The politics and psychology of flip-flopping.

Illustration: Nishant Choksi.

Ezra Klein’s article in The New Yorker this week is a masterclass in the art of the extended essay. Read it. It is political journalism at its finest. He details the context within which the Republican Party has gone from proposing and supporting the individual mandate to unanimously condemning it, before turning to the moral psychology underpinning partisan commitments. In short, ideologies work as rules of thumb. We take support from others we tend to agree with as a sign that a policy is good. And once norm entrepreneurs fall prey to their tribal instincts of opposing whatever their rivals back, the situation can quickly evolve from one in which the unconstitutionality of Obamacare is inconceivable to one in which that could very well be the Supreme Court’s judgement later this week. It is absurd and infuriating, but also, alas, all too human and reflective of reality.


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