Voters who have participated in the last few elections know the names Ralph Nader and Ron Paul. These were the guys who everyone pitied. The joke of the elections. Ron Paul never knew when to quit and Ralph Nader just was too little a fish in too big a pond. No third-party candidate has ever won a presidential election. It’s been forty-eight years since a third-party candidate has even won a state—since Nixon—but that may change on November 8.
In recent weeks, in what has become one of
the most intriguing stories leading up to election day, Evan McMullin
has emerged as a viable alternative for many conservative voters opposed
to the major party candidates. It’s intriguing because, despite having
announced his candidacy less than three months ago, he could break the
forty-eight-year dry spell.
In fact, McMullin is poised to strongly contest and possibly even win his home state of Utah. Citizens in eleven states will find his name on their ballots and a total of forty-three states have confirmed his eligibility for write-in status. This means the vast majority of Americans can vote for him. And, as the slogan for McMullin and his running mate says, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”
Why would people vote for a third party?
As I said before, no third-party candidate has won a state in a presidential election in almost fifty years. Between 1948 and 1968, eleven states pledged their electoral votes to candidates other than the two major party nominees. But this occurred primarily as a reaction to racial and civil unrest. Strom Thurmond and George Wallace won third-party support in the south largely due to their segregationist platforms. Before the civil rights era, Robert La Follette was the last success after winning Wisconsin in 1924, though the political atmosphere of his time makes it difficult to draw any clean contemporary comparisons.
While no independent candidate has ever won a presidential election, many voters still desire a candidate they feel they can vote for as opposed to one who symbolizes a vote against another candidate. McMullin’s rising popularity and consistent platform make him an appealing alternative, especially as it relates to those subjects that have been in center focus for evangelicals—abortion, religious liberty, and Supreme Court justices.
McMullin has committed to a holistic pro-life stance focused on more than merely the legal aspect of abortion. He supports non-partisan efforts for reducing on-demand abortion all while embracing the dignity of both mothers and unborn children, recognizing their mutual need for protection. In other words, his pro-life stance extends beyond abortion alone to take into account the needs of all people from life to death. In contrast, Donald Trump’s pro-life views have come as a recent development.
McMullin has referred to religious liberty as a “core human right,” one that must not incur discrimination or cause people to be marginalized when expressed. As a committed Mormon, his position clearly applies that right to all expressions of faith, which is a crucial element for fostering true religious inclusion as a nation. Furthermore, he has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and set a standard of originalism, or viewing the Constitution’s meaning as fixed, in legal interpretations.
On other issues, McMullin avoids the endless polarization and needless divisiveness of the Trump and Clinton campaigns. Instead, he tows an inclusive balance: he respects the humanity behind the issues while also operating under traditional conservative views. He’s shown that we can care simultaneously for blue lives and black lives, border security and compassion for immigrants, domestic security and support for refugee crises.
Some have cited his lack of executive experience. Experience matters, and McMullins may not be in a board room, but he spent ten years with the CIA overseeing counter-terrorism and intelligence operations in the Middle East, experience that provided him with unique insight into US concerns in Syria. In addition, he served as the chief policy director for the House Republican Conference prior to launching his campaign.
McMullin’s positions make him a viable option for frustrated conservative voters seeking to cast a principled vote. Even more, he is one the nation will notice, as some reports suggest his current polling numbers may underestimate his actual appeal.
Yet the most appealing thing about his campaign is that he views the purpose of his candidacy as extending beyond election day. Together, he and Mindy Finn, his running mate, hope to spark the beginning of a new conservative movement, one committed to a principled future despite the personal cost. And they have embodied this commitment by way of career sacrifice. Their consistent criticism of leaders in the Republican establishment, something most Cruz supporters should champion, has burned many bridges, but has resulted in a uniquely conservative voice this election cycle.
Trump has boasted in his faults and stooped to character assassination. Hillary has proved to the American public she isn’t accountable to the same laws she expects them to abide. Yet McMullin has remained committed to principle in both policy and personal interaction. He has crafted a campaign built on hope and vision as opposed to the apocalyptic language of his Republican counterpart. He has built himself a reputation of authenticity while the democratic nominee is known for secrecy.
McMullin represents a stream of conservatism worthy of support, one founded on values rather than fear. And he represents the kind of gracious integrity needed in politics moving forward.
A Call for Voter Integrity
Like everything in life, our vote is a form of witness. It communicates something about what we value and where we place our hope. Evangelicals make up a significant influence of eligible voters in the United States, meaning our collective influence bears witness to what we value in leadership. While our vote may not represent a personal endorsement of everything our candidate stands for, it communicates our vision for the future. A vote for Trump may help to block a Clinton presidency, but it also signals to both the Republican establishment and our neighbors that we deem his leadership acceptable for the next four years. The same can be said for those who vote for Clinton out of the same motivations.
Fortunately, they are not the only options. Despite the rhetoric surrounding this election cycle, evangelicals do not have to resign to the pragmatic paralysis of choosing between the major party nominees. Evan McMullin offers the opportunity to both communicate our frustration and vote on principle. He represents a positive form of conservatism for the future, not one devoted to nationalistic, populist, and authoritarian tactics. As you head to the voting booth, bear in mind that you have the option to vote for a candidate dedicated to a healthy vision of conservatism beyond election day. It’s never too late to do the right thing.
note: The views represented here are those of the author and not
necessarily those of Fathom.
Cover image from Evan McMullin’s website.