He has seen authoritarianism in action close-up. One of his main jobs overseas was to locate and facilitate the elimination of jihadist warlords. Evan McMullin knows authoritarians.
And when he looks at Donald Trump, an authoritarian like the ones he fought overseas is what he sees. He knows Donald Trump. After leaving the CIA he served as policy director for the Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives. He tells about his first encounter with The Donald in that role in this opinion piece he wrote for today's New York Times.
In fact, when Mitt Romney and Tom Coburn and all the others who were recruited to run as a conservative third-party candidate against Trump and Hillary Clinton backed out, McMullin- who had never aspired to public office and has been content to serve his country and risk his life silently and thanklessly while Trump was cheating people and playing fast and loose with the law and groping women and above all else, promoting Donald Trump- at last stepped into the breach and ran himself. And I'm grateful that he did. If he hadn't, I would have been disenfranchised. There was nobody running I could in good conscience vote for. If McMullin had not entered the race, for the first time in my life I would have stayed home on Election Day.
There is little doubt that if he'd started earlier he would have been on the ballot in all 50 states and in a much better position to contend. I'm proud to be one of those who worked in the August heat to successfully gather enough signatures on a nominating petition to get him on the ballot here in Iowa. As it was, he was either on the ballot or a registered write-in candidate in 45 of the 50 states. He was either mocked by or ignored by the media despite being exponentially better qualified to be president than Donald Trump was; after all, he actually knew what he was talking about when he discussed foreign policy and security and defense issues.
He had even read the Constitution.
But for a while, it looked like he had a shot to carry Utah and maybe Idaho, finishing third in the Electoral College, denying both Trump and Hillary Clinton enough electoral votes to win, and forcing the contest to the same House of Representatives whose majority he had served as chief policy director, and whose members knew how much fitter to be president he was than was Trump. But it didn't pan out. Trump carried both states and- God help us- the Electoral College
But Evan McMulin isn't going away. And neither is the movement he started. If Donald Trump finishes his first term (and given his track record some pundits are giving him no more than a 60% chance of doing so rather than resigning or being impeached), Evan or someone else who represents the values of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan will run again in 2020.
One of the worst things about Trump's election (as I tried to warn friends who were planning to vote for him) is that he was likely to mess up on such a scale that no Republican might ever be elected president again. Many economists expect his trade policy alone to send the economy back into recession- and after what happened under the last Republican president, there would be little chance that the American people would risk electing another one. But they decided that not having Hillary president for the next four years was worth having someone like her as president for the rest of their lives. I disagreed.
Maybe somebody will challenge Trump from within the Republican party if he's still in office in 2020. If so, I wish them luck; given the vulnerability of the Republican party to being taken over by movements like Trump and the degree to which its public officials ultimately embraced him, I personally am done with it. I do not consider it a viable (or even reliable) vehicle for mainstream conservatism. But it's far more likely that it will embrace Trump again in 2020, and that the Democrat will replace him than that a new party representing traditional, decent conservatism will prevail. Or maybe I'm wrong; maybe McMullin will be the Fremont of the party that picks up the GOP's castaway banner. But I think it will take more than once cycle for that party to find its footing.
But I have no doubt that there will be one. The transformation of the Republicans into the Know-Nothings leaves too vital an ideological niche in the American party system for it to remain empty. the Republican party is dead as a viable vehicle for conservatism. It will not survive Trump as a major party. Something has to take its place, and that something might as well begin to form.
I'll be a part of it when it does. And I"m pretty sure that nobody will have the chutzpah to tell me in 2020 that I'm really voting Democratic by not supporting the biggest disaster to befall the GOP in its entire history.
Read Evan's article. Yes, Evan knows authoritarians. There are still lots of people in denial about Donald Trump despite the abundant evidence. But maybe the article will help.