Utah, we have a problem

Why not Evan McMullin

Both major party candidates are manifestly unfit for the presidency.

A large fraction of voters (nationwide and especially in Utah) agree with the above assessment. If you are a Utah voter who agrees, please read on.

I would argue that when faced with two evils we should choose neither. However, I recognize that many have decided to vote for the one they consider to be the lesser evil.

So which would that be?

From the conservative perspective, on domestic policy, it is obviously not Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump might disappoint on the Supreme Court (after all, it would be easy enough for him to give up after Senate Democrats filibuster a couple of originalist SC nominees, and send up a moderate while saying “I tried”), but Hillary Clinton is a sure thing to nominate only liberals. Donald Trump might disappoint on Obamacare and replace it with something just as bad or worse (after all, he has fairly recently stated a liking for government provided healthcare for all), but Hillary is sure to seek to prop up Obamacare or replace it with something just as bad or worse. On issue after issue, Trump is at best an unreliable conservative, but Clinton is sure to be a progressive. On domestic policy, she is not the lesser evil.

On foreign policy, the failures of the Obama administration while she was Secretary of State certainly bring her qualifications into doubt. Could she be the lesser evil on foreign policy?

On character, she and Bill Clinton have enriched themselves almost beyond imagination through shady deals. She got away with using a private email server which apparently was set up for the purpose of hiding her communications. No one has suggested any other plausible explanation. On character, it’s hard to think she could be the lesser evil.

So what about Donald Trump?  As stated above, he is not a reliable conservative, but at least he is not sure to be liberal on everything. Lately he has made conservative noises on most issues. Some might even suggest that the candidate that seemingly performed a hostile takeover of the GOP has recently himself been taken over by that same GOP. While I don’t believe for a second that the old New York Liberal has somehow become a conservative, I admit that it is reasonably likely that on some issues he would be somewhat conservative, simply because he is mainly a deal maker, and his main ready-made coalition for dealmaking (congressional Republicans) is right-leaning. But I contend that there is a real danger that the liberal inclination that has generally characterized him in the past could come to the forefront. If it did, I think conservatives would have a hard time stopping him, since liberal policy proposals would attract a lot of Democratic support in Congress, and his status as a Republican president would allow him to pull in a significant number of moderate Republicans even to liberal causes. Conservative Republicans could be isolated and irrelevant in some policy negotiations. Still, all-in-all, I concede that Trump could be the lesser evil on domestic policy.

However, when we look at foreign policy, even though Hillary’s credentials are in doubt, Trump’s foreign policy is at best incoherent. One example: He has repeatedly stated that in Iraq the USA should have “taken the oil”. He explained that we should have seized the oil fields and kept a force there to keep control of them, continuing that “it used to be to the victor belong the spoils”. To the extent that this is a coherent position, it is repulsive on a number of levels. At a basic level, it is simply wrong for one group of people to take another group of people’s stuff just because they can. In the modern era, it is against international norms and international law. And it would cause other countries to rightly fear us and ally against us. Another example: He repeatedly talks up cooperation with Russia and talks down the value and importance NATO. It is all very vague, but sounds like he thinks Russia should be pursued as a partner. His fascination with Putin is bizarre, offensive, and scary. Another example: His insistence at one debate that American military personnel would obey his illegal orders to torture prisoners and target the families of terrorists, because “that’s what leadership is all about”. That should have disqualified him right there. I am convinced that the other candidates for the Republican nomination could have ended his candidacy that night, simply by unanimously stating that his responses had disqualified him, and that they could never support him if he became the nominee, because he had displayed authoritarian desires that are absolutely incompatible with the office of president of the United States. But the “clarification” offered by his campaign after the debate was perhaps even worse. It stated that actually Trump would change the laws so that those orders would not be illegal. But to do that would put us afoul of international norms of behavior, and again, make us a pariah nation in the eyes of many around the world. On foreign policy, Trump is not the lesser evil.

And what about Trump’s character? His deficiencies are so well known that examples are not needed. I sum it up by saying that in my estimation he is simply an openly bad person. For my part I think I would prefer a hypocrite. At least a hypocrite does not have a mandate for awfulness if elected. If we elect Trump in spite of his admitted, blatant awfulness we will give him our seal of approval to be awful in office, including scary “America First” foreign policy decisions that would unnecessarily make us a pariah nation, put our allies at risk, and make it difficult or impossible to build needed alliances. So as bad as Clinton is on this issue — when it comes to character, Trump is not the lesser evil.

My conclusions:

Domestic policy — As bad and unreliable that I believe Trump would be, Clinton would be worse than Trump.

Foreign policy — As bad as Obama/Clinton’s record is, Trump would be worse than Clinton.

Character — As bad as the Clinton scandals are, because of my general preference for a hypocrite (who at least respects goodness enough to pretend to be good) over a blatant villain, I give a slight edge to Clinton. (I thought my keyboard might catch on fire as I typed that, but so far it hasn’t.) But it arguably is a draw.

I suggested above that when faced with two evils, the best path is to choose neither. But conceding that many want to vote for the lesser evil, we attempted to ascertain which that would be.

The conclusion is that, paradoxically, each is worse than the other, so there is no lesser evil.

One might argue that we could with more study try to determine which is less terrible — Clinton’s domestic terribleness or Trump’s foreign policy terribleness. But if we are honest we will admit that it is impossible to guess, because we don’t know what issues the country will face, especially in the foreign policy arena.

It is inescapable. For practical purposes, as far as making a determination of who to vote for by employing a lesser evil criteria, there is no lesser evil.

Voters of Utah, that is where you come in. The race has tightened. All it would take is a somewhat large but within-the-norm polling error that is underestimating Trump’s support nationwide, and we could have an extremely close election where Utah is the pivotal state that could put Trump over the top or stop him by going for McMullin. I suspect that many or most of you agree with me that McMullin would be far better than Trump or Clinton. If he wins Utah, the House would choose between Trump, Clinton, and McMullin, with each state’s House delegation getting one vote. The dynamics would be complex, and McMullin would have a chance.

When faced with two evils, choose neither.

If you desire to choose the lesser evil between Clinton and Trump, consider: There is no lesser evil.

McMullin 2016

Bryan Woodsmall

I am a Christian and a married father of four (three grown). I’ve worked a variety of jobs in manufacturing and chemistry labs. More recently I have changed careers, and now work in IT. I’m a social, fiscal, and constitutional conservative. At the federal level I’m very much a limited government guy. I’m open to a more active government at the state and local level, within reason.