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I’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: