On Tuesday, I will vote for Evan McMullin for President. It will be a pleasure to cast my ballot for a person who understands the role of each branch of government and the importance of the separation of powers. Having served as both a senior adviser to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, he has knowledge of how the legislative process actually functions and how laws are crafted, and would thus enter the Oval Office with an understanding of how to go about submitting suggestions for bills that would accomplish his policy goals. Nothing in his background suggests that he would attempt to legislate from the White House, and he has actually been very critical of both major party candidates for their stated intent to do so. Too strong of an executive branch leads to a degree of authoritarianism that would be fatal to a democratic republic, regardless of who is exercising the executive power. With regard to the Supreme Court, he also understands that the judiciary was not created as a way to do an end run around either federal or state legislatures, and promises to appoint jurists who are able to apply the timeless principles of the Constitution to cases brought before SCOTUS in the 21st century.
Along with a clear understanding of, and commitment to upholding, the proper separation of powers as described in the Constitution, Mr. McMullin also calls for a return of the correct balance of power between the federal government and the states, in agreement with what we Catholics call the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity means that problems should be handled at the most local level possible, not that the federal government should never, ever be involved in anything at the state level. Having worked in the legislative branch, he has seen both cookie-cutter social programs and unfunded mandates imposed upon the states, both of which stifle states’ ability to address problems with serving the poor and educating children in flexible, efficient, and practical ways. Furthermore, he respects the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all non-enumerated powers to the states themselves, or to the people themselves. This also helps with accountability in the delivery of government services and policies, which has been much discussed this election year; as Mr. McMullin correctly explains, “a government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people.”
This is not to say that Mr. McMullin wants to abolish the federal government; he simply wants it to return to its proper function, which is to handle those tasks which the states cannot handle by themselves. One proper function of the Presidency is the position of Commander in Chief of the United States’ armed forces, and part of that function is ensuring that our military is able to respond to threats against our nation. Mr. McMullin points out that defense funds are not being spent effectively in terms of bases and equipment that should have been mothballed being kept operating, a skewed ratio of civilian and contract employees to active-duty servicemembers, and constant cost overruns for both defense equipment and everyday supplies. He supports the bipartisan Congressional efforts to simplify and clarify chains of command and defense acquisitions, and rejects the notion that the defense budget needs to be strictly matched to partisan federal domestic spending priorities.
With regard to actual use of military force, Mr. McMullin believes that there is a place for that, but only in the context of a broader, coherent foreign policy, in which our nation acts as it has historically done – to preserve life and freedom. Having been both a covert operative in the Middle East and a refugee resettlement officer for the UN, he understands that real human beings are affected by the policy decisions of great nations, and what little can be known about the professional life of a covert ops officer suggests that while he will go to great lengths to find levelheaded, practical ways to handle threats, his public statements also indicate that when the use of force is necessary, he will do it both soberly and with an eye to minimizing both collateral damage and loss of life to our own military personnel. His background and public statements also indicate that while he understands how to handle sensitive intelligence information to protect both our national security and our intelligence assets, he also believes that the American public has a right to know why our government is deploying those assets to troubled locations outside our shores, as evidenced by his consistent efforts to bring attention to the atrocities committed in Syria.
For those who have served in our nation’s armed forces, the VA system and other benefits are part of how our country thanks those who have given a piece of their lives (and sometimes more) to defend our nation’s interests, without regard for which political party holds power. The problems with the VA health care system have been well documented, and Mr. McMullin correctly points out that while the Choice Program of 2014 was intended to assist veterans with securing health care if using the VA systems was overly challenging because of issues of time or distance, the program has been woefully underutilized and clumsily implemented. He proposes allowing veterans to use the VA health benefits at any health care provider, instead of forcing them to rely on an unwieldy bureaucracy that is hallmarked by long waits and other ineffiencies, some of which have proven fatal. Simultaneously, he calls for the Veterans Administration to be included in Pentagon reforms that would increase both transparency and efficiency. He does not see the need for arcane systems of service delivery that the average person cannot navigate or understand, and he does favor the broad application of a principle he learned in the private sector – if someone is not doing the job for which that person was hired, that person should be fired.
Evan McMullin is also not an isolationist; he is enough of a student of history to understand that the isolationism that characterized American foreign policy after World War I did nothing to improve conditions either within or without our borders. Our robust participation in alliances like NATO helps keep the peace around the world, and as President, if Mr. McMullin determines the evidence shows that our allies are expecting the United States to carry an undue share of the burdens of peacekeeping, he will not hesitate to point out the deficiency and insist that our allies adhere to the treaties to which nations have mutually agreed. His intelligence background and reputation within that community both indicate that he is an excellent analyst who is committed to preserving human rights and finding honest and honorable ways to solve problems of local, national, and international import. Additionally, he has publicly stated that should a time come when a military intervention must be considered, he will listen closely to the advice of the senior commanders who are experts on military tactics and capabilities. He does not seek validation for his preconceived ideas; he does seek wise counsel from those best equipped to give it. He does, however, favor securing our national borders, albeit not by building walls and compelling our allies to pay for them; instead, he would increase the number of border control agents and invest in technology that would provide better surveillance of those borders.
A sane strategy on immigration, and on how to handle people who are presently living in the country after having entered it unlawfully, is also a valid concern of the executive branch; one of the President of the United States’ chief duties is to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. As it stands, laws on immigration have not been faithfully executed for such a long period of time that we are now faced with 11 million people who have no legal right to be here. Mr. McMullin has noted that there is no just way to make them all leave, and that the consequences of doing so could be devastating both in financial and social terms. Having considered those facts, he has called upon Congress to enact not an amnesty, but a pathway to legal status, through which those who have an earnest desire to be American citizens may earn that status without having to shatter families. Even as that pathway is created, however, he is also calling upon Congress to reform the overall process for legal immigration, so that entry-level jobs are protected for citizens who need them to gain the experience that will enable them to progress economically, and he further calls for reform of the H1B work visa program to discourage employers from abusing the program to avoid paying a market-rate wage to U.S. citizens. Worth noting as well is Mr. McMullin’s acknowledgement that employers who are not making the effort to verify legal immigration status contributes to the overall problem of illegal immigration, and he insists that the existing laws be enforced by both employers and local governments; he correctly points out that sanctuary cities are violating the law, and notes that immigration law and enforcement is a power that is properly reserved to the federal government, as it pertains to foreign relations.
With regard to jobs, Mr. McMullin bases his economic policies on another principle familiar to Catholics – that meaningful work is essential to human dignity. He advocates expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to single people, so that the largest number of people possible can become self-supporting, which is a cornerstone of helping people recognize their own human dignity, and having that dignity recognized by others. He also points out that EITC reform enables people to reach an economic status that will encourage them to consider getting married and raising a family, and that the family is the foundation of all other human society. This is a proposal that has already been discussed by conservatives in Congress, and as President, Mr. McMullin would call upon the legislature to reform the legislation enabling this and other anti-poverty programs so that securing employment does not result in a federally mandated loss of supportive benefits. Again, in consideration of the principle of subsidiarity, he would advocate that such changes in legislation include an increase in the use of block grants and the diminution of the tangled web of mandates and regulations that micromanage how states are able to serve those who need some help to secure adequate food, shelter, transportation, child care, and health care. From his public statements, it appears that Mr. McMullin understands that supporting and promoting families is, of itself, a way to help lift people, particularly children, out of poverty. Having himself grown up in a family that was so poor the children wore winter coats indoors because heat was too expensive, he understands that hard work on a person’s part needs to be met with compassionate, dignified help on the part of the broader community.
When discussing issues of jobs and the broader economy, international trade and treaties must be considered. Mr. McMullin favors the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it would immediately eliminate the tariffs imposed by our trading partners, particularly Japan (tariffs imposed by the U.S. on imported goods are, as he correctly points out on his website, nearly zero as it is), and would, he asserts, reassure America’s allies in Asia that we intend to maintain a position of economic leadership in the region, as opposed to ceding that leadership role to China. He also points out that the TPP mandates a leveling of the labor playing field, as nations that mistreat or underpay their workers will face stiff penalties, and that it includes very strong environmental protections. He also points out that many manufacturing jobs, which were once the bedrock of the American economy, have been replaced by automation, and hence the concern that additional manufacturing jobs would be lost to the TPP are not grounded in reality; however, a look at history indicates that major trade treaties of this nature in the twentieth century did lead to a net loss of American jobs attributable to agreements such as NAFTA.
Personally, I have reservations about TPP; one of my largest is that it does not include China, and another of which is that the only way to approve the treaty is in its entirety, without the advice of the Senate. Historically and Constitutionally, the Senate is supposed to have a role that includes both advice AND consent, not one without the other. I am also very wary of the special protections included for pharmaceutical companies, which could serve to increase the price of lifesaving medications without just cause. Furthermore, there are some serious concerns about protections for journalists and whistleblowers, and for law governing the protection of copyrighted materials.
With respect to the increasingly complex tax code, which favors large corporations with well-funded lobbyists, Mr. McMullin recognizes that while the executive branch does not promulgate laws, it is responsible for writing the regulations that implement those laws. He favors simplifying the regulations that accompany the laws and thus making the taxes paid by all economic strata of society more just, closing loopholes and creating situations where small businesses do not have to employ an army just to figure out how to file quarterly and year end taxes. That is a proper and appropriate role for the executive – to simplify the regulatory environment so that our stewardship responsibilities towards the environment, towards people living in poverty, towards interstate commerce, can be fulfilled with honesty, dignity, and clarity of both intent and purpose. In fact, he is a proponent of using the executive to simplify most regulatory environments that are within the proper scope of the executive branch’s law enforcement powers, and clearly understands that federal micromanagement of state and local programs is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive. His guiding principle as President would be that before any new regulation is promulgated, the federal agency requesting the regulation should have to demonstrate a clear need for that specific regulation or set of regulations, and show that no extant regulation would serve to solve the identified problem. Agencies would also be required to provide cost-benefit analyses of both existing and proposed regulations.
This streamlining of regulations would also extend to federal programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The regulatory environments for all these programs, among many, are so complex and convoluted that they are prone to waste, fraud, and abuse. By simplifying the regulations, he would decrease the number of people required to administer the programs and interpret rules that are frequently contradictory, particularly in the case of Medicare and Medicaid. Lowering the administrative costs then allows more of the monies properly allocated to these programs to be spent on reimbursements for actual medical services; many medical providers no longer accept Medicaid and Medicare because the reimbursement rates are so ridiculously low.
His statements also understand that he understands the difference between the federal budget deficit and the federal debt. While the federal budget deficit has narrowed, it’s still there, which is causing the federal debt to grow. Debt must, at some point, be repaid, with interest. Economic growth that would be produced by businesses being able to spend more time doing business and less time figuring out how to comply with a Gordian knot of regulations – particularly the growth that would be driven by the small entrepreneur who wants to open a hair braiding business, a roadside produce stand, a tutoring service, a home day care – would result in more income that could be taxed under a simplified federal code that would be less susceptible fraud and abuse.
In order to secure a good job, a person must be able to access an education that prepares him or her not just for gainful employment, but also prepares the person to think critically and make decisions about daily life and social and political engagement. Federal education mandates have created a situation where teachers are spending ridiculous amounts of time dealing with federally mandated tests which demonstrate little in the way of what students are actually achieving and complying with webs of federally mandated paperwork; I saw that mess firsthand during my teaching days. Mr. McMullin favors returning the main responsibility for education to the states and localities, with parents empowered to choose the educational options that best suit their children, whether that be a local public school, charter school, private school, or homeschooling. Let the teachers teach, let communities choose what pedagogical methods work best for them, let parents have an active voice in how and where their children are educated, and stop letting textbook publishers drive curriculum and testing decisions.
Once a person has completed high school, he or she can be reasonably expected to pursue professional training or a college degree. The costs of higher education are ridiculous, and rising faster than inflation. There is a simple question of supply and demand involved here, whereby the more money is available to pay for a good or service, the higher the cost of that good or service will rise, until a market tipping point is reached at which there is an inadequate number of consumers of that good or service. So it goes with higher education; the more federal money has been allocated to higher education, the more costs have risen, and it is hard to argue that the quality of the education received for the money has risen along with the price tag. Mr. McMullin favors assistance in paying the costs of higher education, whether that education consists of college, vocational apprenticeships, or trade schools, but he does so with the expectation that the federal government will get out of the way of people who are attempting to research such relevant information as graduation rates, employment rates, loan default rates, and average salaries after graduation. Additionally, he advocates that universities and other higher education programs should be held accountable for promising what they can’t deliver by requiring them to assist with repayment of student loans or other federal or federally guaranteed monies when students flunk out or default because they are unable to secure employment in their chosen fields.
In order to have a life with dignity, it is essential that each individual have access to adequate health care at an affordable price. While well-intentioned, the ACA has failed to bring that universal access to health care that its proponents hoped for and expected. Rates for health insurance are, as with the cost of higher education, rising at a rate that far outpaces the rate of inflation, and the volume of federal regulations governing what policies must cover and how the insurance mechanism must function contribute to the costs of health care coverage because of the administrative expense involved. Furthermore, instead of consumers telling the insurers what they want covered and choosing how they want their plans to function, individuals and employers are constrained by the federal mandates. 33 million people continue to be priced out of the health insurance market. While I still maintain that the delivery of health care needs to be reformed before expanding the availability of the insurance mechanism, I agree with Mr. McMullin that the ACA needs to be replaced with a more consumer-driven mechanism, and the tax credit provided for the purpose of securing health insurance coverage (which is not the same as securing actual health care) should be given directly to workers in their paychecks to assist with premium payments throughout the year, instead of being given in a lump sum in a tax refund. This puts more money and more power back in the hands of individual health care consumers. ACA should be replaced with a simpler, more comprehensible, and more user-friendly program. Mr. McMullin does not, at this time, have a detailed plan published, but I believe his underlying principles to be sound, and his motives to be honorable.
With regard to Medicare and Medicaid, Mr. McMullin favors means-testing Medicare coverage and ensuring that people who can afford to pay for their care, do so, while ensuring that those who are less able to pay for their care have the safety net Medicare and Medicaid were originally intended to be. This is consistent with a pro-life ethic of ensuring that those who need care are able to obtain it, but that the bulk of the assistance is directed towards those who are least able to pay. However, as with many other federal programs, the regulations need to be simplified and the actual monies directed towards paying for health care need to be maximize. The two tend to go together; the less money is spent on administration, the more money is able to be directed towards actual assistance. This is the standard to which we hold charities, and it does not seem unreasonable to hold the federal government to the same standard.
In addition to caring for the health of people, Mr. McMullin recognizes that we, as a nation, also have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment. While he opposes a regulatory, as opposed to incentivizing, approach to the Paris climate accords and supports the recent Supreme Court holding that the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional, he does recognize that supporting the development and implementation of cleaner energy solutions rises to the level of a sacred responsibility. Even in the recognition of that responsibility, however, he also understands that everyday people still need to be able to pay for lights and heat (and here, perhaps, his early upbringing shines through in his concern for those least able to tolerate even slight increases in their monthly expenses), and thus favors policies that will keep energy prices for individuals and families within reason. He also favors ending the federal subsidies to energy producers; I concur with his assessment that those subsidies do more to improve the profitability of those companies than the development of clean energy technologies, and would also agree with him that said monies would be better spent on basic research by scientists and inventors. Having advised several energy companies during his tenure with Goldman Sachs, he has a fundamental understanding of how those subsidy dollars are currently obtained and spent.
Of course, all the human dignity in the world is worthless if the fundamental right to life of every human being, from conception to natural death, is not recognized. Mr. McMullin is pro-life throughout that entire continuum and, like me, would like to see the Supreme Court answer the unanswered question of Roe v. Wade, when human life begins, by using science that has been settled for over a century. Also like me, he does not see SCOTUS overturning Roe as the magic bullet that ends abortion, but advocates for programs in every place that support and nurture women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, as well as programs that intelligently teach about human sexuality and biology. Part of his overall pro-life philosophy is that we, as a country, must encourage and support programs that lift people out of poverty and ensure that all people have access to life-sustaining, life-affirming care. Importantly, he also points out that people who disagree passionately on the morality of abortion can still make common cause in making sure we direct resources and support to women facing crisis pregnancies and helping make adoption a better option for everyone involved.
In the pursuit of providing services to those in need, and even in the conduct of our daily lives, the First Amendment protects our right to speak and worship as we choose. Mr. McMullin vigorously supports the defense of First Amendment liberties here in the United States, for if we do not defend the right to express our faith and our opinions openly, in the public square, we cannot then provide the vital example of how a free society operates that so many nations across the globe so desperately need. If we are to speak authoritatively to other nations about respecting the rights of religious people whose faith may be a minority view, we must protect the free exercise of religion and rights of conscience here at home, even if that free exercise makes some of us uncomfortable. His position on the contentious moral issues of the day is that the law is what it is, that people of good will can disagree and still love each other, and everyone deserves to be able to attempt to persuade his or her neighbors on moral matters. His public conduct indicates that he genuinely believes you can love someone fiercely and still find their behavior immoral. That’s a pretty good example for a whole lot of people, myself included. He supports the same First Amendment religious freedoms for those of all faiths and of no faith, but, perhaps more importantly, he also supports a free press, and opposes any efforts to loosen protections for journalists and whistleblowers. He has advocated a national conversation about balancing new technologies with essential civil liberties protections, as well.
With respect to the right to keep and bear arms specified in the Second Amendment, Mr. McMullin favors the protections afforded to individuals who choose to exercise that right, but also understands that it is a matter of both community and national security that we protect the general public from those who should not own guns. He does not, however, favor the blanket use of watchlists constructed without due process protections to deny Second Amendment rights to anyone. He favors increased mental health screening and intervention to keep guns out of the hands of people who have nefarious intentions towards themselves and others, he does support allowing the Attorney General 72 hours to show probable cause why a person who has landed on a watchlist should be barred from obtaining a firearm, and he does support having the ATF support state and local law enforcement agencies instead of being a self-contained fiefdom.
I’d address the Third Amendment next, but to my knowledge, there are no proposals from anywhere regarding the quartering of soldiers in private homes. That said, there is nothing in Mr. McMullin’s background or statements that indicates he would favor any proposal to do so, but would instead characterize it as an abuse of federal power.
Moving along to the Fourth Amendment, I agree with Mr. McMullin’s contention that “stop-and-frisk” policies are a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that searches should be accompanied by both probable cause and the appropriate warrants, absent an immediate and obvious threat. Also on the topic of law enforcement, Mr. McMullin advocates a returned to community-based policing, body cameras with specific rules for their use, and judges who have some discretion in sentencing, so that the focus on more on justice than vengeance. A person who makes a mistake should be helped to obtain the tools necessary not to re-offend, not forced to wear a perpetual scarlet letter that renders the person incapable of supporting himself or herself. Let the focus become “how can I make the wrong right,” instead of “how can we lock this bad apple into a barrel to rot.” Interestingly, he also espouses the idea that the criminal code has become too complex, and there are too many nuisances that are unnecessarily criminalized, leading to gross disparities in how people are treated in communities where ethnic minorities or people of low socioeconomic status are the dominant group. It is an affront to human dignity to criminalize poverty. Mr. McMullin recognizes this, and thus proposes an overhaul of the criminal code that would both emphasize rehabilitation and reduce the number of crimes that are considered federal offenses. This is also a pro-family policy, as too many children are now growing up with a parent behind bars, the sociological effects of which are unquestionably deleterious to those children’s development in almost every area. I like his emphasis on mercy over vengeance, and also wholeheartedly support his insistence that violent felons receive both appropriate punishment and appropriate rehabilitation. It is not possible for a person to pay a debt to society without skills and the opportunity to employ them for the good of his or her nation, community, family, and anyone he or she may have victimized.
Interestingly, his support for proper use of body cameras also supports the protections offered to citizens under the Fifth Amendment. If the cameras are used during police interrogations, it becomes relatively simple to determine whether the right against self-incrimination and the right to legal counsel have been protected properly. It makes sense. He is a staunch supporter of due process rights for everyone entering the American legal system.
I would hit the rest of the Bill of Rights, but I’m already at close to 5,000 words and I want people to actually read this. The nutshell version is that Evan McMullin is putting out policy proposals that show respect for the Constitutional separation of powers, demonstrate a practical understanding of stare decisis and the Supreme Court, show a consistent logic throughout, and are largely in conformity with Catholic social teachings. I do not see a cause for scandal in any of the positions he has held, and I do see in his professional background a respectable amount of experience in foreign affairs and business along with an intrinsic understanding of the problems faced by families living in poverty. Perhaps most importantly, I see in him a practical application of mercy and love for neighbor, as evidenced by his relationship with his mother and apparently authentic desire to bring community and government resources to bear to affirm the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human life.
If there are other questions I can answer for you about why I support Evan McMullin, please leave them in the comments, and I will answer them as I am able. I will also be happy to respond to any articles you care to post, as long as I have not already responded to them elsewhere in this piece. I may be adding more to it, but I promised this to someone almost a week ago and really need to get it published.
Peace be with you. Please vote, and please help protect the right of every citizen to do likewise – even if you passionately disagree.
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