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McMullin may run for the House or Senate in 2018

Evan McMullin, who ran as a rational alternative to Donald Trump last year and has become the defacto leader of anti-Trump conservatives since then, is considering challenging either Rep. Jason Chaffetz or Sen. Orrin Hatch next year.

Which is more than fine with me- just as long as he doesn't do it as a Republican.

Both incumbents are unpopular. Chaffetz is the chair of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee, and recently had a stormy encounter with constituents at a town hall meeting over his refusal to investigate former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's ties to Russia. Hatch, 82, has served seven terms in the Senate and had previously announced that he would retire next year. But he is said to be reconsidering, given the importance of his position as chair of the Senate Committee on Finance. There have been reports that he favors former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his successor if he doesn't run himself. Former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, who served as President Obama's Ambassador to China (he speaks fluent Mandarin) and was recently appointed as President Trump's Ambassador to Russia, is reported also to be considering the race, as is State Senator Deidre Henderson.

Hatch speaks well of McMullin and says that he has "a bright future," but is said to prefer that his successor is a Trump loyalist. I've always thought well of Hatch, and regret that he, like so many Republicans, have signed on as supporters of a president who will go down in history as an embarrassment from which the Republican party may never recover and whose advent has effectively caused it to renounce its heritage as a party of responsibility and freedom and associate itself with the most disreputable elements of the Alt-Right..

McMullin has been skeptical about whether the Republican party can be reformed and has openly talked about the possibility that a new conservative party in the mold of Lincoln and Eisenhower and Reagan may be needed to replace it. I am far more skeptical about saving the GOP than even McMullin is. Trump has thoroughly taken over the party and I see no possibility of a successful challenge to him in 2020. Nor do I see any prospect of expelling the disreputable elements of the party which formed the core of Trump's support last year.

I was growing uneasy with the growing extremism of the GOP even before Trump, and I absolutely refuse to share a party again with the likes of Steve Bannon, David Duke, and their ilk.Nor can I any longer rationalize belonging to the same party as bizarre birds like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul. I am not crazy about Sen. Ted Cruz and his followers either, though I respect the strength of their convictions and would have voted for Cruz against Hillary Clinton without much hesitation. But as things stand, centrist Republicans like Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Mitt Romney, the Bushes, and yours truly simply no longer have a place in a party split between the authoritarian followers of a demagogic caudillo and a rigidly ideological movement of extremists determined to make the party's tent as small as it can.

Although I do not live in Utah, I plan to support McMullin any way I can for whatever office he might seek next year. Nor does my status as an independent, which I cannot foresee changing unless the new conservative party McMullin has discussed comes into being, preclude my voting for Republicans as well as Democrats when I believe them worthy of my support. But for McMullin to return to the GOP would be to delay what I see as a necessary, inevitable, and decisive break between responsible, centrist Republicans and a party which has betrayed its heritage and is realistically unlikely ever to reclaim it.

If Evan runs, I hope he does so as an independent. The same is true of the congressional candidates McMullin's Stand Up Republic movement is recruiting to run as centrists in 2012, although at present they seem mostly determined to run as Republicans. A pity. They have no future in a party that has lost its mind and probably its soul.

As things stand, I foresee another non-choice between Trump and some radical Democrat in 2020 leaving me and other centrists with no more of an option than we had last year before McMullin entered the race. It should be remembered that former CIA officer and House Republican policy director McMullin entered the race so only at the last moment after it became clear that no other rational conservative would do so. Polls showed at the time that had Mitt Romney entered the race he would have made a major impact and might even have won. His failure to answer the call to duty at the moment when he was most needed makes me something of a cynic where Romney is concerned. The same is true of all the other Republicans who,  principled though their opposition to Trump before he became the party's nominee might have been, fell into line once Mr. Trump was assured of the nomination or even after Mr. Trump was elected.

Now is the time to be building toward 2020. There needs to be a choice for centrist conservatives and liberals alike in 2020, and there is no need for the next race to another hastily slapped together effort behind an unknown candidate. It almost has to be Evan that runs; another unknown candidate would court the same fate Evan faced in 2016, and the huge progress Evan has already made toward establishing name-recognition must not be wasted.

That Evan would garner only one-half of one percent of the vote in 2016 was predictable, under the circumstances. But now we have a golden opportunity to mount a more formidable and more thoroughly prepared challenge to Trump and to whatever extreme leftist the Democrats run against him next time. Evan needs to be looking beyond 2018 to 2020 and the presidency.

If Evan does run next year as a Republican, he'll be making a mistake. He has no future in the Republican party, and neither does any other rational conservative. The task now is building something new and having it in place for what can only be a well-planned and well-financed third-party (not independent) race in 2020, and even if returning to the fold would increase Evan's chance of winning in 2018, it would be a huge step backward for the movement.


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