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Political landscape keeps flip-flopping

January 23, 2012 By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com So, what is the difference between flip-flopping and evolving? What is the difference between standing up for your convictions and being an obstructionist? In the political realm, these phrases are used to describe characteristics that are either seen as virtues or curses. Locally one can see these discussions happening around the casino issue. Despite the fact that freshly minted Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse openly campaigned as a gambling skeptic, he is now being knocked by some for his stance that a casino would not help the Paper City. His consistent point of view is now being seen as a negative. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno voiced the opinion for years that he supported a “casino in the woods” and that Springfield wasn’t a suitable location for expanded gaming. Few people have called the mayor a flip-flopper, despite the fact his definition of “woods” has now morphed to the former Westinghouse plant on Page Boulevard. In Sarno’s case, is this “evolution” of a belief rather than a flip? Like beauty, these assessments are in the eye of the beholder. In politics, the sands shift around points of view in order to serve short-term goals. What is fact and what is faith? What is an acceptable campaign statement and what is a smear? Last week, Gov. John Huntsman dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed the man he had strongly criticized, Gov. Mitt Romney. One week, Romney shouldn’t be the final candidate and the next week he should. One week, Romney isn’t conservative enough and then suddenly he is. Amazing. All Mitt had to do was stand there and look pretty. I had liked Huntsman, too. The Boston newspapers have been reporting that senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren’s finances puts her in the “1 percent,” and therefore a conclusion has been voiced she is some sort of hypocrite. Huh? If a Republican has a “rags to riches” type of story like Warren’s that is acceptable, but if a Democrat has one he or she is some sort of traitor to their class? Do I have that right? One of my Facebook friends, a local Republican activist, called her “an elitist” because of the money she has earned. The Boston Globe reported that Sen. Scott Brown earned a $700,000 advance for his autobiography. He makes $174,000 as a senator. Brown came from humble means as well and his finances are propelling him to that 1 percent level, so should he be criticized also? Is Brown an “elitist” because of his wallet? I certainly think there are plenty of elitists in government on both sides of the aisles, but I don’t think Brown is one and neither is Warren, as far as I know. Here’s another shifting of perspective: since when did the title of “professor” become something negative? In my lifetime, the title has generally been a positive one — unless used by a school yard bully to try to demean someone smarter than him. In the attack ads against Warren the word is used several times as a pejorative. They might as well be saying, “axe murderer.” The manipulation of language in political campaigns is an art form. Let’s take neutral or positive terms and use them in a way to make them sinister. For instance, did you know that Brown is a practicing heterosexual — gasp! — and that Warren matriculated while in college — several times. Oh, yeah. Ah, politics. It’s so early in the season that I shudder what the landscape will be like in a few more months. Well, you’ve got to believe in something. I believe in having another beer. Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.
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