Evan McMullin for pres­i­dent?

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Jonah Gold­berg is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices. Jonah Gold­berg The Na­tional Re­view

If you think 2016 will stop be­ing weird come Nov. 8, please look at your cal­en­dars: This whole elec­tion process ac­tu­ally lasts al­most an ad­di­tional two months be­yond that, fi­nally end­ing when Congress counts the elec­toral votes in early Jan­uary. But just be­cause it’s been a weird year, that doesn’t mean it has to end badly. There’s rea­son to hope.

Con­sider in­de­pen­dent writein can­di­date for pres­i­dent Evan McMullin. He has vir­tu­ally no chance of win­ning the elec­tion on Nov. 8, but he does have a shot at be­com­ing pres­i­dent by the end of De­cem­ber.

It’s a long shot. Very long. But if McMullin man­aged the great­est up­set of all time, it would be a very good thing, and not just be­cause so many of us would rather see some­one other than Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump in the White House.

McMullin, whom I’ve met sev­eral times, is an earnest, pa­tri­otic and brave man who spent nearly a decade serv­ing his coun­try un­der­cover in the CIA. He was, un­til re­cently, the chief pol­icy di­rec­tor of the House Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence. He would not be my first choice for pres­i­dent un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances. But that horse long ago left the barn — and then got hit by a truck.

The McMullin sce­nario works like this: If no can­di­date man­ages to win 270 elec­toral votes, the elec­tors — i.e., the peo­ple who cast elec­toral votes on Dec. 19 — hand the whole thing over to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to de­cide, as they did in the elec­tion of 1824.

Un­der the 12th Amend­ment, mem­bers of the House then must choose from the top three fin­ish­ers in the Elec­toral Col­lege. So even if Lib­er­tar­ian Gary John­son gets more of the pop­u­lar vote, he’s not likely to have any elec­tors be­cause he won’t win any state. Mean­while, polls show McMullin surg­ing in his home state of Utah, where his fel­low Mor­mons are par­tic­u­larly re­pulsed by Trump. If McMullin wins there, he’s got a ticket to the Elec­toral Col­lege Ball.

So, if Clin­ton and Trump fall short of the 270 elec­toral votes needed to clinch — ad­mit­tedly a huge “if” given that pro­jec­tions show Clin­ton grab­bing as many as 341 — the de­ci­sion goes to the new House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives elected next month. The House will likely re­main Repub­li­can, but less so than it is now. Also key in this sce­nario: Each state votes as a sin­gle bloc — so Cal­i­for­nia and Rhode Is­land get one vote each.

I think I can skip a few steps and just as­sert that many rep­re­sen­ta­tives will refuse to vote for Trump or Clin­ton.

But what about McMullin? Here, the vanilla rule might ap­ply. Vanilla is one of the most pop­u­lar fla­vors in Amer­ica not be­cause it’s ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite, but be­cause it is the least ob­jec­tion­able to the great­est num­ber of peo­ple. There are prob­a­bly no Democrats who wouldn’t pre­fer McMullin to Trump. There are al­most cer­tainly no Repub­li­cans who wouldn’t pre­fer McMullin to Clin­ton. Pick­ing the least ob­jec­tion­able op­tion is of­ten the essence of states­man­ship. If 26 state del­e­ga­tions pick the least­bad op­tion, McMullin be­comes the first Mor­mon pres­i­dent.

Some would com­plain that this isn’t very demo­cratic. So what?

By our con­tem­po­rary stan­dards, the Found­ing Fa­thers dis­trusted democ­racy too much. But they had good rea­sons. If you think all ques­tions should be set­tled demo­crat­i­cally, let’s scrap the Bill of Rights, which el­e­vates our most fun­da­men­tal pri­or­i­ties out of the reach of vot­ers pretty much for­ever.

Some­times democ­racy steers us in bad di­rec­tions. For the founders, the so­lu­tion to such wrong turns wasn’t despo­tism, but con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism — and when re­quired, states­man­ship. Imag­ine that in the next few days there is an­other scan­dalous Wik­iLeaks dump in­volv­ing Clin­ton and an­other dev­as­tat­ing rev­e­la­tion about Trump that truly dis­qual­ify both from higher of­fice — but they still get mil­lions more votes than McMullin be­cause of early vot­ing and blind par­ti­san­ship.

Per­son­ally, I wouldn’t mind if the Elec­toral Col­lege re­jected them both and just picked McMullin as a mat­ter of con­science. But let’s say they toss the de­ci­sion to the House. The states­man­like (and bi­par­ti­san) op­tion is the least-worst al­ter­na­tive to a ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion, and ar­guably more demo­cratic, be­cause while fewer peo­ple will get their first choice, more peo­ple will get their sec­ond. Pro­vid­ing such an al­ter­na­tive is why McMullin de­cided to run for pres­i­dent in the first place.

Ob­vi­ously, the elec­tion ex­perts are 99.99 per­cent sure this sce­nario will never come to pass. The only rea­son for hope: 2016 laughs at the ex­perts.

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