient. Whether the issue is pot, gay rights, or even war, people say one thing or another.

In American politics there is an interesting phenomenon regarding changing opinions. While in reality, we should want our elected officials to evolve their positions on complex issues. Yet invariably, when a politician’s view does involve, the other side accuses them of the crime of “flip flopping.” The charge doomed 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry and played a significant role in defeating 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

It would be so refreshing if American politicians could simply admit that they were wrong about an issue, without couching it in face-saving rhetoric. It would also be refreshing the news media and the American public vaunted such an act rather than reporting it with bitchy questions about whether or not it makes a given politician appear weak or lacking in conviction.

Of course, some politicians absolutely change their views based on opinion poll data or as part of a political strategy. However, one could argue that a significant number of talking heads, such as Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe on Climate Change or former Vice President Dick Cheney on Iraq, see the political value in further asserting that their basic ideas are right, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary.

There should be consequences for elected officials and political spokespeople for being wrong publicly, but it seems that to admit one was wrong is tantamount to career suicide. If perhaps more people were “allowed” to admit they were wrong, perhaps more people would do it.

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.