Students Gather for Conversation With Evan McMullin

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Students Gather for Conversation With Evan McMullin

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Over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, an increasing number of Utahns have felt uneasy about casting a vote for either major party candidate, as a number of polls have indicated.

This is where Evan McMullin enters the picture.

McMullin, who is a graduate of Brigham Young University and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced his run for presidency as an independent candidate in August. On Wednesday, he spoke to over a hundred U graduate and undergraduate students, as well as members of the Salt Lake community, at an event hosted by the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

The Utah native worked for 10 years as a CIA counterterrorism operative before becoming a senior advisor for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2013.

mcmullin007Joined by his running mate Mindy Finn, the pair voiced frustration with the two-party system, as well as the current state of the Republican party.

The country is at a crossroads, Finn said, adding that electing either major party candidate would be a step backwards. She said she never planned on running for Vice President, but was happy to do so when asked by McMullin.

“Somebody needs to stand up and provide another way forward,” Finn said.

Finn is a digital media strategist and founder of Empowered Women, a women’s rights group aimed at bringing attention to gender-based discrimination and inspiring women. A long-time conservative, she has worked on digital campaigns for former president George W. Bush, as well as former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In his speech, McMullin said that he is a principled candidate, one who will stand up for for ideals like liberty and equality. Donald Trump, on the other hand, does not represent American values, he said. “[Donald Trump’s views] are not the timeless truths on which this great nation was founded,” he said.  

McMullin said he is weary of the expansion of federal government that has been seen in recent years, and that Democrats are mainly to blame for this. Power is more accountable when it is in the hands of state governments, he said, and Hillary Clinton would take power away from states. This kind of alienation of power, he said, allows corruption to thrive.

In joining the race as a third-party candidate, McMullin said he has received hostility and death threats from the white supremacist movement. Most notably, a man named Pax Dickinson recently took to Twitter to accuse McMullin of conspiring to throw the election to Hillary. He said that if McMullin succeeds in doing so, the “chance of a future Mormocaust spikes sharply.”

Finn, who is Jewish, said she and her family have received threats as well.  

When taking questions from the audience, one man asked McMullin how he would prevent American intervention in foreign affairs. Citing his foreign policy experience, McMullin responded by saying he feels there is a middle ground when it comes to military intervention, and that the United States should continue to play a role in fighting injustice abroad.

Another man asked McMullin how he would address the rise of political correctness in this country. McMullin said we should give people the benefit of the doubt, but that bigotry, racism and misogyny are present in society.

“There is still an increasingly vocal part of our society that does have a problem with [bigotry],” McMullin said. “I would say the best thing we can do about it, [white men] especially, is to stand up against that, stand up and fight for people who are being attacked based on their race, religion or gender.”

Spencer Arnesen, a first-year PhD student in molecular biology, said he has supported McMullin for a while and was excited to hear the candidate speak at the U. While Arnesen is still unsure of who he will vote for on Nov. 8, he said McMullin is the only candidate he is considering.

“As it stands right now, I’ll either vote for McMullin or I won’t vote for anybody,” Arnesen said.

He said he doesn’t think McMullin has a great shot at winning the presidency, but that he is uncomfortable voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Another student, Chad Buxton, a junior studying geography, said he is drawn between voting for McMullin and Clinton. “I loved the strong stance he took on opposing bigotry and misogyny.”

Like many students, this is the first year Buxton will be eligible to vote for a presidential candidate. This is an important election, the 19-year-old said, and he is excited to vote for whichever candidate he decides is best fit to lead the nation.

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@misterclovis