Opinion Evan McMullin is showing how to fight rabid Trump sycophancy


HR King
May 29, 2001
Evan McMullin, the conservative, independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in Utah, is determined to prove there is a pro-democracy coalition of traditional Republicans, Democrats and independents who can team up to defeat a rabid MAGA incumbent, Sen. Mike Lee. Lee, you might recall, eagerly lent his services to Donald Trump’s coup effort, working to engineer the defeated president’s second term in defiance of the will of voters.

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Utah Democrats are cooperating with McMullin, endorsing him in lieu of putting forth their own candidate (who would have no chance in the deeply red state). In a state that went for Trump by a 20-point margin, McMullin’s campaign is an uphill climb. Nevertheless, Lee remains an unpopular figure whom McMullin has skewered as so extreme as to be useless to his state.

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A Deseret News poll released in July showed Lee with a surprisingly small lead, 41 percent to 36 percent. A internal McMullin campaign poll memo from Impact Research shared exclusively with me reports, “Among likely voters in Utah, McMullin receives 47% of the vote while Lee gets 46%, and just 7% of the vote remains undecided.” Moreover, the McMullin pollsters found that “Lee’s job rating has dropped a net 11 points since June and it is now underwater by a 3-point margin (47% positive / 50% negative).” When accounting for other minor candidates in the race, McMullin winds up with 44 percent and Lee with 45 percent.


In remarks prepared for a speech in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, McMullin, who previously served as a CIA officer in the Middle East, observed that the threat from foreign authoritarian regimes is not the only danger we face. “Here at home, America has itself reached another crossroads. And now a great decision requires our urgent attention,” he said. “The choice is between the path of shared liberty or the false promise of authoritarianism.” He urged voters to consider the choice between “the path defined by our founding truths towards a more perfect union or [one] to succumb to those who — for cynical self-interest — now promote a dark alternative to democracy in America.” And he warned against “the purveyors of chaos, conspiracism and division who seek to dismantle our system of self-government in pursuit of unchecked power for themselves.”
McMullin then lit into his opponent, pointing out that, like so many other hypocritical right-wingers, Lee once campaigned against and denounced Trump, only to become “a loyal sycophant for the aspiring authoritarian, trading away his oath to the Constitution to serve the unconstitutional ambitions of that one man.” McMullin noted that Lee has gone so far as to compare Trump to “revered Book of Mormon leader, Captain Moroni, a most disgraceful and false comparison.”
McMullin also traced a series of emails after the 2020 election between Lee and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows revealing Lee’s involvement in the coup attempt. As McMullin put it, although “Mike Lee has lied about his involvement, we now know ... that Mike Lee was at the center of the plot to overturn our republic — one of the most egregious betrayals of our nation.” Just two days before the violent insurrection, “Mike Lee informed Trump’s team that he was ‘spending 14 hours a day,’ on the effort to recruit fake electors and overturn the will of the people.” McMullin argued that Lee "didn’t just support the effort to end American democracy, he used his power as a United States senator to help plan, coordinate and execute the plot. By his own admission, he worked overtime to see it through.”

McMullin declared that Lee “betrayed” Utah voters and is “no constitutional conservative.” McMullin added, “For him, the Constitution is a theater prop, something to pull from his suit pocket and wave in the air when politically convenient, but quickly abandon when it serves his personal ambitions.” The Utah independent sounds an awful lot like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who might consider endorsing a fellow conservative running against a Trump collaborator.
McMullin is running on a high-minded message of unity in defense of democracy and finding “common sense” solutions to problems. That he is competitive in a state such as Utah is a remarkable sign that traditional conservatives — after weeks of watching the House Jan. 6 select committee’s hearings and hearing about Trump’s apparent purloining of top-secret documents — might be tiring of the anti-democratic vitriol. If McMullin pulls off a shocking upset, or even comes close to beating an incumbent Republican in Utah, his campaign will provide a way forward for a coalition to displace the MAGA forces with principled patriotic Republicans.
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