Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Could Evan McMullin elect Hillary Clinton?

Mindy Finn just might become the third woman - and the second Jewish woman - to receive an Electoral College Vote.  Actually 6 Electoral College votes, since the independent ticket she is on with her running mate, conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin, may win his home state of Utah.

America's first (1972) female Jewish-American Electoral vote getter was Libertarian vice presidential candidate Tonie Nathan, who received one Electoral College vote, not by winning any state - the Libertarian Party, in that, its inaugural, run, was only on the ballot in two states - but by persuading a faithless (and libertarian-leaning Republican) Virginia Elector to vote for her ticket rather than for Richard Nixon.

It's ironic then that part of the significance of the McMullin-Finn ticket is that it has displaced the current Libertarian ticket of Governors Gary Johnson and William Weld among the near plurality of Utah voters who seem unwilling to vote for either Hillary Clinton or for Donald Trump.

Johnson's poll numbers were badly battered in October, partly by his gaffes but more by the Clinton campaign realizing that he was taking more millennial and independent voters from Hillary than from Trump.  Clinton billionaire Tom Steyer wrote a check for $50 million for a digital attack on Johnson in the social media where millennials live, and MSNBC, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman and other Clinton supporters were tasked with belittling him.

Since the various exposes of Clinton Inc. - Wikileaks, James O'Keefe, the National Enquirer - have appeared, Hillary has lost these voters.  Trump and Hillary are now almost tied, and Johnson is back up to 7% and 8% in several polls.

But McMullin-Finn, because of Evan McMullin's home state advantage - as a Morman and a Utah native - will keep Governor Johnson from winning the state where he was most likely to eke out a plurality.  And, alternatively, if he ends up delivering Utah to Hillary, he may end up determining the outcome of the election, no matter how much ground Trump gains in the next week.

One of the interesting things about McMullin (and to a lesser degree Finn), is the small size of their internet footprint, and how little known they seem to be.  They've even made very few donations to political candidates according to Federal Election Commission records (archived at Open Secrets):  three from McMullin to Mitt Romney and lower level candidates over a decade, and only six from Finn (to Romney, Rubio, and lower office races), even though she was a lobbyist who worked in political advocacy.

Partly this is because of their relative youth - McMullin is 40, and Finn is only just old enough, at 36, to be Constitutionally qualified for the White House.

McMullin's resume is brief: Brigham Young, missionary work in Brazil, a rare CIA student internship, the Wharton School, Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, CIA counter-terrorism work, and Congressional committee work in the Republican controlled House.

McMullin is unmarried, at 40 - the average age of first marriage for men in the U.S. is 28 and for Mormon men it is 24.  One Gary Johnson supporter, libertarian blogger Thomas Gustin, claims that "(n)umerous individuals have raised allegations of homosexuality," though I haven't found them.  McMullin does have a somewhat gentle and soft-spoken demeanor, and he does have the close shaven scalp popular with some gay men, but I've watched several of his broadcast appearances now, and he does not seem obviously gay to me (a gay man who thinks I can usually read this).  I've also looked through photos and videos of as many of his friends and associates as I could find, going back to fellow Mormon missionaries and old roommates.  Some of them do seem gayer than McMullin, though again, a number of them are academics, soft spoken, extremely formal or polite, qualities that can be misinterpreted sometimes as indications of homosexuality.  On gay marriage McMullin has said he favors moving on from the debate and accepting the Supreme Court's verdict, even though in his own personal Mormon faith marriage is between a man and a woman.

But what McMullin may have a problem with is dissimulation.  Before he identified Mindy Finn  as a running mate, he got on a few state ballots and had to name someone as a placeholder.  And he picked one "Nathan Johnson."  Who just happens to have the same last name as one of the candidates, Gary Johnson, McMullin pulls votes from.

And then there is Ms. Finn herself.  I interviewed CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who has tweeted that he doesn't think McMullin's CIA career claims add up (Kiriakou doesn't think anyone is put in charge of major counter-terrorism programs fresh out of college, and he believes there are very few student internships at the Agency, and those reserved for the children of CIA employees).  When I pointed out how surprising it was that a libertarian website had tried to out someone for being a closeted gay, Kiriakou agreed that it was shocking, but then said "Isn't he married?  I saw a picture of him with a woman."  It is possible some voters will see photos of McMullin and Finn and assume they are seeing a husband and wife.

Coincidentally, Maggie Gallagher, leader of the anti-gay marriage group, the National Organization for Marriage, has written a piece on McMullin, though it isn't about his position on marriage equality (nor does it speculate about his personal life).  It's entitled "I Read Evan McMullin's Facebook Page So You Don't Have To" and Ms. Gallagher trodded through three years of FaceBook posts and concluded that McMullin is kind of boring and doesn't take any firm positions.  He likes Lincoln and Churchill and apple pie.

Gallagher's conclusion is that McMullin is simply not that ideological - not a "conservative savior."  But what if again it is just dissimulation in an almost Clintonian mode?  Consider how carefully McMullin answered Mark Halperin's questions in his BoombergTV interview, from his position on marriage equality to whether as a CIA operative he has ever killed anyone.

I asked Kiriakou about the CIA's history of funding socialist parties, student groups, and publications in Europe, to build them up as competitors to Soviet-aligned Communist Parties that did not fit into American foreign policy objectives.  Is it likely Evan McMullin would be familiar with this playbook?  And is McMullin, like the CIA funded Socialist candidates, mainly a tool to undermine one candidate, Donald Trump, who is threatening to throw the GOP establishment out of their own party, and to undermine another candidate, Gary Johnson, who is attempting to build a new party?

One such CIA funded magazine was Encounter, edited by the patriarch of American neoconservatism, Irving Kristol; his son, William Kristol, is one of the people who "drafted" Evan McMullin.

If so, what's the motive?  Electing Hillary?  Trying to position himself as a 2020 GOP candidate and the nucleus of a new GOP establishment?  Quashing the Libertarians?  All of the above?

Whatever the motive (the campaign declined my request for an interview - "Unfortunately we're unable to grant your request due to scheduling restraints" - restraints?!?) the campaign really wants to take Utah.  The campaign just sent out an e-blast today: "We have an opportunity to win Utah and we need your help. We are neck and neck with the two major party candidates ....We'd like to invite you to come join us in Utah for the last week of the campaign. We're hard at work in Salt Lake City to be the first independent campaign in 48 years to win a state, and we need your help!"

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