In a field of divisive candidates, Independent Evan McMullin hopes to represent a trustworthy alternative to the major parties’ presidential nominees, and his common-sense approach to policy and governing makes him just that candidate. I conducted a phone interview with Mr. McMullin on Sept. 19, and the candidate made it clear he wants to embody a new, socially inclusive conservatism — an ideology that stands up against the bigotry and racism associated with Republican nominee Donald Trump.
McMullin, a 40-year-old from Utah, earned a bachelor’s degree in Law and Diplomacy from Brigham Young University and a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. He began his career overseas working for the United Nations as a volunteer refugee resettlement officer in Amman, Jordan.
He later turned his international experience into a career with the CIA, where he operated primarily in the Middle East for more than 10 years. McMullin broke into the policy world by serving as a senior advisor to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. His work there led to his appointment as chief policy director of the House Republican Conference. McMullin’s positions in all of these fields have required him to think on his feet and adapt to various problems — qualities that make him well suited for America’s highest-elected office.
Because of his time overseas, McMullin emphasizes his national security expertise in his campaign.
“I’m the only candidate who has direct foreign policy and national security experience. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, so she has foreign policy experience, but not direct national security experience. … I have the right experience, temperament and the right judgment to make very difficult decisions that will keep us safe,” McMullin said.
Like many Republicans this election cycle, McMullin has serious issues with his party’s nomination of Donald Trump. He described Trump’s shot at the presidency as “certainly concerning, [because] he’s not a conservative and [because of] all of his racist rhetoric and rhetoric condoning violence.”
Knowing that many shared these concerns, McMullin hoped a true conservative without Trump’s less-desirable qualities would emerge and run as an independent. Following the two parties’ conventions, however, McMullin realized that such a candidate was nowhere to be found. Soon thereafter, prominent Republican political operatives identified McMullin himself as an option to run against the major-party candidates and asked him if he was interested.
According to McMullin, he spent 10 days considering the offer.
“[I] ultimately decided that it was important enough to do, even though I had hoped someone else would do it,” McMullin told me. “I believe that we need a new generation of leadership in this country, and so that’s what I’m campaigning for.”
McMullin is not running out of vanity or in pursuit of attention. If fame were his goal, he could have run for elected office long ago. Nearly all of the work McMullin has done in his professional career has been in the interest of his party, his country or the world at large. Both major-party candidates have spent large parts of their careers advancing their own self-interests and lined their pockets along the way.
In speaking with him, it was clear McMullin takes a level-headed, nonpartisan approach to problem solving. When I asked him about his plans for helping college students with debt, he pointed out that he is the only candidate who still has student debt today, and detailed a multifaceted approach centered around tying interest rates to current market rates. He also suggested a system of holding colleges and universities accountable by making them help pay off loans that their students default on. He believes this concept would “inspire schools to keep the cost of education down and the quality of education high.”
McMullin’s platform is based on personal liberty and national unity. He hopes to be the antithesis to Donald Trump, who McMullin feels “divides [Americans] along racial and religious lines,” and is playing right into the hands of enemies like the Islamic State, “who want us to abandon our ideals and attack each other.”
With his candidacy, McMullin hopes to represent a new type of conservatism: a movement including common-sense policy ideas from the right but leaving behind the bigotry and racism so commonly associated with the current Republican Party.