Dear Utah Democrats:
It’s been an exciting year for you. For the first time in decades, the Democratic presidential candidate has thrown a little love the Beehive State’s way. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine have both penned fine op-eds in this newspaper, the campaign has put some resources into the state, and national news outlets have been speculating as to whether deep red Utah has become a battleground. It’s heady stuff.
There are, however, some unpleasant realities.
It simply doesn’t seem to be working out for Hillary in Utah. A spate of recent polls put her support in the state at between 24 percent and 28 percent. That’s almost exactly where Barak Obama was polling in Utah on the eve of the 2012 election. There simply isn’t any evidence that Clinton is getting an anti-Trump bounce in the state.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope. As you know, Donald Trump is doing very badly in Utah. The most recent polls put his support at around 30 percent. At this point in the last election cycle, Mitt Romney was polling at 70 percent in Utah. A sizable chunk of the Beehive State’s conservative voters recognize that Trump is a charlatan who is peddling xenophobic fantasies that will help no one. They see that his racism, misogyny and sexual predations mark him as a moral catastrophe.
The chief beneficiary of Utahns’ disgust for Trump has been Evan McMullin, the ex-CIA operative turned #NeverTrump protest candidate. There are any number of reasons that you might not vote for him. He lacks any experience in elective office. He’s basically a political conservative, and you are not. However, from your point of view, the glass should be more than half full on McMullin.
He eschews the racism and sexism of Trump, whom he has condemned unequivocally. He has also called out the GOP establishment on their moral cowardice in embracing their odious nominee. On some of the hot buttons of the culture wars, he has staked out moderate positions. He does not deal in homophobia, and for McMullin, Trump’s braggadocio about sexual assault and his habitual demeaning of women are the real threat to “family values” in American politics.
McMullin may not be qualified to be president. He is a completely illogical choice as a Democratic standard bearer. Neither of these things, however, keep him from being an eminently qualified protest candidate and an excellent vehicle for denying Utah’s electoral college votes to Trump.
At the end of the day, Clinton doesn’t need your vote and in any case it will not help her.
She is not going to win Utah, and under the vagaries of the electoral college, unless she does, votes cast for her in the Beehive State will not be counted. By an accident of geography and our bizarre constitutional structure, you are largely spectators to her race for the White House. By all means, cheer her on and, as seems likely, celebrate when she wins the election.
You are not, however, mere spectators to Trump’s race. Casting an effective vote against him in Utah is possible. When he boasted of grabbing women’s genitals without their consent, Michelle Obama said:
“It doesn't matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserve this kind of abuse. And I know it's a campaign, but this isn't about politics. It's about basic human decency. It's about right and wrong, and we simply cannot endure this or expose our children to this any longer. Not for another minute, let alone for four years.”
What she said is true.
The hard reality is that the only plausible way to deny Trump the Beehive State’s electoral votes is for Utahns to cast a ballot for Evan McMullin. Please consider that when you are in the voting booth next Tuesday.
Nathan B. Oman is a proud native of Utah and a professor of law at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.