Barney: Neither Lee Nor McMullin Are Worthy Candidates


Senator Mike Lee (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Sebastian Barney, Opinion Writer


Utah is currently having a Senate race and the winner will be either Mike Lee or Evan McMullin. Lee has a self-imposed reputation as a fascist apologist due to his continued support of former President Donald Trump, while McMullin is similar aside from the fact that he sees democracy as preferable.

The lack of change across candidates has essentially forced us into a perpetual state of failure rather than progress. To stop our support of mediocre candidates, we must expect and require more substance from political figures.

Lee’s tenure has consistently countered the Democratic party, while simultaneously maintaining a policy set centered around culture wars. In 2021, Lee introduced legislation banning transgender individuals from participating in sports. He stated that climate change isn’t an anthropogenic issue, which is false. He also refused to codify Roe v. Wade and voted against gun control laws that had significant popularity. Lee’s policy positions are a major problem.

Dr. James Curry, author of “Legislating in the Dark” and director of graduate studies for political science at the University of Utah, said, “Mike Lee’s tactic since 2010 has always been to position himself as somebody on the relatively hard right of the Republican Party.” Curry explained that Lee is essentially being a “Trump style Republican, which means having skepticism about the 2020 election and other related things.”

Lee’s continued support of Trump, repeated anti-democratic statements and normalization of far-right ideas have made him unacceptable as a candidate.

However, Lee and McMullin are not different — Lee just has a track record. They both promise to bring down healthcare costs with slightly different methods of delivery, and they also want to “Keep America Safe.” The key difference between McMullin and Lee is their support of Trumpism.

McMullin sees Trump as a serious threat to the stability of our country, and recognizes the possibility of far-right groups overtaking the government. This is in stark contrast to Lee’s position, which is to help the groups out. McMullin’s position is the bare minimum, and as Curry states, “[For] McMullin to conduct an effective challenge, Mike Lee has to position himself essentially in the opposite direction of the party … otherwise, these are two relatively conservative politicians who need to explain to voters why you should support one over the other.” At this point, McMullin is a conservative cosplaying as a moderate — and it’s not enough.

We should expect our politicians to help the individual citizen through effective policy changes, not just campaign promises. Not setting these expectations is how we as voters become complicit.

McMullin has an extremely favorable view for climate change and actively condemns bigotry. But even with the bar so low, McMullin has his own issues. He has said that he wishes to unite Americans through compromise, but given the politics in America, we shouldn’t compromise with dangerous ideology and extremists. And our complacency with mediocre politicians allows the proliferation of violent movements that seek to dismantle our most basic civil rights and liberties. Stopping short of condemnation is what lets these movements arise.

McMullin’s willingness for compromise isn’t his only shortcoming. His constant bragging about being a former CIA officer is disturbing. His affiliation with national security agencies will likely mean that as a senator, he will show support to the agencies, which is a clear conflict of interest. A senator should not favor or work on behalf of a different government agency — they work for the people.

Another shortcoming of McMullin’s is his fantasy of neutrality. While it’s a nice concept in our current polarized climate, real life is much different. Curry said, “[McMullin] knows that if he’s trying to get everyone who’s left leaning in the state to vote for him … he has to walk this tightrope, which means he’s going to say a lot of things in just the right way … because if he gets elected, despite what he says, he’s going to caucus with the Republicans … He’s going to have to pick a side and we all know which side he’s going to pick.” In a world where make-believe concepts like political neutrality don’t exist, it’s clear what type of politician McMullin will be.

While McMullin is the better choice for the Utah, there’s nothing really special about him. We need to hold our politicians to a higher standard, or we’re left to choose between abysmal candidates who don’t make actual change.


[email protected]