A couple of days ago I wrote in this space that “Utah Should Risk a McMullin Vote.” This was an unfortunate headline, which I hereby retract. The plain fact is that, in Utah, there is no down-side risk to a vote for Evan McMullin for president and plenty of upsides.
The earlier headline was a response to an earlier column by Jesse Harris that, because so little was known about Evan McMullin, it would be a mistake to give him any attention. Heavens! He might try to influence the political debate after the election (which is exactly what McMullin himself said he was going to do.
Yes, there was (and is) a theoretical path to the presidency for McMullin, if he won Utah’s six electoral college votes, but no serious observer thinks it realistic. Even if McMullin were to push the final choice into the House or Representatives, the House is not going to choose him.
Simply stated, there is no risk in a vote for Evan McMullin for the following reasons:
- Hillary Clinton is not going to win in Utah. She is presently polling in Gary Johnson territory in Utah, and nothing is going to change that in the next ten days.
- Donald Trump is not going to win the election nationwide. Giving him the benefit of every doubt in every state that he might possibly win, you can’t get him past 264 Electoral College votes. It is unlikely that Hillary is going to accept Trump’s suggestion that we cancel the election and hand him the presidency. That statement, even if made as the broadest of jests, is a key to the lack of seriousness of this candidate. That he has stopped throwing in his own money and has turned the campaign into an infomercial for his hotels provides additional proof, if any were needed.
Ergo, Utahns can cast their votes for Evan McMullin secure in the knowledge that they are not contributing either to a Clinton win or a Trump loss.
Then what are they voting for?
They are voting to increase the share of the popular vote going to a candidate that embodies the traits of character that used to matter in a presidential candidate. Civility, calmness, rationality, the rule of law, and honesty are among those traits that spring to mind. They are voting for a certain modesty about what the possibilities of any government really are. They are voting to remind us that the real arena for improvement in our social relations does not lie with government – and certainly not with Washington. They are voting for the principle of “subsidiarity,” the notion that we solve what problems we can in the family; then there are somewhere the neighborhood needs to rally round; a few problems may rise to the level where they can only be dealt with by our cities and towns, or our state. One or two (national defense and foreign policy) may require action by the national government.
Above all, they will be voting for a decent candidate, one who does not think he is God, and for one who does not walk about with a cloud of evidence and allegations of criminal wrong-doing over his head.
And he will not be voting in a way that affects the actual choice between those two candidates. By giving Evan McMullin Utah’s six electors, they will be voting to amplify the voice of those that reject them.
That looks pretty good to me.