Pew Research Center recently published a report entitled “As Partisan Hostility Grows, Signs of Frustration With the Two-Party System,” which indicates a growing dissatisfaction among young voters. Of course, in addition to such survey data, most of us have experienced and felt this in our own lives over the past several years.  

Rather than real policy solutions which require critical thinking, analysis and compromise, what we often get from our elected officials is inflated rhetoric intended to conjure up a tribal reaction among their most vocal and loyal supporters. Meanwhile, such emphasis on partisan lines and symbols has the effect of diminishing the shared principles and values which have long united and defined America. 

Indeed, George Washington warned against the “spirit of party” in his farewell address stating that it “serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.” 

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As a Republican candidate and elected official, I have consistently advocated for conservative policies. I believe it is critical for our future to support policies and leaders who will uphold free market capitalism and apply fiscally conservative solutions to our out-of-control spending and national debt. To me, a sincere allegiance to these principles, along with an individual’s character, competence and commitment to the Constitution have always been prerequisites for my political support — and are more important to me than an “R” next to a candidate’s name. 

When Evan McMullin decided to run for president in 2016 it was not because he felt uniquely qualified for the office, but rather because he and many others were concerned that Donald Trump did not represent the principles and values of the Republican Party (which McMullin had historically aligned with) and that Hillary Clinton was an unacceptable alternative.

Ironically, Mike Lee came to the same conclusion in 2016 after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced, and Lee ultimately cast his vote for McMullin. 

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Unfortunately, after four years with President Trump, in 2020 we had another presidential election in which principled Republicans and conservative-leaning independents were left wanting for a better choice. This time around, however, Lee was all in for Trump — carried away by the spirit of party to the point of comparing Trump to Moroni, campaigning in Mar-a-Lago after Jan. 6, and failing to publicly speak out against the embarrassing and un-American “stop the steal” movement. 

Lee is a good man with an impressive family legacy in the law and public service, but I remain discouraged by his lack of leadership and his misguided priorities in this critical moment for our country.

Meanwhile, Utah Republicans such as Sen. Mitt Romney and Gov. Spencer Cox were among the first members of the GOP nationally to acknowledge the election results and call for a peaceful transition of power that is so fundamental to our democracy. 

These are the types of leaders I support. I wanted to find a Republican of this mold to work alongside Mitt Romney for Utah in the U.S. Senate. I donated to and supported another Republican candidate in the GOP primary. But, Lee prevailed and I am grateful that McMullin had the foresight to run as an independent to give another option to Utah voters. 

For me, McMullin was made for this moment. He is highly qualified for the job — with foreign policy expertise from his days in the CIA, domestic policy experience advising Congress and a strong business background from his education at Wharton.

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More importantly, he has spent the last several years building a coalition locally and throughout the country united on common ground and ready to win. He has aligned Republicans, independents and fiscally conservative Democrats around real policy solutions and an approach to governing which calls for a renewal of constitutional principles, American values and civil policy debate. He is seeking what is right rather than what will play well in the next political campaign. 

This is a time for those of us who are frustrated with the current options presented by the two-party system to demand more. Winning elections in the future will require the activation of an increasingly silent, unrepresented, unaffiliated block of voters. Lee does not represent a majority of Utahns, but if only highly partisan voters show up on election day, he will win.

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If, however, individuals who have become frustrated with the process view this as an opportunity to send a message, and principled Republicans, independents and Democrats rally together to support McMullin, we will have proven that some things are more important than party affiliation. 

I hope you’ll join me in voting for McMullin. This is our moment.  

Tanner Ainge is a Republican and former Utah County Commissioner. He currently serves as managing partner of a Utah-based private equity firm and as a reservist JAG officer in the Utah Army National Guard. He was also appointed to serve on the Governor’s Economic Development Board for the State of Utah.