Jenny Beth Martin: In Defense of a ‘Changed Mind’

By now, readers of this publication have likely seen this piece excoriating me for an op-ed I published in USA Today on the subject of “flip-flopping.”

As a long-time reader of (and frequent contributor to) Breitbart.com, it pains me to say I found the piece to be dishonest reporting, bordering on a personal attack. But because I believe the author and I share a determination to prevent an amnesty of millions of illegal immigrants from taking place, I will attempt in the following passages merely to point out where I think my piece was misunderstood.

In my very short USA Today op-ed – which was originally accepted for publication months ago – I made the point that politicians often change their minds, and I argued that there is nothing inherently wrong with changing one’s mind or policy positions if they are changing to the right position and if the change is sincere. As the leader of a grassroots organization that aims to build a broad coalition and which recognizes that the growth and success of any political movement necessitates a welcoming attitude toward those who once held views in opposition, but who now have adjusted those views, I stand by those statements.

The Breitbart News piece focuses on just one example from my op-ed, in which I mentioned that Sen. Marco Rubio appears to have changed his mind on immigration. It is a fact that Sen. Rubio in 2013 was one of the authors of the notorious Senate “Gang of 8” amnesty bill, which was a broad amnesty bill that lacked even the most basic border security measures. It is also a fact that Sen. Rubio today says he shares our concerns about granting amnesty to millions of people without first addressing border security. These two facts indicate a “flip-flop,” and recognition on his part that the bill he originally championed was severely flawed.

What Breitbart News fails to mention is that after I used this example of a flip-flop, I made it very clear that we were still skeptical of Sen. Rubio’s position.

Did Scott Walker and Rubio “flip-flop”? Or did their thinking on these issues merely change, as they spent more time learning about the issues in question, and had more conversations with thoughtful advisers and — dare we say it — regular American citizens?

We honestly don’t know. We do know we’ll be watching them closely, as we’ll watch the other candidates seeking to earn our support.

After all, President Reagan had a philosophy of “trust but verify,” and our position with Sen. Rubio on amnesty is exactly that.

Tea Party Patriots was one of the most visible and vocal opponents of Rubio’s 2013 amnesty bill. During the summer of 2013, we created activist toolkits, organized rallies across the country, and orchestrated a massive effort on Capitol Hill to draw attention to the many weaknesses of Sen. Rubio’s “Gang of 8” bill. We are proud of that work, and even prouder of the fact that Rubio today appears to have changed his mind on a key aspect of this issue, and appears to be using some of our talking points on border security. That’s progress, plain and simple.

At Tea Party Patriots, we have a philosophy that guides our grassroots activities: “When politicians do the right thing, we stand by them. And when they fail to do the right thing, we hold them accountable.” The Marco Rubio incident is illustrative of that guiding principle. In 2013 we held him accountable with grassroots pressure – letters to the editor about him, calls into his office, and rallies. And in 2015, as he signals an embrace of our messaging, we welcome it. Why wouldn’t we?

That doesn’t mean he has gained a pass or that we are encouraging conservatives to give Rubio a chance to implement his immigration agenda, as was falsely suggested in the Breitbart News headline.

Marco Rubio’s flip-flop will give many voters cause for concern, as it should, and GOP primary voters will certainly want to examine Rubio’s remarks in light of his previous actions on immigration.

As the 2016 presidential election heats up, we can expect a lot of flip-flopping from every candidate. When the candidates flip their views to align with ours, we will celebrate those victories and welcome them, to the extent we are satisfied they are sincerely-held changes of opinion.

Breitbart News’ view on this issue seems to be that candidates can never do a course correction or change their positions. That is wrong, of course, and Tea Party Patriots has an impressive track record proving just how often politicians can be persuaded to do the right thing.

I love you, Breitbart News, but this was a cheap shot.

Jenny Beth Martin is CEO and Co-Founder of Tea Party Patriots


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