Earlier today I discussed the establishmentarian habit of dismissing politicians with unorthodox-for-Washington policy views as insufficiently "serious," no matter how many mistakes the Very Serious People have made or supported over the years. Right on cue, #NeverTrump favorite Evan McMullin, the ex-CIA/Goldman Sachs character favored by the Bill Kristols of the world, has seized on Gary Johnson's Aleppo blunder by telling CNN this afternoon that Johnson is "not a serious candidate." Excerpt:
He has no knowledge of foreign policy. He spends his time advocating for legalized prostitution and for a drug culture here in America, rather than dealing with problems that are really big, like our economy and national security and government reform….Gary Johnson just is not a serious candidate. What we really need to be talking about is Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
A few notes on "seriousness":
* Johnson is on 49 state ballots plus Washington, D.C., and is expecting to achieve ballot access in Rhode Island any day, which would give him theoretical access to all 538 Electoral College votes. McMullin's name is reportedly on nine state ballots, which between them account for 71 electoral votes.
* Johnson has consistently polled around 9 percent all summer, avoiding the typical third-party fade, and representing the best outsider polling results since Ross Perot in 1992. McMullin has registered a blip on exactly one national poll, a one percent showing late last month by PPP.
* McMullin believes that the U.S. military is "on a path to almost $1 trillion in cuts compared to projected needs," and his website's "national security" page has nothing to say about interventions, current deployments, or really anything having to do with foreign policy.
* Gary Johnson does not, as a matter of fact, spend his time "advocating for legalized prostitution." The question quite obviously makes him uncomfortable. And I have never heard the Libertarian not emphasize "our economy and national security and government reform." He talks about that stuff more than he does about legalizing weed, in my experience.
I suspect McMullin's real problems with Johnson, aside from trailing him so badly, is that he has different ideas about the policies they both care about. Which is obviously the point of political competition. But by resorting to the "serious" card, the Great #NeverTrumper Hope not only subjects himself to unflattering comparisons, he demonstrates that old establishment habits die hard even in the absence of power.