Nationally, this presidential election is over: Donald Trump gets somewhere between 150 and 200 Electoral College votes (possibly fewer), and we get to endure four more years of Obama-Clintonism. It will be painful, but we will survive it.
The task then becomes the reconstruction of a political party that can produce a center-right majority starting in 2020. Possibly that will be a Republican Party cleansed in one way or another; possibly it will be a new party made up of the remains of the Republican Party with some added pieces to whom Donald Trump was simply unacceptable for any number of reasons.
What will that party look like? It isn’t easy to say, but suppose we start with the platform of the candidate who runs third in the Electoral College this year, Evan McMullin?
Jesse Harris wrote in this space a few weeks ago that voting for McMullin was “risky” because (a) he hadn’t been vetted by a long campaign; (b) he has no record of partisan involvement; (c) he worked for the CIA and (d) the House Republican Conference, but we don’t know what he did there; and (e) we don’t know who is behind his candidacy, who “chose” him to run.
The only one of those objections that matters is the last one, and it seems obvious to me that no one chose Evan McMullin to run. He saw a moral and political vacuum that no better-known Republican was willing to fill, and taking pity on Republicans like me, offered himself as our candidate. Jesse blames McMullin for a sloppy campaign; that’s the best evidence that McMullin is not a cat’s paw, that no one chose him.
But none of this is relevant. Evan McMullin is not going to win the presidency. Jesse theorizes that his effort is the first step toward a new political movement. Consequently, Jesse calls the campaign a “lie” disguising McMullin’s true intent. He even quotes McMullin to that effect:
The networks and assets built over the next 3 months will be positioned to lead what’s next. Anyone who has been a part of it will be positioned for influencing the future of American politics in ways seldom seen in modern times. This is already happening as tens of thousands of people are joining us — the foundation is already laid for the new movement.
This statement does not make McMullin’s campaign a “lie,” but announces straightforwardly what it is about: giving McMullin and his followers “influence” in the debate sure to follow.
It is not likely that Evan McMullin will control the debate that begins 8 November. But that debate will take place, and if, as I hope and predict, McMullin garners Utah’s six electoral votes, he will be in a position to influence that debate, exactly as he said, as will the electors who actually cast those six votes in the Electoral College in December.
Amid the chaotic debacle on the night of November 7, lots of attention will be given to the anomaly in the race, the independents from Utah and Texas banking six electoral votes; that scrutiny will ramp up again 19 December when the electors gather at their state capitals to send their ballots off to the President of the Senate; and it will crescendo on 6 January when the ballots are actually tallied before a joint session of Congress.
Quite likely Donald Trump will seek to control this debate, though it is always possible that he will fold his tent like the Arab and quietly steal away. It would, in my opinion, be unreasonable to allow him to control it; that is especially true if Republicans lose the Senate (as I expect) and the House (which I don’t expect, but wouldn’t be surprised at).
It would be equally unreasonable to exclude him and his followers if they want to participate. After all, Trump will have won the votes of millions of Americans, and run second in the Electoral College vote. But it is imperative that there be an alternative, and it is clear (to me) that the winner of actual electoral votes will be in a strong position to influence either the reconstitution of the Republican Party or the constitution of a new one.
Between Election Day and the counting of the electoral votes, there will be intense scrutiny of the view of those contributing to this process of constitution or reconstitution. So let us turn our attention to the views of Evan McMullin and see to what extent they provide the basis for a center-right majority party.
Given that Evan McMullin is a Republican, it should come as no surprise that his platform is, broadly speaking, a Republican platform. Indeed, it comports well with Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way,” which was adopted unanimously by the Republican House Conference, including the Freedom Caucus. Unconstrained by the need to keep Republican backbenchers in line, McMullin is more explicit than Ryan is in three areas (immigration, free trade, and national defense/foreign policy). In these three areas, his views are at least rhetorically inconsistent with what passes for policy in the Trump Campaign, but they are perfectly consistent with what has been Republican policy since the death of Senator Robert A. Taft. You can go there yourself to see.
We could examine the Trump Platform, to see what promise it holds, but I’ll pass for two reasons: (1) Trump has lost the election, so his platform (to the extent it actually swayed any votes) has been rejected; and (2) Trump’s campaign rhetoric was so often at variance with his written policy positions that it is impossible to take them seriously.
Immigration: McMullin proposes tighter borders (of course), more legal immigration, and what is usually called a “comprehensive” solution (and “amnesty” by the alt-right), meaning a path to legal status for illegal immigrants now present in the country, after vetting and payment of a fine. This position is perfectly acceptable to a future center-right coalition.
Free Trade: Here McMullin notes that free international trade is good for everyone, as conservative economists from Bastiat to Smith to Friedman have demonstrated, and which has been the Republican position since my father died. Certainly, efforts need to be made to keep American workers competitive, through deregulation and better education, but McMullin’s faith in the ability of Americans contrasts starkly with the views of the other two candidates. There’s an educational task waiting here as well, but I find it is impossible to write about it without seeming callous and unfeeling.
National Defense/Foreign Policy: Here McMullin is solidly in the camp of advocates of a muscular and assertive – engaged – foreign policy. This policy has belonged exclusively to Republicans since the death of Scoop Jackson and Pat Moynihan, and it is backed by solid majorities of the voters who will make up a new center-right consensus. It is simply a recognition that the United States is the indispensable nation, and that we have an obligation to the world (and to ourselves) to lead in the direction of the liberation of peoples across the growth. It does not mean (and never has) a blank check for intervention everywhere and always.
Beyond these three areas, McMullin’s platform ignores one area which is in my judgment the heart of Donald Trump’s appeal, and which a center-right majority party is going to have to address if it is to be viable.
Any viable center-right coalition has to be self-confident enough to fight back against the thought police happily imposing their smothering blanket of political correctness. It has to identify the nation’s bien-pensants as what they are: bigots intolerant of anything that goes against their vicious prejudices.
This new movement has to defend God, in the sense that freedom of religion goes beyond belief to practice; it has to defend the country, in the sense that it will insist that the United States of America is the greatest nation in history and that certain traits of character got us there. Along the way those traits and that nation expanded the realm of liberty and progress (of every sort) across the entire world; it has to defend the family against the tendency of the intellectuals (from the time of Plato) to substitute the state for parents; it has to speak honestly about how to address the problems of the growing gap between rich and poor, and specifically between black and white, without wallowing, as the Left does, in pious recriminations for the past sins of what it (quite mistakenly) attributes to the Right. Call this the Culture War, if you will, but in my opinion fighting this war is essential; any movement ignoring it will never be broad-based enough to command electoral majorities.
For all his failings, and for all I question much of his sincerity, Donald Trump was willing to carry the fight on these issues to the Left. Any new movement that refuses to address this looming oppression by our “betters” leaves his followers without a voice and all of us exposed to tyranny.
So take the risk, Utahns. Join me in voting for Evan McMullin. There is a fight looming, and looking around the landscape for rallying points, I don’t see anyone else stepping up.