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Talk Show Host Explains Why He's Choosing An Independent Candidate


Erick Erickson is on the line. He's a writer and radio host in Georgia and one of the conservatives who has abandoned Donald Trump this year. He's backing a third-party candidate, Evan McMullin. We're going to talk about that and the future of the Republican Party. Mr. Erickson, welcome back to the program.

ERICK ERICKSON: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: I got to ask it because people say it. Are you throwing your vote away?

ERICKSON: You know, I - no, I'm not. I'm actually going to vote for someone who I want to vote for, as opposed to what many Americans are doing - going in and voting against someone.

INSKEEP: Although, someone who doesn't have much of a chance of winning - Evan McMullin isn't even on the ballot in most states.

ERICKSON: Correct. He is a write-in candidate in most states. In some states, he's actually on the ballot. But, you know, everyone's been saying, I've got to vote for the lesser of two evils. I find Evan McMullin to be an alternative to voting for evil.

INSKEEP: You know, it's funny. FiveThirtyEight, the prognosticating website, had a scenario where Evan McMullin could win. He could win in Utah, where he's doing well. And he's actually on the ballot. And then he - if there's some kind of deadlock that gets thrown into the House of Representatives in the Electoral College, maybe he'd somehow win that. (Laughter) So it's not like the chance is zero. But come on.

ERICKSON: Oh, it's definitely a long shot. But I've always voted for president. I don't want to leave it blank. But I also don't want to go vote for someone because I dislike the other person. I actually like Evan McMullin. He stepped up to the plate as an alternative independent Republican.

And I mean, I'm proud of somebody for finally stepping up. There were so many people who thought about doing it and lacked the courage to do it. And here comes this guy. And he worked for the CIA overseas in Afghanistan, worked for the House Republicans. He is a Republican. And he went to the same business school as Donald Trump and had better grades.

INSKEEP: Are you helping to elect Hillary Clinton?

ERICKSON: You know, no. Donald Trump is helping to elect Hillary Clinton. The moment he became the Republican nominee, everything that's happening right now was foreseeable. In fact, in February, I was writing that, come October, all these skeletons would come out of the closet.

INSKEEP: Did you - were you disappointed that Republicans didn't find the skeletons during the primary campaign?

ERICKSON: Yes. What on earth were the opposition researchers doing? Now, I do agree with Tim Miller. Some of these things did come out during the campaign. But Republicans made an emotional choice because they were so mad at Washington, D.C. And oftentimes, emotional choices - they turn out to be holes in the wall you have to patch. And Donald Trump is a hole in the wall.

INSKEEP: Tim Miller, of course, is one of the Republican operatives that we heard from elsewhere in the program today. I'd like to know. Were you a Republican formally before? And are you still a Republican?

ERICKSON: I was an elected Republican, no less. Listen. If Donald Trump is the standard bearer for the Republican Party, I don't know that I am a Republican. I believe in free trade and limited government and oppose the idea that one strong man in Washington can fix everything. I don't believe it's true.

If Donald Trump goes away, and the Republican Party rebuilds itself and stands again for limited government and personal responsibility, then, yes, I'll be a Republican. Otherwise, I'm going to have to find somewhere else.

INSKEEP: You know, there's something more than Donald Trump going on here. We don't know if Donald Trump is going to win or lose the presidency. We don't know, if he loses the presidency, if he walks away from politics or still has a place in politics.

But regardless of what he does, there's a media infrastructure that has supported him to varying degrees. The website Breitbart comes to mind. And there's a lot of other sites. There's a way of thinking that is going to persist here in Republican circles on the conservative side of the argument.

ERICKSON: Well, I think Republicans first have to acknowledge there are valid reasons for why Donald Trump gains support in rural communities across America that feel like they're losing control on concerns of immigration. There are legitimate reasons.

But he also fanned the flames of white nationalism in the country. And I think those are very bad things. I don't think that's the majority of his supporters. I don't think his majority of supporters are a basket of deplorables.

But the Republicans are going to have to address the valid concerns of people who feel ignored by Washington in order to get them back and make Donald Trump go away completely.

INSKEEP: Can a crushing defeat be good for the Republican Party?

ERICKSON: To a degree, yes. If there's a crushing defeat, those people like myself, for example, can't be blamed for Donald Trump losing. And I think people can see that - a majority of Americans repudiating.

I was a political consultant for a while and always told candidates, be sure you're in the majority even when you think you're right because, a lot of times, people think they are in the majority when they're in the minority. They think everyone agrees with them because their friends do. And they don't.

People need to see that most Americans don't have the same grievances as those who supported Donald Trump. And therefore, it didn't translate into a viable candidacy.

INSKEEP: Fairly or not, no matter how much Donald Trump loses - if he loses - people like you will be blamed, don't you think?

ERICKSON: Oh, absolutely.

INSKEEP: There's going to be a betrayal narrative that's going to be out there.

ERICKSON: Yes, absolutely. It's already starting to build from a number of people, including friends of mine. And if that hangs around my neck, that's fine. Donald Trump is a terrible candidate. And I will proudly tell my children I did not vote for someone like that, whose words I can't even repeat to them.

INSKEEP: You've lost friends over this?

ERICKSON: I have. I've actually had Donald Trump supporters show up at my house to yell at me and have had people yell at my kids in the grocery store that their dad was destroying America by not supporting him. But they understand. And they agree with me.

INSKEEP: Erick Erickson, thanks very much. Pleasure talking with you.

ERICKSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Erick Erickson is the founder of the conservative website The Resurgent and radio host. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.