I’m in the Presidential Room in the University of Texas Union Building at the invitation of digital communications director, Sarah Rumpf, who hands me a notebook and pen and invites me to sit down at a long table. I take my seat and join famed leftist columnist, Touré, John Davidson of the Federalist, and David Weigel.
At the end of the table is the relatively unknown Independent candidate running for President of the United States, Evan McMullin.
McMullin hasn’t really gotten much attention. In fact, as the standard goes for any 3rd party candidate, very few people know he even exists. And like any 3rd party candidate, the duopoly would like it to stay that way, and in McMullin’s case, especially the Republicans. He’s an ex-CIA operative with pro life views, a love of free-trade, of the opinion we need tax reform, and has a love for our military. He’s not a Republican, but he might be the last Republican running for office.
As I listen to him speak, it’s the only conclusion I come to. He has a realistic grounding in every issue he speaks on, and there’s a certain charm in that realism. Possibly because I’ve been inundated with either lies from the left, or reality show TV bluster from the right. McMullin is informed, and he’s not afraid to relay that information to you no matter how inconvenient, even correcting me when I brought up a news item factoid that I had apparently gotten wrong. I’m not the only one who thought that, as my Federalist colleague, John Davidson came to as well when he later wrote that McMullin is the new Ted Cruz.
McMullin, a former CIA officer and chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, shares with Cruz a penchant for talking about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Founding Fathers. Like Cruz, he’s big on political philosophy and conservative principles, and talks about them in a sometimes lecturing tone. In some ways, McMullin has taken on the mantle Cruz discarded.
Unlike Cruz, he’s not too worried about politics. In fact, he says he got into the race by accident. He wanted to help out with a conservative, third-party campaign, maybe as a policy advisor. When he approached some people to ask about it, he was dismayed to learn that no one with national name recognition would agree to run. When they asked him if he’d do it, he was surprised, but agreed because, “someone had to run.”
Asked who are McMullin voters if, as Cruz claims, the election is a binary choice between Clinton and Trump, McMullin replied: “People who are extremely principled, who care deeply about the Constitution, who believe Donald Trump is much like Hillary Clinton. Country before party types.”
He sounded a lot like Cruz back in July.
But not too much like Cruz. When I sit down, McMullin is talking about foreign policy and how Trump is throwing American values to the wind with his ideas on it by destroying relationships with our allies, and holding people up like Vladimir Putin.
At one point he brings up is ISIS, and how we had the opportunity to deal them a massive blow in the beginning that may have crippled them from the get-go, but that the Obama administration chose not to act at all. Touré gives the old leftist argument that “we can’t just bomb our way out of this,” and that killing ideas can’t be done with force. McMullin agrees, but reminds him that fighting ideologies such as ISIS must go hand in hand with violence if we’re to win a war.
“How do you plan to defeat them ideologically?” I ask.
McMullin responds by telling me that we need to strengthen our relationship with the Muslim people by having a friendlier attitude towards them, and promote better leaders that would lead the Muslim people into resisting ISIS and building a better world. This sits a bit apart from Cruz, who stated he wanted to carpet bomb ISIS till we found out if sand can glow, and that we should be patrolling Muslim neighborhoods.
He would much rather stop things like ISIS before they become ISIS. This is an overall strategy for McMullin who seems to have an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” mentality, as he stated that America has “a habit of reacting only at the catastrophe phase” of an issue. He used the breakout of diseases as a good example, stating he’d rather invest millions in foreign health services before sicknesses came to harm Americans, and cost us more. McMullin was told his style could be called “interventionist,” to which he replied “If we are committed to the cause of liberty, we have to an obligation to lead.”
This would turn off Libertarians, who believe we spend more than enough money and time overseas, however McMullin doesn’t want to put boots on the ground, and feels proactivity would be a lot cheaper than reactivity.
Where they would like him, however, is his views on criminal justice reform. He feels less compelled to throw people in jail, and would much rather give them treatment and rehabilitation. I asked him if his plan would be similar to Texas’s, which has been leading the way on CJR, to which he responded with a very concrete “absolutely.” For both Republicans and Libertarians, this is a very attractive standpoint, as it kills multiple birds with one inexpensive stone. Texas’s plan has cut billions in prison costs, reduced both crime and recidivism.
Rumpf tells me he will have a more solid statement about criminal justice reform later this week.
We didn’t get to cover everything during his one hour allotted time for the round table discussion, but I was lucky enough to get in one of the last questions. I told him that I had left the Republican party once they nominated Trump, and like many others, turned to Gary Johnson. However, many of those are beginning to doubt their position there as Johnson has proven time and again to be not so great a Libertarian, and even goofy to an extent.
“If Gary Johnson was doing what he was supposed to be doing, I wouldn’t be here.” said McMullin.
Indeed, many Republicans are having a hard time falling in line with Johnson, but support him tentatively as their protest vote if they haven’t left him. In fact, even Libertarians seem to be leaning away from Johnson, as two of my Libertarian friends asked me if I still feel good about him while I was in Austin. In truth, they no longer did.
But McMullin seems to appreciate that sentiment, and offers himself as a true alternative. One who believes in fiscal responsibility balanced with the need to spend where necessary, while being socially realistic as well. McMullin believes that un-ringing the bell of gay marriage isn’t likely going to happen, and wants to make drug legalization a state’s rights issue. What’s more, he actually gets the concept religious liberty unlike Trump. You won’t be forced to bake any cakes under his watch.
McMullin isn’t likely to win, nor is likely to get to attract enough attention to be dangerous, and in this current presidential race, that’s tragic. If Republicans and Libertarians are looking for someone they could look to with any confidence, McMullin would likely be a great candidate for them to do so.
McMullin will be participating in the debate, but – once again – like any 3rd party candidate, it won’t be from the stage, which is reserved for the current duopoly. Regardless, McMullin should be given your attention if you’re in need of a candidate.