After speaking with Mindy Finn, I have one simple question: why haven't Republicans put her front and center of their party? Actually, make that two questions because there's a natural follow-up query considering that Finn is independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin's running mate: Will the Republican party even have the opportunity to put Finn front and center, or will she and other young, conservative-minded women jump ship after this election?
Before joining McMullin's campaign, Finn spent years building an impressive Republican resume. She's worked with George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, and she was named by POLITICO as one of the "50 Politicos to Watch" in 2011 at the ripe old age of 30. Born in 1981, Finn is on the cusp of being considered a millennial herself.
Finn is also an entrepreneur, founding multiple enterprises, including Empowered Women, a non-profit that, according to its website, seeks to be a "positive, proactive platform that celebrates women as individuals who deserve an equal opportunity to live a fulfilled life as they define it."
While Finn stresses to me that Empowered Women is bipartisan, she also says she hoped to make the Republican party more appealing for women. "I wanted to nudge the right and the Republican party along to put women's concerns and women's voices more front and center in the political landscape," she tells me, admitting it was "challenging" and that "there were barriers.
Still, prior to the 2016 presidential election, Finn says she was proud and pleased to be a part of the GOP, advancing its leaders and goals. "I would say, working in the party, I always felt very welcomed — certainly throughout my twenties — welcomed and supported and valued," Finn tells me.
However, she believe that has changed. "I think the party has really veered. It has stopped caring about being a party that stood on conservative principles that worked for and were appealing to all, and it doubled down on appealing to its base that is largely male and largely white."
Unsurprisingly, the prime catalyst for Finn's decision to join McMullin on his independent run — and potentially leave the party she has loyally worked to advance for over a decade — is none other than Donald Trump.
"Donald Trump is unique. He speaks and acts and stands for things that most Republicans didn't prior to the cycle," Finn says. "But, by many of those leaders getting on board with Donald Trump, failing to repudiate him, failing to make a full-throated argument against racism, sexism and religious bigotry, they've allowed Donald Trump to mainstream views that are not conservative for any kind of conservatism that I was part of, and are certainly dangerous for the country."
"When you're younger and you're working within the party, you try to trust that your leaders care and that they're doing what's in the best interest of the party. I've come to seriously doubt that."
There's the obvious reason why it's quite bad for Republicans to lose Finn: she is young, and she's a woman — which means she represents two demographics the GOP is losing faster than you can say "Trump-Pence."
However, it would be a disservice to boil Finn down to her age and sex and make it seem as if the real shame in the Republicans potentially losing her for good is that she checks the necessary demographic boxes. No, Finn's true strength for the GOP is that she is so adroit at arguing why traditionally Democratic-leaning groups should embrace politically conservative values.
Finn officially joined Evan McMullin's campaign as his running mate on Oct. 6.
"In parties they talk a lot about outreach and how to reach out to different communities. Outreach is one component. The party certainly needs to do a better job of that. But, beyond outreach, it's not just saying you care. It's showing you care," Finn explains when I ask her how Republicans can stop seeming like the party of old white men. "It's showing that you value and respect women, Hispanics, African Americans, and people of all faiths and people with no faith at all. When you make policy, then you consider all those groups."
Finn explains how, for example, she thinks a truly conservative party could win over African-American voters by "having an agenda that's focused on criminal justice reform, that doesn't just lock people up for petty crimes ... and have them locked up for life and torn away from their families." In addition, she says she'd push for "anti-poverty programs, programs that don't just focus on how do we help people in poverty survive poverty, but how do we help them get out of it."
"I have my views and other people have their views, but I think there's a lot of room to work on things."
When I ask specifically why she thinks millennial women should vote for conservative politicians, Finn makes an economic pitch.
"I'm an entrepreneur. I have started my own business," Finn says. "Women are starting small businesses at a faster rate than men. Having a fair and reformed tax code that allows them to grow their business and to employ people is really pretty attractive, particularly in this economy."
She also argues that entitlement reform, such as with our social security system, should be a top issue for millennial women, even though, as she admits it "isn't the sexiest topic."
"The people of our generation are paying into them [entitlement programs] and really have no hope of ever receiving it," Finn says. "That does impact young women. ... You don't want to be paying for something you're not going to receive."
Moreover, especially in this age of stand-still political gridlock, it is not just refreshing but striking to listen to Finn speak about forging paths towards the middle ground with people who don't agree with her.
For example, Finn is pro-life, but also says she believes there are ways to work with pro-choice advocates.
"In terms of abortion, for example, I think there's a lot of room to work together across right and left. We're a divided nation on that issue. I have my views and other people have their views, but I think there's a lot of room to work on things." Specifically, Finn brings up making adoption easier, as well as "preventing unintended pregnancies and [increasing] access to contraceptives. Those are things that I think, if we were able to not just be in our partisan politically combative camps, we can find common cause on."
Finn with McMullin at a campaign event in Utah.
During the primaries, Finn says she worked to stop Trump from winning the nomination. "I saw him patently unfit from when he announced his candidacy, but certainly when he started to speak in the election and disrespect and denigrate pretty much every group in the country that doesn't look like him," she tells me, adding that she "had hoped that Republicans would stop him at the convention."
Despite a brief but memorable showing by "Never Trump" delegates in Cleveland on the first day of the convention, Republican critics of Trump were out of luck. Less than a month later, McMullin, a former Republican strategist and CIA operative, announced he was running for president as an independent, the alternative that conservatives had been seeking.
"We also have to get beyond this lesser of two evils arguments. ... If we continue to vote that way, we will continue to get leaders that are unsatisfactory and that we don't believe best represent America."
"I knew there was an effort underway to find somebody else, who could run and potentially do this moonshot strategy of trying to block both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump from receiving 270 electoral votes and send the election to the House," Finn says. "Many people turned down that opportunity — former Republican presidential nominees, senators, congressmen, generals, wealthy business people, people who already had a network and a strong name ID. I thought no one was going to step up and when Evan did I was impressed by that."
Finn speaking to the press at a campaign event.
While McMullin's candidacy drew interest, it also sparked head-scratching over why a formerly unknown man would throw his hat into the ring so late in the game that he couldn't even get his name on the ballot in the majority of states. When I spoke to McMullin in August, even he admitted, "I wish it had been done before. I wish it had been done by somebody with national name ID. But it didn't happen, so it needed to happen."
McMullin was unequivocally late to the presidential game — and he tapped Finn as his running mate less than five weeks before Election Day. (In fact, it says Nathan Johnson is his running mate on ballots because he was an initial placeholder.) But what could be seen as a helter-skelter, mom-and-pop presidential campaign may be getting the last laugh.
"Somebody is going to need to run for office as part of that movement and that may be me and Evan, or it may be others. Or it may be all of us."
Yes, it is still highly unlikely McMullin and Finn will make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, considering the duo's high popularity in Utah and Trump's high unpopularity in the ruby red state, there's an extremely plausible chance the campaign will make history. McMullin could very well become the first non-major party presidential candidate to pick up votes in the Electoral College by winning Utah. For what it's worth, Jonathan Walczak at The Hill argued McMullin could become the president, if neither Clinton nor Trump hits 270 electoral votes.
Finn with her husband, David Feinberg, and their two sons, Max and Nathan.
Because her ticket may take Utah from Trump and other would-be Republican votes, Finn has been faced with many variations of the "spoiler" or "wasted vote" question: is voting for her and McMullin a wasted vote or just spoiling things for the Republican nominee?
"My message on that is that nobody is entitled to your vote. Your vote is yours alone. It's your voice," Finn tells me. "You would be wasting your vote to vote for somebody that you don't support and you don't believe in. We also have to get beyond this lesser of two evils arguments. ... If we continue to vote that way, we will continue to get leaders that are unsatisfactory and that we don't believe best represent America."
Finn predicts two potential outcomes for the current Republican party: "I think it goes one of two ways. One is that they're able to in a wholesale way able to repudiate the bigotry of Donald Trump and the authoritarianism of Donald Trump, and kind of get back to its ways," she explains. "Or, the party will break apart and there will be a new party or a fraction of the party that thinks like me and I can feel comfortable to be a part of."
If it goes the latter route, Finn may be in a prime spot to take the reins of this new party (or movement, or whatever you want to call it). Finn says she does not currently have any post-Election Day plans to run for office — but she's certainly not ruling it out of the question.
"I'm just focused on Nov. 8 and the movement. Really building a movement is what interests me," Finn says. "But, somebody is going to need to run for office as part of that movement and that may be me and Evan, or it may be others. Or it may be all of us."
Images: Evan McMullin for President press kit (3)