“Clinton is a corrupt, scheming liar.”
“Trump is a lecherous predator.”
“Clinton will nuke religious freedom in America.”
“Trump will nuke the world.”
Lately, every argument about our presidential candidates seems to end with a statement like the ones above. For most Americans, either Clinton, Trump or both have crossed a line of acceptability that leads to a #nevertrump/#neverhillary line in the sand. Polls show voter satisfaction with our current candidates is the lowest it’s been in 20 years, and this is all the more true for evangelical Christians seriously attempting to apply following Jesus in their political engagement. Many Christians say, “Sure, I wish there was another choice, but this is who we have, and we have to make the best of it.”
Enter Evan McMullin.
WAIT, WHO IS EVAN McMULLIN?
If you haven’t heard the name don’t feel bad, not many people have. A few months ago when Trump won the Republican nomination, a group of disaffected conservatives scrambled to find a better candidate. When Mitt Romney and several congressmen turned them down, they turned to McMullin.
McMullin is something of a cipher. He spent 10 years with the CIA, but obviously, he can’t talk about that. In 2013 McMullin joined the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as a senior advisor and later became the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference. But both of these were as a behind the scenes operator, which means there isn’t a record of his views or actions from that time either. So regarding experience, McMullin has both a lot to point to and yet very little.
McMullin served as a refugee resettlement officer in Jordan on behalf of the United Nations and is a devout Mormon who did his Mormon mission work in Brazil and—bizarrely—it’s actually McMullin’s Mormon faith that makes him a long shot possibility to win this election.
HOW McMULLIN COULD BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT
So first off, this almost certainly won’t happen. The pollsters over at fivethirtyeight.com say there’s a 1-3 percent chance McMullin could pull off the impossible. The explanation of how is long and complicated, but it boils down to this: McMullin has a legitimate shot of winning Utah, the conservative, Mormon, anti-Trump swing state.
If McMullin could pull this off, and if Trump can tighten up the race against Clinton, there’s a scenario where no candidate gets a majority of the electoral votes. If this happens, the vote goes to Congress where things get truly confusing. The short version: There’s a scenario where McMullin could be voted for President if enough Republicans bail on Trump in the House vote.
Is all this likely? No way. But a 1-3 percent chance is a far better shot at President than any third-party candidate has had in decades.
SO WHAT DOES McMULLIN STAND FOR?
A cursory glance at his website makes McMullin’s strategy clear: He wants to be a conservative that appeals to as wide a base as possible. McMullin is pro-life and against gay marriage, yet has said he doesn’t intend to overturn the Supreme Court rulings on either. He wants to replace Obamacare with a more competitive marketplace but also talks about the importance of Medicaid and helping lower income communities. McMullin is pro-second amendment, pro-military, believes in the importance of religious freedom for all, and wants to be tough on illegal immigration, but not “build a wall” tough.
In other words, McMullin is the kind of candidate most conservatives could vote for, but who wouldn’t attract the ire of liberals. He is the anti-Trump. So far though his strategy isn’t working. Very few public voices have come out in support of McMullin. His only evangelical defender has been O. Alan Noble, Editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture and assistant professor at Oklahoma Baptist University. In a recent editorial for Christianity Today Noble explained why McMullin is a principled conservative who is both pro-life and yet compassionate toward immigrants and the poor. But ultimately Noble’s argument is about the future of evangelical political engagement:
“If we will vote for Trump, who will we not vote for? A vote for Trump is a vote signifying that evangelicals are owned by the GOP. Part of the tragedy here is that evangelicals are still a big enough voting bloc that we could prevent either candidate from winning the election. Let that sink in. If evangelicals just said, “No, I refuse to be coerced into supporting candidates who do not meet a very basic standard,” we could swing the election.”
Whether evangelicals will respond to McMullin this late in the game remains to be seen. Ironically an upsurge in votes for McMullin would draw support away from Trump, ultimately lowering the chances of the vote going to Congress. But for some Christians, this might be beside the point. Right now, a vote for a pro-life, moderately conservative candidate with a 1-3 percent chance of being President might trump the other options.