I’d like to summarize three specific reasons why Latter-day Saints should support Evan McMullin’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate:
1. An independent commitment to democratic ideals. In a speech to college students in Dallas several years ago, Evan McMullin told attendees, “disagreement about policy issues is fine—even passionate differences. This ought to be welcomed in our country—the idea that we can grapple with these differences together.”
But then he said, with rising emotion in his voice, “but there are some things we must not disagree about …” Then he went down the line: Truth, Equality, Justice, Freedom. McMullin spoke plainly and earnestly about the founding ideals of America—as he often does. And he cautioned that commitment to these ideals is receding on both sides of the political spectrum.
During the impeachment trials of the previous administration, I was saddened to see many senators stay within party lines. I was especially dismayed to learn that this has been the case in every impeachment trial in modern times. I was proud of Senator Romney for voting his conscience rather than what his party expected. I am excited at the prospect of having two Utah senators who are willing to represent the will of their constituents rather than the dictates of a party. As a uniquely red state, Utah deserves unique conservative representation like the kind I believe McMullin will offer.
George Washington himself warned of the dangers of political parties interfering with how representatives represent their constituents. But more recently, we have been reminded by President Oaks that:
There are many political issues, and no party, platform, or individual candidate can satisfy all personal preferences. Each citizen must therefore decide which issues are most important to him or her at any particular time. Then members should seek inspiration on how to exercise their influence according to their individual priorities. This process will not be easy. It may require changing party support or candidate choices, even from election to election.
As an Independent, McMullin’s strength will be the ability to represent the people of Utah, not a political party. To those who are concerned that sending McMullin to Washington decreases the chances for a Republican-controlled Senate, I say have no fear. Running under the banner of an Independent does not change McMullin’s conservative beliefs; however, it does allow him to express them more honestly and without fear of retribution.
Just as independent executive, legislative, and judicial powers exercise checks and balances upon one another similarly, an independent representative in a traditionally Republican state could offer the same. Utah is unique in its standing as a red state in that it tends not to follow trends seen in other red states around the country. And with the benefit of the conservative values Evan McMullin promises to lead with, I believe a “Senator” McMullin would be a fitting representation of our unique set of values and interests in Washington.
The problems facing Utah, the United States, and, frankly, the world are complex and intertwined. Much like Senator Mitt Romney, McMullin believes that it is not simply enough to say no to bad policy—and that one must also actively engage in developing good policy. At times it can seem that Senators functioning on the national stage forget their role to advocate the federal government for their state. If both McMullin and Romney were in Washington doing that, the Great Salt Lake may just have a chance.
2. The value of political moderation. Politics tends to focus on negativity, extreme partisanship, polarization, and unwillingness to work across party lines. This impedes legislative solutions and is detrimental to the country. In our fractured political landscape, it is refreshing and encouraging to have a candidate whose moderate views mirror mine and represent President Dallin Oak’s call to “moderate and unify,” especially when it comes to “contested issues.”
That approach takes tolerance and respect for different beliefs, cultures, and even value systems. I saw this in action as a 17-year-old one day. I picked up my grandma for the stake Fourth of July Breakfast when a woman flagged us down from the side of the road and, in heavily accented English, asked if we knew why the buses weren’t running. We explained that it was a national holiday and offered to drive her to her destination. Once we were on our way, my grandma turned to the woman (who was wearing a hijab) and said, “I see that you’re a Muslim, I’m a Latter-day Saint; let me tell you about what our religions have in common.” I drove amazed, listening to these two old women from wildly different backgrounds talk about all they had in common.
This simple act of finding common ground impressed upon me how much more we can accomplish when working with rather than against others. My favorite part of the recent debate between Evan and Mike Lee was to hear McMullin say, time and again, that he will do the same. He has promised to find common ground and work with members of both parties.
As we are counseled as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to “seek out and support wise and good persons who will support [constitutional] principles in their public actions,” I believe this individual’s past exemplifies exactly that. McMullin is a public servant who has spent his adult life in the service of our country as an undercover CIA officer and the chief policy director for Congress. In that service, he has witnessed what a lack of moderation invites and how it weakens a democracy. He is committed to support policy that:
- defends democracy from political extremism,
- unburdens families from extreme health costs,
- moderates government spending,
- nurtures our natural resources,
- and reforms and modernizes our military.
McMullin has proven his commitment to moderation as he co-founded a non-profit organization established to lead efforts across the country that united Republicans and Democrats against extremist movements and politicians in defense of American democracy. In addition to seeking unity, I believe McMullin will push back on negative trends on both sides. In that same Dallas speech, for instance, he added the following illustration to show his concern with extremes on both sides: “Right now, we have people on the right who are questioning equality as a mere figment of the liberal agenda. And in the same moment, we have people on the left who are questioning freedom as a dangerous tactic of the conservative agenda.”
That’s the kind of balanced push-back we need on both sides of the political spectrum.
3. Recognizing the threats to our nation from President Trump and the extreme right. McMullin’s experience uniquely positions him to recognize and defend against the kind of extremism that has raised its head in our country. Both his prior work in national intelligence and his track record of pushing back as a candidate on extremes on both the left and the right demonstrate this.
In recent years, McMullin has been among the few conservative voices willing to push back on excesses on the political right—and decry the dangers in President Trump. I’m among those who have appreciated that courage. Far too many have overlooked, minimized, and justified the actions of our former President. McMullin never has—and never will. That’s the kind of political courage we need—a willingness to critique not only those on the other side of the political spectrum but also those on our “own side.”
In an American atmosphere filled with acrimony, the real work is putting aside differences for the greater good. I believe Evan McMullin is willing to put in that work and make the kinds of efforts I saw my grandma so instinctively make that day.
When I was given an opportunity to make a case for why I and other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should feel confident in a vote for Evan McMullin, my first thought was, “Isn’t it obvious?” On so many levels, his values and those of members of the Church (of which he is a member as well) are aligned. He is pro-life, self-reliant, caring for the most vulnerable among us, and fights against extremism. These are just some of the many attributes that make me excited to cast my vote for McMullin this Fall. I hope you do the same.