Opinion: A Liberal Makes the Case for Independent Conservative Evan McMullin

At a time when “partisan divide” is said to be what ails us (it isn’t), candidates like former C.I.A. officer Evan McMullin tell a different story.

It’s an American story. The kind of America we used to be and can be again, god-willing.

McMullin, who used to be a Republican, is taking on incumbent Republican Senator Mike Lee in Utah. Why am I writing about him on a liberal site? Is it just because there is no Democrat running? I’m writing about him because liberalism is about progress dependent upon a healthy democracy, and that also works the other way around: The way to fight off democratic-backsliding is by showing that democracy works.

In order for democracy to work, we need to have at least two healthy parties having vigorous but honest intellectual debates about how to solve the problems we face.

Right now, we have only one party interested in governing and legislating. This is unsustainable. Not only because Democrats must do all of the heavy lifting in terms of actual policy (which does not translate to voters much let alone move them, no matter what anyone who loves politics thinks) and then be stuck answering the non-stop backseat driving and trolling of the party of no ideas, but because it also forces Democrats to become more and more the party of everyone. Sure, that seems more ideal than people voting Republican, but a healthy democracy can’t survive without HONEST challenge.

This brings us back to Evan McMullin. Here’s a guy who is “conservative” (not even sure what that means in American politics anymore other than reactionary and nasty, but McMullin seems to be at least reminiscent of the old-fashioned kind of conservative) even on abortion, and yet his fix for abortion is the practical fix – the one everyone who cares about actual data and reality adopts: The best way to reduce abortion is to provide increasing access to contraception.

McMullin got under Lee’s skin at their debate by saying, he would not be a “bootlicker” for Biden or Trump, which caused Trump election denier and supplicant Lee to protest too much, “The suggestion that I’m beholden to either party, that I’ve been a bootlicker for either party, is folly.”

Nah, McMullin nailed him properly and good. Lee is a Trump bootlicker, like most of the Republicans running right now.

There are currently 291 Republican election deniers on the ballot, “171 where GOP is favored to win. 48 are running in close races.”

What kind of country will we wake up to after election day with election deniers prevailing?

Sure, there are a lot of things to bring up about McMullin that make him problematic for liberals. But we aren’t in a candy store and the danger looming over our country isn’t imaginary. So it can’t be a begrudging vote for McMullin; it must be full-throated.

Writing in the (intellectually honest) conservative The Bulwark, William Saletan wrote about McMullin in a column titled: What Does It Mean to be a Republican Today. He asks one of the most important questions of our time:

Why should voters support a Republican senator against an opponent who agrees with him on policy but not on subverting democracy? If economic, moral, and foreign-policy conservatism no longer define the party, what does? What does it mean to be a Republican in 2022, beyond conspiring—or defending others who have conspired—to overturn elections when your party doesn’t win?

McMullin is discovering that there are answers to that question. And they’re ugly.

He details McMullin, who has the typical Republican disagreement with President Biden and other Democratic leaders and ideas, holding Lee accountable for his “sycophantic relationship with Trump, particularly the senator’s role in the scheme to recruit fake electors after the 2020 election.”

McMullin said in the debate: “That was the most egregious betrayal of our nation’s Constitution in its history by a senator.”

The column highlights Lee’s and Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s attacks on McMullin focusing on his being a “closeted Democrat.”

This attack has been lobbed at Mehmet Oz by Trump Republicans in Pennsylvania as well. Although that scenario is different because Oz is running against a Democrat, the point is the same: The Republican Party seems very disinterested in policy positions. Oz has embraced every Republican policy it’s possible to embrace, including efforts to hide those policies from the voters because they are extreme and irrational (e.g., Oz thinks “local politicians” should be involved in making abortion decisions for women), and still, Republican voters didn’t trust him because they felt he was a secret Democrat.

“What’s notable about these complaints is their pure partisanship. They’re about McMullin’s associations, not about issues. Lee talks about the Democratic party the way red-baiters used to talk about the Communist party: Any association with it is suspect.”

This is hardly contained to Utah; Trump conservatives generally see Democrats as “evil” “groomers” and “pedophiles” now. Democrats aren’t any kinder in their view of Republicans post-Trump, but that doesn’t make both sides equally wrong. Republicans have become inherently dishonest opposition, demonizing in place of making cogent arguments for their positions.

Given all of this ugliness, how are we here again where you’re reading an endorsement of Evan McMullin on a liberal site?

The answer to that is that we are more Independent than anything else, and by that we mean free of ties to any organization or funding. We view our first commitment as to our readers’ best interests. And Evan McMullin is in the readers’ best interest.

Not because we agree on every policy, but because McMullin is here to debate his conservative beliefs honestly and with a focus on practicalities. He values our democracy. He is a worthy and decent opponent, and we need more of those.

Just as plenty of Republicans have had to reject the party they loved (imagine the loss of that for a moment), so too must we all be willing to give up ideology over patriotism. Liberals in Utah have a chance to vote for someone they disagree with profoundly on some topics, but they know will do all he can to keep them safe from Trump terrorists imposing tyranny by stealing elections and will show up willing to do actual work. He even seems willing to listen to reason on important topics.

With our country in tatters after Trump, we have to all do our part to rebuild our country. Democracy is literally on the ballot.