Posted by David Oates 4 years, 11 months ago

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The short answer is it depends. The long answer is this: You'll have to be able to explain why and under what pretense. More importantly, you can't do it too often, particularly when your initial positions were done in a fervent manner.

Here are two examples; one that shows how changing opinions can be done credibly and one that doesn't. First, well-respected doctor and senior medical correspondent for CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, recently announced that he was wrong in his initial stance against medical marijuana. He wrote an 2009 article for Time Magazine (a sister media outlet to CNN) entitled "Why I would vote NO on Pot" after reviewing some of the more prominent scientific research on the subject. Fast forward to less than a month ago, Dr. Gupta publicly changed his position, saying he was wrong. His reasons - he failed to look at other papers from smaller labs doing research on the same subject and also " was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis." It's one of the few reversals Dr. Gupta has made, but he did so in a very upfront manner and with good reasoning. In turn, I believe, Dr. Gupta was given even greater credibility for his stance than before.

On the other hand, former California State Assemblyman turned San Diego Mayoral Candidate Nathan Fletcher is having a tough time convincing voters he is now a Democrat and wants to run again for the same local executive seat that he did just over a year ago in a special upcoming election to replace Bob Filner, who resigned in disgrace last week. The deal is Mr. Fletcher has actually switched political allegiances twice, first declaring himself an independent back in March 2012 after running afoul with local party officials who backed another candidate, then switching again to the Democrats in May of this year. When questions on the see-sawing moves, he responded "“My life experience has brought me in a straight line to the Democratic Party where I’m comfortable and where I know I belong. …I think what matters at the end of the day is that you do what you truly believe in your heart is right and things tend to work out.” That may be so, but Mr. Fletcher is having a bit of time explaining the moves that occurred right around two campaigns he has waged for the top office in third largest city in the state. The race is still wide open and Mr. Fletcher may indeed win, but it will need to be done by overcoming - and not leveraging - his multiple changes of the same opinion.

The bottom line is credibility. If changing a public position can be done so without appearing opportunistic or cow-towing to some other interest, it can be done and received well. The absence of perceived genuineness will mean the reverse.

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