“There is Another Choice” A Report on the Evan McMullin Kick-off

 

imageI’ve been a NeverTrumper for nearly a year now. The day Senator Ted Cruz dropped out, I began searching for a candidate who wasn’t merely the least-evil, but whose candidacy advocated for policies I support. I flirted with the Libertarians, but found Gary Johnson lacking, especially on religious liberties.* The other libertarians I hear from keep doing the best they can to convince me they aren’t really serious.

Then came the Constitution Party. They were very friendly, even going so far as to invite me to attend their state committee meeting. But I had some major questions about their party platform, especially on foreign policy. I asked a few questions at the committee meeting, and was promised their vice presidential candidate, Scott Bradley, would answer me personally. (This was the genesis for a solicitation of questions post I wrote back in May; nothing happened with it because Bradley never called, despite five promises from the state chair that he would). Bradley, after all, was the best qualified person to answer my questions. At the state party meeting one of the committee members actually asked one of my questions to the Party’s chair — “What’s our position on Israel?” — and the chair didn’t know the answer. They had to look it up. Answer: “We don’t want any foreign entanglements; Israel is perfectly capable of taking care of itself if the US just stays out of its way.” By mid-June I was convinced I’d be leaving my vote for president this year blank. But then Monday arrived, with the surprise announcement of an Independant run from Evan McMullin.

Now, I didn’t know McMullin from Fred Cooper Ronaldson (a name I made up just now), but his Open Letter to America said things I’d been thinking. I read his interview with National Review and watched his appearance on Fox News opposite Rudy Gulianni. For a new-comer to the public eye, he was making quite a splash. I visited his website and read his positions on a handful of issues. (They’re a little brief right now, but I’m told they will be fleshed out in the coming few weeks). I liked a lot of what I read, but I still wasn’t convinced. Was he in this to play the spoiler? How much of this does he actually believe and what’s there for political expediency? How much of my liking him comes from my distaste for the other candidates and how much is because he actually represents my values and positions?

I wanted answers to those questions. So when I heard that Mr. McMullin was holding his Kick-off Event in Salt Lake City last night, I found a way to be there.

A little before 6:30 PM, the doors opened. As we entered the building, a long table covered with ballot-access petitions separated us from the doorway to the stairs that led up to the third floor loft where the event would be held. Almost everyone in line was more than happy to sign. By my guess is that they gathered around 250 signatures last night (with only 1,000 needed, total, in the state of Utah to be on November’s ballot) and had a little over 300 in attendance.

Upstairs, cameras from the local news stations and an Internet live-stream stood, forming — with the walls and stage — a bull-pen for the gathering crowd. While waiting for the event to start, I spoke with two gentlemen in white shirts and ties. Both had been at their respective workplaces when they saw an announcement about the event, one on Facebook just an hour before, the other on TV earlier in the day. I asked them why they’d come. The first said, “I’m just hoping for anything better than Trump and Hillary.” The other nodded in agreement. Had either of them looked at other parties? “I have,” said the second. He’d spent a lot of time with Johnson and, he said, “In many ways Trump’s better than Johnson, especially on drugs and religion.”

McMullin’s state campaign manager took the stage and led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegience. After thanking us for coming, he said, “You are the rock being thrown into the water.” The one that will ripple throughout the nation, telling everyone, “We will not accept unacceptable candidates.” He introduced McMullin with much of the same bio I’d read on the campaign website, but with a few personal flourishes, as they’ve known each other since college.

Then McMullin himself came to the podium. After what was, in my opinion, some quite humble words of gratitude for his family and friends who were present, he spoke a bit about the whirlwind that had begun following Monday’s announcement. He gave a few statistics: In the 24 hours after the announcement, they had 60,000 volunteers signed up with the campaign nation-wide and were on track to double that shortly (I can’t read my notes for certain). Google had called to let the campaign know McMullin was being googled more than Trump. (That doesn’t surprise me very much; people already know who Trump is).

Here are a few quotes from his speech that resonated the most with me:

[We need government that] can be more responsive and accountable to the American people so that it listens better to the American people.

Liberty, tolerance, and decency are still basic core ideals of this great nation.

“This good will [with the other countries of the world] is such a vital source of American strength that we cannot allow it to be destroyed by politicians or other personalities.”

And we know that we can defeat Islamist terrorism without violating our ideals. Indeed, we must.

image

After his remarks, McMullin worked the crowd, taking individual questions from anyone willing to stay around. Here’s a sampling, based on my hasty scribbling:

Q: Would you support an amendment to repeal the direct election of senators and put the power of the senate back under state control?

A: [This is a compilation of my notes on answers to a handful of other questions, all of which came together again in McMullins’s answer to the question above] The biggest concern I have is the concentration of power in Washington. There is no reason in a country this size — especially when we already have state governments so close to the people — for the details of our lives to be dictated at a federal level. [Repealing the 17th Amendment may be a good idea at some point, but first] I want to look at some other ideas coming out of the states, one of which is proposed by your congressional leaders here in Utah, and would let the Senate override executive orders. […] The biggest problem in the country today is that people don’t feel like they’re being heard [by their government] and if we just push the power out of Washington and get it back to the states, that problem goes away.

Q: As a former CIA guy, where do you stand on the government collection of data?

A: We need to find a balance on all of these technologies, and I think it’s a balance that can be found. [For example] with the government collection of metadata, the phone companies have to store it, then, if the government has a reason to look at it, they can get a warrant and go to the phone company for it.

During part of McMullin’s time working the crowd, I listened to his campaign manager talk about some of the campaign logistics. They’ve started petition drives in every state where that’s still possible. In two other states, Better For America got on the ballot as a political party before the filing deadline, and McMullin will be their candidate. In a small handful of other states, their campaign is partnering with smaller parties that already are on the ballot. He said that with those states alone it’s possible (but not probable) to get 270 electoral votes. They’ll be filing legal challenges in the states where the filing deadline has already passed.

He also said that all of the positions on their website were McMullins’s own and not those of Better For America or any of their other campaign partners.

As I left the rally, I took one more good look at McMullin as he continued talking with the stragglers and asked myself, if he’s someone I can see as president. He’s definitely more much more presidential than either Trump or Clinton. But without that comparison? Do I see eye-to-eye with him on policy and principle?

I can’t answer that for certain yet, but I’m more inclined to say “yes” tonight than I was even a few hours ago.

—–

*Yes, I know about Johnson’s about-face Op-Ed on religion. I haven’t decided which of Johnson’s opinions we’d actually get, yet. Either it was a huge flip-flop or Gov. Johnson is an absolutely terrible political communicator.

There are 52 comments.

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  1. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Good report. The Constitution Party’s answer seems reasonable. I don’t think Evan will be on the ballot in Texas, but will consider him based on your report.

    • #1
  2. Liz Member
    Liz
    @Liz

    Thanks for the report. Off to read his interview in “National Review” now.

    • #2
  3. Liz Member
    Liz
    @Liz

    Back again. I thought the interview was rather short and shallow; McMullin comes through in a positive way, but it was not a good enough intro. The Fox News segment was better, because his personal manner is appealing. A quick internet search, though, shows very little indeed. Do you know what he is doing to get his name out?

    • #3
  4. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Liz: The Fox News segment was better

    Thanks, Liz, I hadn’t seen it yet. Here’s a link.

    • #4
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Hope springs eternal. Maybe he will be on the Ricochet Podcast. It’s probably not a bad venue for him actually.

    • #5
  6. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Valiuth:Hope springs eternal. Maybe he will be on the Ricochet Podcast. It’s probably not a bad venue for him actually.

    Cc @blueyeti @peterrobinson

    • #6
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    And a vote for this guy is going to have a greater impact than just writing in M. Mouse or S. Claus because . . . ?

    • #7
  8. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    On the one hand, I’m deeply disappointed that it took this long to find someone so obscure who actually seems sensible and worth supporting.

    On the other hand, beggars can’t be choosers and what little I’ve seen of McMullin is impressive.

    • #8
  9. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Isn’t it a bit late to be running for the highest office in the country, with little experience – does he have any $ to compete?  I saw an interview with him on Fox, and he sounds good, but that is hardly enough at this late date. It will just take away votes and land H in the Oval Office.  This whole political season is off the cliff.  I even heard a story about a prominent Republican presenting an offer to Hilary if they go for her, to let the Republicans pick the Supreme Court judges……..really? Like he has so many votes in his pocket?

    • #9
  10. Grosseteste Thatcher
    Grosseteste
    @Grosseteste

    The Beard of Avon: *Yes, I know about Johnson’s about-face Op-Ed on religion. I haven’t decided which of Johnson’s opinions we’d actually get, yet. Either it was a huge flip-flop or Gov. Johnson is an absolutely terrible political communicator.

    If this is the one you’re talking about, he’s a terrible political communicator, unless the point was solely to flatter Utahns (entirely possible).  I’ve got a pretty good idea what he means when he talks about civil rights for LGBT people, not so much what he means by protections for religious people.  Especially when “freedom of association” in the current context of debate overlaps quite a bit with what he calls “discrimination”

    Also: “Thus, in response to a question thrown at me while walking down a street (in the rain), I expressed my reservations rather emphatically.”  Really?  You’re running for president.  People are going to be asking you questions while walking in all weather conditions.  If you don’t like people quoting you when you’re feeling snippy (which seems to be common for Johnson), don’t answer questions.  Or don’t run for president in the first place.

    • #10
  11. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    Vance Richards:And a vote for this guy is going to have a greater impact than just writing in M. Mouse or S. Claus because . . . ?

    In my opinion, it would be a way to tell the Republican party and the big backers that they should have originally chosen a candidate who the common people feel closer to (although Trump is already proving that in a big way). I say this as a voter who has not decided for any presidential candidate and may even leave that vote blank. I have decided that I don’t have to decide until Nov. 8 and until then I can just be taking in information.

    • #11
  12. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    It’s a day late and a dollar short. The only possible aim could be to help Hillary. And I find this on the Main Feed? Please.

    • #12
  13. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    “There is no reason in a country this size — especially when we already have state governments so close to the people — for the details of our lives to be dictated at a federal level.”

    THIS really speaks to me.

    • #13
  14. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    RightAngles:It’s a day late and a dollar short. The only possible aim could be to help Hillary. And I find this on the Main Feed. Please.

    If you look at statements from folks like Bret Stephens, excerpted on Andrew Klavan’s podcast, it’s pretty clear McMullen is just another way to teach GOP voters a lesson about who they’re allowed to nominate.

    • #14
  15. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    No doubt he’s a good man. There is also no doubt there are thousands just like him in our great country, probably some even right here on Ricochet. Unfortunately they are also just as unknown to 99.99% of the voters in this country as is Evan McMullin. Knock yourselves out folks. This is an exercise in CoC , if you know what I mean.

    • #15
  16. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    cdor:No doubt he’s a good man. There is also no doubt there are thousands just like him in our great country, probably some even right here on Ricochet. Unfortunately they are also just as unknown to 99.99% of the voters in this country as is Evan McMullin. Knock yourselves out folks. This is an exercise in CoC , if you know what I mean.

    Haha. I have a feeling he’s a good man too. But we’d have known for sure if he’d gone through the primary process like everyone else. Doing it this way just feels like the GOP is shoving him down our throats and/or using him to scold the primary voters. And it helps Hillary. I’m starting to wonder if that isn’t their main goal.

    • #16
  17. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    I’m sure McMullin’s a good man.  If he cares this much about our nation he should wait till after the election, then start building a base so he can be in the primaries in 2020. Doing this now just throws more weight to Hillary.

    We have already reached Peak Message this cycle. That mailbox is full, please try back again in January.

    • #17
  18. Viator Inactive
    Viator
    @Viator

    Never Trumpers never die they just elect Hillary.

    • #18
  19. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    RightAngles: Doing it this way just feels like the GOP is shoving him down our throats and/or using him to scold the primary voters.

    How is the GOP shoving him down anyone’s throat? He’s not running as a Republican.

    • #19
  20. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    RightAngles: Doing it this way just feels like the GOP is shoving him down our throats and/or using him to scold the primary voters.

    How is the GOP shoving him down anyone’s throat? He’s not running as a Republican.

    Tom, while Priebus and Ryan might be quietly furious about the matter it’s people like Ricochet’s Own Rick Wilson behind the bid.

    There is a faction of the GOP infrastructure opposed enough to Trump as nominee that they’e actively working to ensure Trump’s defeat, which means electing Hillary.

    If Rick’s candidate, Rubio, had won and Trump was mounting an independent bid how do you think Rick would respond?

    • #20
  21. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    RightAngles: Doing it this way just feels like the GOP is shoving him down our throats and/or using him to scold the primary voters.

    What a bizarre thing to say given that the vast majority of the GOP establishment is pushing Trump as much as they can.

    • #21
  22. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Austin Murrey:Tom, while Priebus and Ryan might be quietly furious about the matter it’s people like Ricochet’s Own Rick Wilson behind the bid.

    Okay, but that’s Rick Wilson, not the GOP.

    Austin Murrey:There is a faction of the GOP infrastructure opposed enough to Trump as nominee that they’e actively working to ensure Trump’s defeat, which means electing Hillary.

    That’s one possible outcome of this. But it’s not the only one: third-party votes are also a means of sending a message regarding future elections. But if Trump loses decisively — as I think he likely will — then that information will come at a low cost and can be useful.

    One might say that message is too weak to matter under the circumstances, but that’s another matter.

    • #22
  23. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: That’s one possible outcome of this. But it’s not the only one: third-party votes are also a means of sending a message regarding future elections. But if Trump loses decisively — as I think he likely will — then that information will come at a low cost and can be useful.

    Frankly I regard a Hillary presidency as a high cost considering her overt hostility to two basic rights enshrined in the constitution as well as her slightly more covert hostility to at least two more.

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Okay, but that’s Rick Wilson, not the GOP.

    Rick’s not the only person who’s part of the traditional GOP machine behind McMullin’s candidacy.

    While McMullin might not be an official GOP candidate but he’s not some fly-by-night adventurer blown in out of nowhere or a DNC agent either. I think it’s fair to use “GOP” as a shorthand in a comment on the internet.

    • #23
  24. Mister D Member
    Mister D
    @MisterD

    Being in a non swing state, my vote is good for only one thing – a show of approval. Voting third party in general signifies a dissatisfaction with the two parties, but votes for the green party will be interpreted differently from votes for the libertarians. So far it sounds like McMullen is my best option for a protest vote.

    • #24
  25. Painter Jean Member
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    Isn’t it a bit late to be running for the highest office in the country, with little experience

    Trump has less experience than this guy, and is unfit. Hillary has lots of experience, and is still unfit.

    It will just take away votes and land H in the Oval Office.

    Neither Trump or Hillary had my vote anyway. And if the GOP wanted to keep Hillary out of office, they ought not to have nominated such a repellant nutcase.

    • #25
  26. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Painter Jean:Isn’t it a bit late to be running for the highest office in the country, with little experience

    Trump has less experience than this guy, and is unfit. Hillary has lots of experience, and is still unfit.

    It will just take away votes and land H in the Oval Office.

    Neither Trump or Hillary had my vote anyway. And if the GOP wanted to keep Hillary out of office, they ought not to have nominated such a repellant nutcase.

    But the GOP didn’t nominate him. Voters disgusted and betrayed by the GOP did, and he is their fault.

    • #26
  27. Painter Jean Member
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    But the GOP didn’t nominate him. Voters disgusted and betrayed by the GOP did, and he is their fault.

    True, it’s the voters that nominated him, but I think the party establishment could have done something –anything! — to keep him from being the party’s nominee. For starters, requiring that someone seeking the nomination actually have coherent and consistent positions in accordance with the party platform. Requiring nominees to release tax returns. But something!

    • #27
  28. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Its rather ironic that people who claim that Trump represents a group of people ignored by their political leaders are now lambasting those people who have decided that the political leaders are ignoring them.

    • #28
  29. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Painter Jean:But the GOP didn’t nominate him. Voters disgusted and betrayed by the GOP did, and he is their fault.

    True, it’s the voters that nominated him, but I think the party establishment could have done something –anything! — to keep him from being the party’s nominee. For starters, requiring that someone seeking the nomination actually have coherent and consistent positions in accordance with the party platform. Requiring nominees to release tax returns. But something!

    I just don’t understand all this belated recrimination. It’s done, it’s over, he is our nominee. Not supporting him doesn’t seem to be enough. Too many feel the need to vocalize their “principles” by tearing him, and by extension our party, down publicly, and all I’m saying is it’s not helpful and it helps HER. I mean Charles Krauthammer is in a new Hillary campaign ad for pete’s sake.

    • #29
  30. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Jamie Lockett:Its rather ironic that people who claim that Trump represents a group of people ignored by their political leaders are now lambasting those people who have decided that the political leaders are ignoring them.

    I think it’s kind of funny the shoe’s on the other foot for both sides this election actually.

    • #30

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