No, we shouldn’t be treating Evan McMullin as a serious candidate

By Jesse Harris
By Jesse Harris

“It’s never too late to do the right thing.” So says long-shot independent candidate Evan McMullin on his campaign website. Yet it’s pretty obvious that sometimes it is too late. He announced a bid for president on August 8 after missing the filing deadline for ballot access in 21 states and having less than a month in 18 more. To date, the only states where he has ballot access are Utah, Colorado, and Minnesota. There’s no huge financial backer funding a media blitz to make up for lost time or provide any reasonable assurance that he has a shot at winning electoral votes. In fact, any reasonable person who can stop fangirling on his LDS/BYU identity politics campaign of bland, generic, mainline Bush-era Republicanism with scant political experience and no prior elected positions sees that this is not a serious bid for public office or even one likely to disrupt any existing campaign.

So what is it, exactly, that McMullin or his supporters are hoping for?

1nVmZOrWIf you’re fellow #NeverTrump (hi there!) rooting for Trump to lose, this is not the solution you’re looking for. Trump has already been doing a great job tanking his own campaign. Despite a very brief convention bump, FiveThirtyEight (who is very good at this kind of thing) has shown him consistently losing to Hillary Clinton. This isn’t even close. With a projected lead of 100 electoral votes, it’ll be a complete blowout.

Oh, so you also are #NeverHillary (hi, again!) and want her to lose too? The only way that can possibly happen is with a deadlock in the electoral college. How exactly would picking up electoral votes in only Republican states, the most probable and yet still unlikely outcome of McMullin’s campaign, do this? It wouldn’t. You have to sap votes away from states that Clinton is likely to win. That includes swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina. States where the filing deadline is long past and he will not be on the ballot.

“But, but, DOWNBALLOT!”, you now cry. There’s not much doubt that Trump is having a nasty downballot effect on GOP candidates across the board. Lots of GOP voters are pretty disillusioned with their choices and may choose to stay home. It doesn’t help that so many of these downballot candidates are now Trump collaborators, so-called Vichy Republicans. But let’s be realistic: McMullin might get on the ballot in a handful of states outside of Utah. He might drive turnout by a percent or two, tops (and that’s being generous). All indications in Utah are that the GOP will still sweep statewide and federal races handily, even in the supposedly “vulnerable” Fourth Congressional District where Mia Love has polled with a fairly commanding lead over pie aficionado Doug Owens. The GOP will still maintain a supermajority of seats in legislature. It seems the only possible “cost” would be the same in any election year, possibly a house race or two and maybe a Salt Lake County Council seat. In other words, almost nothing.

Look, I get it. You’re sick about Trump. You know he’s a vulgar con man who hijacked the party to build his personal brand. You can’t stand Hillary. She and Bill have been turning political power into personal profit so nakedly and brazenly that even many Democrats deep down inside know that they are unsuited to public office. And yes, you keep on flirting with voting for Johnson but just can’t find yourself getting past the “ick” factor that he’s more socially liberal that you are despite being an accomplished governor with the chops to tackle the country’s financial woes.

But it’s time to put on the big boy pants and get over yourself.

Trump is a threat to the existence of a GOP that isn’t a fascist populist party and would likely be the most despotic leader this country has ever had. Hillary will be jumping from scandal to scandal as she does her normal thing of using political office as a personal mint. The only way to stop both is to push the alternative that has a chance. That candidate is, whether you like it or not, Johnson.

He’s on the ballot in all 50 states. He has appeal to core issues across the political spectrum. He’s polling high enough to almost get into the presidential debates, something that would boost his stock significantly. He has a real chance to pick up electoral votes that other 3rd parties and independents simply will not. Johnson, for all his faults, is the only feasible way to satisfy both #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary. Some of your are probably seeing McMullin as the perfect candidate, but it comes at the expense of the good one and guarantees an awful one.

So what exactly is McMullin trying to get out of all of this, knowing he doesn’t have a real chance? My money is on building political stock for a future run for federal office. Orrin Hatch’s term ends in 2018, an attractive target whether or not he decides to run yet again. An LDS BYU graduate with federal employment and party experience seems like a shoe-in for such a race in Utah. What better way to build that up than a Pyrrhic run for president against two highly unpopular candidates? And really, should voters reward that kind of stereotypical naked ambition?

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