Evan McMullin may become the most successful third-party candidate in nearly 50 years, but you’d be forgiven for never hearing his name.
At age 40, McMullin is within striking distance of winning the state of Utah and its six electoral votes. The ex-CIA agent and Utah native has spent the last three months running as an independent conservative presidential candidate and has found some footing in his home state. Campaigning on a message of decency and positive generational change, McMullin strikes a chord with disillusioned voters who have grown tired of this election cycle’s low standards.
Along with his running mate, Mindy Finn, McMullin has repeatedly called for a new kind of conservative movement. Beyond the impact the independent ticket may have on the upcoming presidential election, McMullin and Finn seem intent on jump-starting conservative political thought for the 21st century. Equipping conservatism to meet the challenges of modern America is an imperative change that must happen if the intellectual movement is to survive. A pivot toward a more energetic, dynamic and welcoming conservative tradition is needed. A tradition, focused on average people, that actively proposes innovative policy solutions — and connects them with the hearts of voters.
For too long the conservative movement has grown stale, content with engaging in pure opposition toward the Democratic Party. While preventing the continued encroachment of ineffective big-government policies is a noble goal, it is an unsustainable one unless a compelling alternative is offered up. Political victory for the sake of victory slowly eclipses the construction of a governing agenda, which is paradoxically needed to build the electoral mandate required to actually govern.
The Republican Party has failed spectacularly at achieving this in recent years, and its public descent into obstructionism and populism has left it a husk of its former self. Its unwillingness to adapt to changing realities of how life in modern America is lived, or changing demographics, has left it wholly disconnected from everyday citizens and unable to build a winning national coalition.
The brand of change that the McMullin/Finn ticket offers, a hopeful optimism geared toward helping real people, is exactly what conservatism needs to grow by extolling the virtues of individual civic duty. It should reinforce the importance of community institutions and reviving trust in public officials is an essential crusade and make it clear that conservative thought must address issues like economic mobility or climate change, and transform the perception that it cannot offer human solutions.
The Republication Party needs to welcome people of all races, religious creeds and sexual orientations by embracing a confidant pluralism, instead of simply allowing the Democratic Party to essentially pitch to these Americans unopposed.