Unlike Romney, Evan McMullin stands tall against Trump
© Getty Images

After almost a month on since the fateful vote of Nov. 8 which sent real estate mogul Donald Trump to the presidency, it is fair to ask who remains standing in opposition in both or either party.

We may take House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at her word that "I don't think that people want a new direction." And it might be fair to say that Democrats at large are not ready to make a turning and will return again to the past and to the Clintons.


In fact, Republicans may have the advantage today as they have broken with the old families first — and broken first with the old century and the old millennium — and are ready to begin again. The Trump presidency may suggest such a start but very likely will not bring the one his supporters anticipate.

There are three among them upon whom the future was linked; three who challenged Trump existentially and staked their careers, their good fortune and honor in opposition.

There are others, like Republican Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE of Arizona, but three have taken a stand and until the election stood fast in opposition: Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, whose future is still bright; former 2008 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is said to be under consideration for secretary of State in a Trump administration; and former CIA operative Evan McMullin, who ran for president as an independent with a standalone classical conservative approach.

The Boston Herald reports that Romney may no longer be a favorite to helm the State Department in the Trump administration.

"Whether or not he becomes a member of the Trump administration, he has worked to mend fences and re-establish ties with the president-elect," said GOP strategist Ryan Williams, a chief campaign aide for Romney in 2012, according to the Herald's report. "He'll be someone that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE can call if he needs advice or counsel."

But should fences be mended? Is this a good move on Romney's part?

Is it good for America?

Given the horrible things he said about Trump, should he ever have accepted the interview with Trump for the job in the first place?

Isn't Romney being set up? Did Romney ever watch "The Apprentice"?

Romney's life and career came down to one moment: The moment of opposition to a rising presidency in which it was widely suggested would challenge our American condition as we had known it from the beginning and in a way that it had never been challenged before.

Romney had said that someone, presumably someone young and brave, should bring the challenge to Trump on behalf of the tradition.

But why would it not be Romney himself, paleoconservative columnist Pat Buchanan had asked?

It was Romney's moment. And it may be fair to say today that his moment has passed, although there is still time for him to recuse himself from consideration for the distinguished post Trump dangles before him.

This is something which might be considered by those Republicans who already appear to be on board with the Trump administration like Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), Trump's pick for ambassador to the U.N., or Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus, Trump's future White House chief of staff: Is this the right thing to do?

Or will American time and history lock them out as collaborators and appeasers?

Today, it might be said, McMullin's moment may have arrived. He states his view directly in what might even be considered a manifesto in The New York Times. In this critical historic turning, McMullin's approach might be seen to be as relevant as a standard of principles nailed to the door of a church was to an earlier era.

For there is deep cause for concern, he writes: "Mr. Trump's erroneous proclamation also suggested that he lacked even an interest in the Constitution. Worse, his campaign rhetoric had demonstrated authoritarian tendencies."

Perhaps America no longer cares. Said here earlier, this was not a race between the views of Hamilton and Jefferson as we have experienced in our republic since first days.

It was one more deeply influenced by pop star Lady Gaga and NFL quarterback Tom Brady.

"There is little indication that anything has changed since Election Day," McMullin writes. "Last week, Mr. Trump commented on Twitter that flag-burning should be punished by jailing and revocation of citizenship. As someone who has served this country, I carry no brief for flag-burners, but I defend their free-speech right to protest — a right guaranteed under the First Amendment. Although I suspect that Mr. Trump's chief purpose was to provoke his opponents, his action was consistent with the authoritarian playbook he uses."

In our nation, power is shared, he says, checked and balanced precisely to thwart would-be autocrats: "But as we become desensitized to the notion that Mr. Trump is the ultimate authority, we may attribute less importance to the laws, norms and principles that uphold our system of government, which protects our rights. Most dangerously, we devalue our own worth and that of our fellow Americans."

McMullin should be listened to and taken seriously as he comes to us at a time in which the past is behind us, but the future still hides itself behind its veil. As if we are in one of those historic turnstiles which occur periodically, every 80 years or so.

And when we come out the other side, there may only be two options: the enterprise of Donald Trump or the republic of Evan McMullin.

Bernie Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at quigley1985@gmail.com.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.