Evan McMullin, the independent candidate for president, is running a campaign, but it isn’t about capturing the White House in 2016. Rather, McMullin’s quixotic run is about trying to preserve a breed of Republican ideology that he and many other “Never Trump”-ers say has been waylaid by the GOP nominee’s bombastic and scattershot rhetoric, especially on foreign policy and national security.
“[Donald] Trump is weakening us, and is doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin,” McMullin told Foreign Policy, referring to the Republican candidate’s verbal attacks on NATO, refusal to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and repeated adulation of the Russian president.
McMullin also criticized Trump’s calls to retrench U.S. overseas commitments and eschew long-standing U.S. policies. For example, Trump has called for allies to financially underwrite U.S. military deployments and has encouraged nuclear proliferation by U.S. allies as a way to reduce Washington’s costly exposure to potential hotspots.
“There’s a wave of isolationism that has blown over the country in response to Iraq, [but] it’s a huge mistake for us to withdraw from the world,” McMullin said.
Washington must continuously work with allies to reaffirm the American commitment, backed up by unique American military capabilities, he said. Today’s Republican party “no longer stands for what I’m standing for: we have a leadership role to play in the world.”
McMullin is starting to make that case publicly, though the campaign is winding down. During his first national security policy speech at Georgetown University Tuesday, McMullin heaped criticism on both major party candidates, but saved his harshest barbs for Trump.
“Trump does not understand what it means to be an exceptional nation,” he said, which was “founded on the idea that all men are created equal. His affection for the authoritarian, the murderous dictator, and the racist should alone disqualify him.”
Spokespeople for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
His longshot campaign likely won’t make much difference at the ballot box this year: He’s barely registering in polls, even as other small-party candidates, such as Greens and Libertarians, are attracting some support. He entered the race too late to be on the ballot in all states, and his strongest showing has been in his home state of Utah, where he’s pulling 9 percent.
But the campaign is meant to help shape a future Republican Party, not save this one.
“I’m not here to protect the Republican party,” he insisted. “I haven’t completely given up on the Republican party, but I don’t have a lot of confidence that the Republicans are going to be able to make the changes” necessary for the party to exist in its present form.
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