This Republican Feminist Is Donald Trump's Worst Nightmare

Photo: Courtesy of the McMullin/Finn campaign.
Mindy Finn is running for vice president as an independent candidate with Evan McMullin. Both are Republicans who felt they could not support Donald Trump.
Mindy Finn wasn't planning on running for vice president of the United States this fall — or ever.

But for several years, the Republican strategist worried that her party had a "problem with women" — and it was getting worse.

"It was a fear that I had that if the party continued to go in that direction, it would be a party that would leave many women behind who might otherwise share its values," Finn said. "That fear became a nightmare when Donald Trump rose into prominence and ultimately won the primary."

But the 35-year-old nonprofit founder, former Twitter executive, and veteran of the George W. Bush and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns, said she would never vote for Hillary Clinton, either. So, what was a #NeverTrump and a #NeverHillary voter like Finn to do? Her answer was to run for the White House herself.

In early October, former CIA agent and independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin announced Finn would be his running mate. McMullin had decided to run for president himself just 89 days before Election Day, writing that, "It's never too late to do the right thing."

Since then, the ticket has managed to get on the ballot in 11 states and as write-in candidates in 32 others. They're crisscrossing the West in an effort to win at least a few key states that could stop Trump and perhaps even Clinton. Finn spoke with Refinery29 from the campaign trail in Utah.
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I was on my first day of really campaigning and immediately got pulled into the whirlwind that was swirling around that [2005 Trump] video and its aftermath.

Mindy Finn, independent candidate for vice president
How would you describe Donald Trump in five words?
"Unrestrained. Authoritative. Dishonest. Reckless. Disrespectful."

There's been a lot of discussion about the GOP's relationship with women this election cycle. What do you want young women to know about the Republican Party as a young woman yourself?
"In my view, the party is one that, when it’s standing on constitutional principles, that we are all equal — all men, all women, all races, all religions, people of no faith at all — that this is what makes America strong. We all have the same inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There’s no one in this race, certainly not Donald Trump, that is standing for those things. So, if the party doesn’t strongly repudiate Trump — and I think they should have strongly repudiated him from the beginning — I don’t see how that party can reform. Either he is strongly repudiated, or about 30 to 40% of the party breaks away — a lot of those being young women who don’t want any part of a party that normalizes actions and words that glorify sexual assault."
Photo: Courtesy of the McMullin/Finn campaign.
Prior to joining the ticket with McMullin, Finn was running the nonprofit she founded, Empowered Women.
Where were you, and what went through your mind, when you heard the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women?
"It was really interesting and fortuitous timing because I had just joined the ticket with Evan McMullin and agreed to be his vice presidential running mate. Our announcement came out on the Thursday, and then that Friday is when the tape came out.

"We were getting a bunch of attention because we were now a full ticket, and there was a woman joining on the ticket, which is really representative of our message and what we stand for. Suddenly, we had people really turning to us and wanting to know what our response to this was. There were more people within the party rejecting Donald Trump and his behavior, saying that they couldn’t associate with somebody who spoke so flippantly and boastfully about assaulting women. I was on my first day of really campaigning and immediately got pulled into the whirlwind that was swirling around that video and its aftermath."
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We don’t have the private jets that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have, so we’re flying commercial and taking Uber at times.

Mindy Finn, independent vice presidential candidate
Do you think Republican lawmakers went far enough in repudiating him and calling these comments what they were?
“No, I don’t. I’m pleased that many lawmakers were willing to stand up and say that his actions and behavior were wrong. At that time (and it seems like a long time ago now), some called on him to step down, and some revoked their endorsements. I think they were attempting to make really strong moves. The problem is, they were speaking out about what they were against, but they still weren’t saying what they were for.

"Many of those lawmakers have now gone back and said they are endorsing Trump or that they’re voting for him, which is the same thing. It’s almost as if they have forgotten that moment — which was just a month out from the election — when they themselves stood up and said, ‘We can’t stand for behavior and rhetoric that is so demeaning to women.’ So, I don’t think they went far enough."
Photo: Courtesy of the McMullin/Finn campaign.
Vice presidential candidate Mindy Finn with her husband, David, and two children, Max and Nathan.
In your mind, is this the end of the Republican Party as we know it or a time for reformation?
"Evan McMullin and I worked within the Republican Party because we saw that as the best vehicle for conservative principles that we hold dear — mainly foundational, constitutional principles, and the notion that we are all entitled to the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Republican Party is failing to uphold those values…In supporting Trump, they’re normalizing somebody who mimics murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, and Bashar al-Assad.

"I see this going one of two ways post-election. One is that [the] party at large…anyone who has credibility within the party, as well as those who vote for the party, make a full-throated argument that racism, sexism, and religious bigotry have no part in the party. So, that’s one path. The other path is that the party literally breaks apart, and a huge portion of that party, many of those people who are now voting for our ticket, form a new conservative movement and potentially a new political party. That’s how I see this going.

"I would like to see the former happen. It would kind of retain the traditions of the party of Lincoln, and I think it’s a smarter path and it’s an easier climb. But I am very skeptical that that will occur because most leaders within the party have not shown the courage or had the backbone to stand up strongly against bigotry throughout this election."
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In supporting Trump, they’re normalizing somebody who mimics murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, and Bashar al-Assad.

Mindy Finn, independent vice presidential candidate
Do you think the people who refuse to stand up for the traditional Republican values and against bigotry and sexism are to blame for Donald Trump?
"Partially. The train had already left the station in some regard. I don’t know that they could have stopped him, but I think this was a problem that was brewing before Donald Trump. There weren’t many Trump-like members of the Republican Party in its leadership. But they failed to stand on principle and [failed to do] outreach to communities that may not have typically identified with Republicanism, like college-educated women, professional women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims. It’s not just [that] they failed to reach out to them, because it’s not just about showing you care. It’s actually caring. It’s valuing and respecting all, believing in human dignity for all.

"Hindsight is 20/20. I certainly watched in frustration — and at times, in horror — Republican leaders. Trump had a constitutional right to run, they couldn’t have stopped that, and voters have a constitutional right to support him. But in terms of what the party represents and if they were looking to the future, in my view, they would have stood up strongly early on in repudiating his racist, sexist language."

There are still men who believe that if they are rich and they are powerful and they are celebrities, they can prey upon and take advantage of women.

Mindy Finn, independent vice presidential candidate
What's your strategy? You and Evan are both #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary. Why is that still an important voice to have just days before Election Day?
"During the debates, there were many exchanges where essentially these two candidates were arguing over who was less corrupt. We need better leadership in this country. We represent, and our ticket represents, a new generation of leadership.

"When Evan got into this race, it was a close race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and the goal — recognizing that it was a moon-shot goal — the goal was to block them both. That if the race [was] very close, then neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would get to 270 electoral votes, and that by winning a state or two, that Evan and our ticket could block them both.

"As we’re looking at it today, the race is not close. Hillary Clinton is beating Donald Trump in pretty much every poll. In the Electoral College projections, she is dominating him. So that scenario is looking less likely. So we always had another goal, too — and that goal was to show that there are people willing to stand on principle, and stand up when it mattered most. To represent this new generation of leadership, to give people a ticket they could vote for and be proud of. And that’s what we hear on the trail all the time."
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During the debates, there were many exchanges where essentially these two candidates were arguing over who was less corrupt. We need better leadership in this country.

Mindy Finn, independent vice presidential candidate
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
"I do consider myself a feminist. Conservative women are split on this, as many of them feel that the term feminist has been hijacked by a liberal and far-left policy agenda. I don’t subscribe to that agenda, certainly not in full. But my view of feminism is that women should be empowered to make the choices that are best for them, and that nothing should limit you simply because you are a woman. I’m really proud to be a woman, and of all the things that I am uniquely able to do and experience because I am female.

"My view is a pretty optimistic view that women in this country are empowered in ways that we have never been before, certainly professionally. Through technology, we have access to information and opportunities and connections that we didn’t previously. It’s allowed us to strive and achieve that fulfilled life we’re going for. But there’s still some work to do. You see that in this election, that there is work to do. There are still men who believe that if they are rich and they are powerful and they are celebrities, they can prey upon and take advantage of women."
Speaking as probably one of the few candidates on this campaign who has two young children, how do you balance that and also take care of yourself with the rigors of your schedule?
"That’s a good question. I was not planning to run for vice president this year, or ever, so I didn’t have a lot of time to put together a plan or strategy for those things. I was asked to join a little over a month out from the election. So, it certainly is a grueling process. We’re working at a breakneck pace. We don’t have the private jets that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have, so we’re flying commercial and taking Uber at times. So it’s not as convenient.

"It’s a challenge. I love being with my family and my children. They’re my first priority. I had set up my career so that I did have a good balance with those things, like flexible hours. And it’s just not possible in a campaign. I’m away from them most of the time now. I would only be taking this time away from my family and sacrificing my own well-being — because it’s not a healthy lifestyle on the trail — if I believed that what I was doing was critically important. And I know it’s critically important. This was the right thing to do. Somebody had to do it."

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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