In response to my post on not hating those who vote for either of the troubling top candidates for president in the U.S., one LDS reader breathlessly praised Marybeth Glenn's article, "Ten Reasons Why You Should Support Evan McMullin" at The Collision Blog ( Marybeth is a delightful writer, but I hope she'll forgive me for expressing some mild confusion about the reasons she has offered.

Marybeth is writing to conservatives, "principled conservatives" in fact, a label that fits many Mormons, especially in the states of Utah and Arizona, where McMullin seems to be growing in popularity. She repeatedly links McMullin to conservatism and conservative ideals, and as a refreshing alternative to Hillary or Trump:
Win or lose, he has the power to carry the conservative principles away from the shark infested waters and to the shore....
Conservatism needs a dog in this fight because not only would we like her to lose, as well, we can’t allow conservative ideals to be mistakenly chained to Trump’s ankles.... We need to separate out the ideals, we need to be able to say, “This over here is Conservatism, that over there is Fascism.” Having someone in the race who represents conservative ideals – more so than many of the other candidates we had, I might add – is going to help us achieve that goal....
He’s standing up for the conservative values currently in jeopardy.
Bonus points for recognizing that Trump is no conservative and that Fascism, a form of totalitarian big government that may have a nationalist flavor sometimes allied with big industry, is not conservatism. Of course, the Left loves to present the political spectrum as if it only has totalitarian flavors, with Communism on the left and National Socialism/Fascism on the right, leaving no place for the small government Republic our Founding Fathers tried to give us.

So what are the principles of conservatism and who is defending them?

For me (you can feel free to disagree), principled conservatism for an American citizen means a respect for the ideals of the Constitution. If you are "conserving" something that is outside the core intent of the US Constitution and contrary to the principles of liberty that this nation once sought, then "conservatism" might not be the best word.

For me,  principled conservatism should include a desire to keep government small, not just bigger in "better ways" by cutting "better deals" closed by "smarter" autocrats. It means seeking to let people run their own lives. It means having deep respect for religious liberty--something both leading candidates lack. It means enthroning liberty and limiting the power of would-be autocrats, not giving them unlimited funds and powers. It means not being tricked into fighting no-win wars declared by foreign powers like the UN or by lone autocrats, not by Congress as the Constitution requires, in which we waste our resources and many lives among our rising generations in fighting with people who weren't threatening our borders.

It means not spending like drunken sailors/Senators to feed what Eisenhower properly called the "military industrial complex." It means not going into insane debt to implement failed economic policies that create monstrous bubbles, massive corruption, and misallocation of resources that have already eroded the value of our dollar, crippled our economy, and put the world at risk of further economic disaster. It means distrusting and thwarting when possible the elitists of the Establishment who have given us massive government, massive debt, and endless war.

It should be no surprise, from this perspective, that principled conservatives would have trouble embracing Hillary, who is intimately tied with big if not super-sized government and has become something of an Establishment woman who circulates its lofty but shadowy halls with ease. Those principles also make Trump a troubling choice as well, for he seems to have no knowledge of Constitutional limits apart from his personal moral deficiencies. On the other hand, some of you, perhaps among the more elite citizens of our day, may feel that a viable candidate must have major big government credentials and needs to be able intimately acquainted with the labyrinths of power in Washington, Wall Street, and the United Nations. If so, feel free to vote for Hillary.

But principled conservatives should vote for Evan McMullin, right? Marybeth Glenn shares this perspective, which many LDS people seem to share, and explains why. Her explanation emphasizes his deep experience and connections:
He was a senior adviser for the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives on national security issues, was the Chief Policy Director with the House Republican Conference, and is also a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
In short, the man knows his way around foreign policy like Trump knows his way around bankruptcy laws....

Evan worked for the CIA from 2001 – 2011, specifically on counter-terrorism and intelligence operations in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Not only was he nose deep in foreign affairs from a legislative level, but he has first hand experience on the proverbial front lines.
What a second--I thought that was why we are supposed to vote for Hillary!  She's the experienced, super-connected candidate of the elite who knows her way around the halls of power--such as the shadowy and hyper-elite Council on Foreign Relations who surrounded the Clinton Presidency (as they did the Bush Presidencies and the Obama Presidency) and the politicians and diplomats seeking to turn the United Nations into an ever bigger power that threatens national sovereignty.

If I am reading The Collision Blog accurately, some of McMullin's most important credentials, like Hilary's, are his ties to the Establishment/Deep State: the CIA, the United Nations, and the Council on Foreign Relations, whose policies and goals have been so at odds with the principles of conservatism over the decades. So principled conservatives are supposed to vote for him? My head feels like I just listened to another presidential debate. Ouch. Yes, Evan's a good man who has personal morals and does not appear to have covered up major crimes or exploited his office to obtain huge amounts of wealth. That's wonderful. For me, it's just not enough. (Note: there are good people in all these groups, but the organizations themselves today if not historically are organs of big government that may often be at odds with conservative ideals. Being part of them does not make one evil. But it makes one more subject to powerful influences and mindsets that I take issue with.)

I think there is widespread confusion in the LDS community about how to act on the principles some of us want to support. I can sympathize with the excitement in considering a way to stand for principle and vote for someone other than the two unsavory candidates that most Americans think they must settle for. But there have long been third party options such as the Constitution Party (disclosure: at least some parts of their platform line up nicely with my personal views), a party that is actually on the ballot in most states and whose principles seem to align with old-fashioned conservatism. Or you can vote for other 3rd parties or write-in a name of someone you trust. You don't have to embrace big government and the current powers that be if your intent is to take a principled stand and remind the world that there are still principles to stand for.

Of course, we're going to end up with a would-be autocrat no matter what you do this year. The real issue before us is not which would-be autocrat is the lesser scoundrel, but how we can revive Congress to follow the Constitution and properly check the power of the Executive to limit the damage that will be done in coming years. Congress is the key, IMHO. This is where individuals at the grass-roots level can help support candidates who will stand for the Constitution again and prepare to limit the brazen power grabs of whoever wins the election. Restoring checks and balances in Washington--that's my kind of principled conservatism. 

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