Utah Senate race exposes ‘moral emptiness of today’s GOP’: analysis
Senator Mike Lee speaking with supporters of President of the United States Donald Trump at a "Make America Great Again" campaign rally in 2020. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The Senate race in Utah has exposed the "moral emptiness" in today's Republican Party, according to a new analysis.

The race between incumbent Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and independent challenger Evan McMullin, who was a Republican for most of his life and leans conservative on most issues, has essentially boiled their policy issues down a single flashpoint: the senator's involvement in Donald Trump's attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss, wrote The Bulwark columnist William Saletan.

"The Lee-McMullin race poses a difficult question: What exactly does the GOP stand for?" Saletan wrote. "Why should voters support a Republican senator against an opponent who agrees with him on policy but not on subverting democracy? If economic, moral, and foreign-policy conservatism no longer define the party, what does? What does it mean to be a Republican in 2022, beyond conspiring — or defending others who have conspired — to overturn elections when your party doesn’t win?"

"McMullin is discovering that there are answers to that question," he added. "And they’re ugly."

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Lee has gotten a recent boost from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has hurled smears at McMullin to distract from Lee's participation in Trump's fake electors scheme, and both he and the senator have dishonestly described the former president's attempt to remain in power and their own complicity.

"Lee and Carlson are lying," Saletan wrote. "Lee’s text messages show his extensive efforts, prior to Jan. 6, to find a way to replace [Joe] Biden electors with Trump electors. And contrary to Carlson’s denial, most House Republicans did vote to overturn the election on Jan. 6. States had already reviewed and certified their results. The Electoral College had voted. The whole point of objecting to the electoral votes at that stage, two weeks before Inauguration Day, was, as numerous lawmakers admitted, to reverse the outcome."

McMullin is trailing Lee in polls by only a few percentage points, with many voters still undecided, but his campaign has revealed a dark truth.

"But what’s more dismaying in the smears against McMullin is the moral emptiness of today’s GOP," Saletan wrote. "A candidate who’s conservative on spending, values, and national security is under attack for courting Democrats, being unmarried in his thirties, refusing to vilify Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, affirming that Black lives matter, and acknowledging that House Republicans tried to overturn the last election."

"In 2022, these are the taboos that define the Republican party," he added. "Win or lose, McMullin has exposed them."