I grew up with bullets in my backyard.

Born in Utah, I was raised in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I was reminded every day of our country’s greatest struggle thanks to the fields around my house that were witness to one of the bloodiest battles on American soil. That background has shaped how I feel about our country’s current events, so I’m writing to share what stirs in the heart of someone who grew up on a battlefield when I see the political warfare that’s playing out in our country today.

First, I hate the division. It flies in the face of everything we fought for and won in that war. Abraham Lincoln’s ultimate goal as president was to preserve the Union, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers died for that cause. I have personally never been so concerned about my country as I have in the past several years. I’m dismayed that personal agendas and political allies seem to be the main influence on the Republican Party, in place of principle-based leadership. Lincoln was the first Republican president, and if we take him as our model, I’m not sure he would support the Republican options that we have before us this year.

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Lincoln saw the American people as “his rightful masters” and the Constitution as his rulebook, but too many politicians today follow an internal compass that’s calibrated to political survival. 

Utah’s independent challenger for U.S. Senate, Evan McMullin, is running specifically as a patriot rather than as a member of a party. With no party to answer to, he will truly be influenced only by his constituents and our country’s founding principles.

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Some may believe it’s futile to support an independent when they’re “undefined” and the party system is so strong, but McMullin already has massive momentum that’s unified people across all parties in Utah. Let’s not forget that Lincoln himself represented a new political party with little track record when he was elected, and his leadership saved our country. We needed him in 1860, and I’m grateful that the American people didn’t just vote by tradition during that perilous time.

I believe we have the opportunity for a “new birth of politics”, to paraphrase Lincoln, by sending an independent to Congress. I believe that Lincoln would approve of the 12 principles for renewal that McMullin has dedicated himself to. I’m not so naive as to compare McMullin’s leadership to Lincoln’s, but up to this point, he’s made some Lincoln-like decisions that I believe are exactly what this country needs during this difficult time.

Let’s take our own Lincoln-like actions that will help us navigate these turbulent times:

  • Lincoln fought against those who would divide our country. We can do the same by removing them from office.
  • He withstood radical critics who pressured him to pursue party agendas at all costs. We can withstand our own critics who believe that loyalty to a specific party is equal to or greater than loyalty to our country’s best interests.
  • He answered directly to the people and the Constitution. We can elect people like Evan McMullin who demonstrate by their actions their pledge to do the same.
  • He appointed men to his Cabinet who were his rivals because he knew they were the men whose strengths could most benefit the cause of the Union. We can do the same by supporting politicians who we may not 100% agree with, but who truly put the good of our country above all else.

Lincoln declared at Gettysburg that it’s up to “us the living” to take on the unfinished work that Gettysburg’s soldiers died for and that “the world … can never forget what they did here.” I hope when we vote that we haven’t forgotten. We can rededicate ourselves this year to a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” rather than the party, by electing a patriot like McMullin who serves the people first.

Gettysburg became known as the “high water mark” of the Confederacy — the moment when the tides finally turned in favor of the Union. My call is for my fellow Republicans to make this year our Gettysburg. Let us model ourselves after the first president of our party rather than disowning his example of political moderation and loyalty to country before party. And let us make the 2022 Utah midterms the high water mark of division and disillusion in our country.

Chelsea Macdonald returned to Utah in 2014 and is currently a resident of Bluffdale where she and her husband are small-business owners. Her views are her own.