I don’t agree with much that Damon Linker says, but I agree with him about this:
“If you’re feeling defeated and demoralized, weak and vulnerable, you probably want a president who will serve as your protector. That’s what I suspect a fair number of evangelical Trump supporters believe they’ve found in the Republican nominee.”
But unlike a great many of my friends and colleagues, I no longer see the next election as the most important political question. The most important political question affecting the future of this country is whether we can build an effective political movement to protect gay-marriage dissenters and abortion dissenters from the Left’s efforts to use government to punish, marginalize, and exclude us; to take away, via legal and economic pressure, our basic rights to organize, to speak, and to form associations that are seen as legitimate actors in the public square.
If we cannot, then the Left is going to proceed to make Christianity the legal and cultural equivalent of racism in law and society. And it is hard to imagine a conservative movement that matters at that point.
Almost every effort to build a Christian social-conservative political movement has failed to date.
Almost every effort to build a Christian social-conservative political movement has failed to date. The Moral Majority failed. Ralph Reed failed. Even the National Organization for Marriage, which I helped found, has failed to build a political machine that raises money to help elect our friends and defeat our enemies, especially at the federal level, which is where you have to fight if you want to matter culturally as well as legally. There must be deep reasons why it is so hard to do something so obviously necessary.
When you are in a hole, the most important thing to do is to stop digging.
Here’s what I believe at the deepest level: When you lose a fight as big as gay marriage, it’s time to retool and rethink. Some, like Rod Dreher, see our weakness and proclaim, “Retreat to the catacombs!” I’d be right there with him, except the Left shows every sign of following us into our catacombs and finding ways to kill off our institutions.
We had a temporary reprieve in California, which decided to continue to expose Christian schools that ask for religious exemptions but not to actually take away their students’ equal access to educational funds. “Temporary” is the operative word there, however.
I like to believe there are some good-hearted liberals who want to use gay rights as a shield to protect gay people, not as a club against traditional Christians and other gay-marriage dissenters. I believe there would be a lot more of them if we could demonstrate to the Left that their extremism will cost them elections.
But our existing models of indirect, pastor-organizing, message-making politics will fail us if we can’t build real political organizations that raise and spend money to elect friends of religious liberty and vote out its many and accelerating foes.
Pat McCrory is fighting a pretty lonely battle down in North Carolina. Does anyone care?
In my view, the single most important thing we need are candidates willing to fight for real religious-liberty protections, repealing the Left’s lawless reinterpretation of discrimination law, which is why some version of the First Amendment Defense Act is, to my thinking, so key.
The Republican political establishment in Washington does not want us to do this. They want us to accept attacking Islam as a substitute for fighting back against those who actually have the power and the desire to restrict our rights, tough talk about sharia replacing a serious political movement to confront the Left’s unfolding abuses of power. Yes, Newt, I’m talking about you, among many others.
Some conservatives dislike Trump as much as I do, but they want to retreat back to the status quo ante, to a time before he proved that Republican voters have rejected the Ryan/Romney/Kasich/McCain GOP as a governing party.
McMullin is a patriot, an honorable, god-fearing man who wants to be good and do good. That much is obvious.
But let’s face it, in just a few days of campaigning he has also proved that he is the spitting image of the GOP political class’s dreams for a Republican future: moderately conservative but vague on social issues, with a standard pro-business economic message donors love even if voters don’t, and strong support for national defense.
Who is Evan McMullin really? We don’t really know what he’s accomplished.
Who is Evan McMullin really? We don’t really know what he’s accomplished because he has had two careers. First, he spent ten years as a CIA spy actively engaged in getting bad guys, and he can’t really talk about that. Then, over the last few years, he worked for House Republicans behind the scenes, as policy director for the House Republican Conference, and he can’t really talk about that, either. In between, he got an MBA from Wharton.
His website, replete with consultant-massaged pap, gives us no real idea what he cares about. But after he announced, I spent a few hours going through his Facebook page, seeking to find the real Evan McMullin so you won’t have to.
From this reading, I can confirm that he’s a very good man and a patriot but not much else.
From three years of Facebook posts, I can tell you six things about Evan McMullin:
1. He loves the Founding Fathers. He’s a big Lincoln fan, posting a photo of the Emancipator statue that freed slaves helped pay for, and one of a Penley painting of Lincoln hanging in “Leader McCarthy’s office.” Art works featuring George Washington and Ben Franklin also make appearances, and as he passed through Philadelphia he paused to post a photo of the Liberty Bell with the inscription, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” He is also a fan of Winston Churchill.
2. He believes Muslim-bashing is wrong and also dangerous to U.S. interests:
As Donald Trump continues attacking Muslims and as a former CIA officer, I’d like all Americans to know the truth: American and other Muslims have played a central role in virtually every counterterrorism win we’ve had since 9/11. They are an indispensable asset in this fight. Attacking them as a group makes America weaker, not stronger.
He was also, like me, repulsed by Trump’s attacks on the mother of a fallen soldier:
As someone who served our nation in war, I find Donald Trump’s religious attacks on Ghazala Khan, the mother of a fallen U.S. soldier, profoundly despicable. Her son gave everything for our country and she, like thousands of other American mothers, has also made a painful lifelong sacrifice. No one who fails to understand this is fit to be our commander-in-chief.
He would like you to know that “refugees are not terrorists.”
3. During the Snowpocalypse, he hunkered down with corn dogs, and with books by Hayek and Friedman
4. He’s against genocide and thinks we should do more to stop it. He’s also against genital mutilation of women.
5. He’s a big fan of microloans and other ways to make African women into leaders and entrepreneurs.
6. He loves the Seattle Seahawks, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan.
In three years of Facebook posts, he never commented on a domestic issue, economic or social. He never said anything on any specific issue that a diehard Democrat couldn’t applaud.
When I was telling my boss Frank Cannon about McMullin’s Facebook page, he made a possibly unfair, or possibly telling, comment: “I find the people who post photos of Lincoln and Churchill are the least likely to actually be leaders like these men.” He meant that if you want to be a uniter, not a divider, you cannot be a leader in perilous times like Lincoln and Churchill were. Now, after their battles are long won, they unite us in admiration. But they were leaders precisely because they were willing to be reviled and despised at the time, not only by their opponents but by their fellow party members, if that was the price of defending core principles. Principles that turned out to be right.
If we are going to charge into a likely hopeless, suicidal battle to take down Trump, our leader has to be more than just a good man.
After I scoured Evan McMullin’s Facebook page, I went to his website, wherein he says he’s very pro-life, but the only policy he commits to is no taxpayer financing of abortion; he boasts of support for adoption; and he commits to virtually nothing concrete on any issue, much less religious liberty, trying, I suppose, to be a unifier through vagueness, as many consultants would no doubt advise. This may or may not help you win (I think not, in this instance, as voters are onto this game), but it definitely makes it almost impossible to have a victory worth winning, as the GOP majorities in Congress have proved time and time again.
A few days later, consistent with his desire to be the new face of the Republican party that existing Washington GOP power players are longing for, McMullin was asked by Mark Halperin about gay marriage:
“As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman, but I respect the decision of the Court, and I think it’s time to move on,” McMullin said, according to Lifesite News.
When Halperin asked if a President McMullin would at least appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Obergefell decision, he replied, “I wouldn’t.”
He could have evaded. He could have said he would look for constitutionalists like Justice Scalia. But he didn’t. He instead said its time to accept that the Left gets to decide what is in our Constitution and move on.
No one who cares about or understands constitutional conservatism would answer that way.
I don’t blame him. To judge from his public pronouncements before announcing, he’s spent his whole life thinking about international affairs, from terrorism to refugees to genocide to African poverty. He is the very model of a modern Mormon moral man, and the world would be a better place if more men were like him.
But, if we are going to charge into a likely hopeless, suicidal battle to take down Trump, our leader has to be more than just a good man.Evan McMullin, in his person, recapitulates the problem with pulling together a Never Trump movement we saw in the primaries: It was impossible to unify the Kasich and the Cruz wings of the party to stop Trump. In truth, the GOP establishment sort of thought it preferred Trump to a committed, full-spectrum constitutional conservative such as Cruz.
Now that we have all seen up close what a Trump candidacy looks like, the GOP establishment has spawned Evan McMullin to stand in the breach.
And so I am left without a party, genuinely uncertain whether, between all the bad choices available, one will be the least damaging to the country we all love.
— Maggie Gallagher is the author of four books on marriage and a longtime contributor to National Review.