Since Democrats have virtually no chance in the race, it makes sense to join those with whom they have political differences, but a common commitment to democracy. The Deseret News notes that the Democrats’ decision “injects significant momentum into a more moderate, independent movement in Utah’s politics – and signals that Utah Democrats are so eager to increase the chances of beating Lee that they are willing to drop their own at least for now. “
Evan McMullin is no progressive. As a former undercover CIA agent, he’s much like the late Senator John McCain or President George HW Bush – the kind of fiscal responsible, hawkish and dealmaking conservative who, with few exceptions, has virtually disappeared from the national stage.
One of those exceptions is Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has extraordinarily refused to support incumbent Senator Mike Lee, declaring he is “friends” with both Lee and McMullin. Even more condemningly, Romney gave Lee the most lukewarm support imaginable, following the recent release of lyrics between Lee and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, which revealed that Lee was hard at work in early January with to try to undo the results of the election. “I disagree with the efforts to try to overthrow the election,” That’s what Romney told reporters this past week. “The emails I’ve seen so far that Senator Lee sent so I did not ask him for anything that was illegal.” It leaves openly the question of whether Lee violated his oath and betrayed democracy.
It is Lee’s sycophancy to the defeated former President Donald Trump and his willingness to put on the cloak of MAGA extremists that provides the impetus for McMullin’s candidacy and the rationale for the Democrats. As McMullin told the Deseret News: “We know Senator Mike Lee was quite involved in the efforts to overthrow our democracy. We have to take a stand like the Utahs. I do not care if you are a Democrat or an Independent or a Republican or “Member of the United Utah Party: This is a limit that cannot be exceeded. Our right to hold our leaders accountable and to vote for or against them and to have a peaceful transfer of power is essential to freedom and justice in America.” McMullin added: “We can not compromise on that and we must all stand together to defend it.”
Lee insists his lyrics with Meadows do not show he was willing to make Trump’s ‘bid’. But his apparent efforts to overthrow voters’ will through a strong arm campaign to force states to send “alternative” lists of delegates were exactly what Trump and his urgent adviser John Eastman wanted.
McMullin has intimidated Republicans into throwing himself into conspiracy theories and using government power to take revenge on companies or political opponents. He is a staunch supporter of Ukraine and condemns Lee’s previous opposition to sanctions and his vote against the Supreme Court to punish Trump for his blackmail of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Nor is he alone in condemning Lee’s role in pampering Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Salt Lake Tribune reported in March: “Retired Army lieutenant colonel and former National Security Council staffer Alexander Vindman claims that Utah Senator Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart have ‘blood on their hands’ when it comes to the escalating crisis in Ukraine, he also accused the two members of Congress of endangering national security through their support for former President Donald Trump in an interview with The Tribune.
McMullin is honest that he wants political differences with the Democrats. But in his mind, it’s beyond the point. His candidacy envisions a cross-party, cross-ideological alliance to defeat MAGA authoritarianists who put Trump over the country and their ideology over democracy. If he succeeds in Utah, he may be able to inspire other such collaborations.