What debate moderators should be asking

The October 14 debate between senator and pastor Raphael Warnock and former NFL running back great Herschel Walker covered a number of issues — inflation, abortion, student loans, the minimum wage, etc.  The debate was hosted by the largest television broadcaster in the nation, Nexstar Media Group.

At 11 minutes, 30 seconds into the debate, a moderator asked Walker (also asked of Blake Masters, at 39:35, in his debate with Mark Kelly) if Pres. Biden won in 2020.

Before we get to Walker's answer, let us recognize that this is an improper question.  It is a question of fact, and one Walker has no special authority in answering.  Like the rest of us, Walker cannot "know" who really won the election.  As vote fraud is a crime that is not necessarily discovered, we cannot say that with certainty for any election.  All we can say is whether we accept the results or not.

Secondly, let us recognize that this question arose not out of a vacuum, but from a number of concerns that arose in the 2020 election, including Georgia, that led to doubts about that election's legitimacy. 

According to a recent poll for Newsweek, such concerns have led 40% of eligible voters to believe that the 2020 election was rigged or stolen — and that does not mean that 60% believe that it wasn't.  By the poll, only 36% believe that it wasn't stolen — with 23% neither agreeing or disagreeing, or saying they do not know.  One third of that 36% — 12% of all respondents — think doubts about the election are "understandable."

Combining that 12% with the 40% asserting such doubts, you have not simply a plurality, but a majority expressing doubt or finding doubt understandable.  Yet the question was put to Walker with zero reference to any such doubt, or the causes (such as those listed by a leading voter integrity organization in the state, VoterGa.org) of it. 

Ideally (with the benefit of time for reflection), Walker's answer could have been, "There are questions about the election.  I don't know the answers.  But under our legal process, Joe Biden was found to be the winner.  I don't know if our process worked or not, there are certainly issues about that that have been raised.  But it is our process, and, based on it, I must accept Joe Biden as the winner."

Instead, Walker answered, "Pres.  Biden won..."

But the moderator was not done.  "Gentlemen," she asked "yes or no: Sen.  Warnock, yes or no, regardless of who wins in November, will you accept the outcome?"

(This was the same question put to J.D. Vance, at 50:20, in his debate with Tim Ryan.)

This is a question that not only doesn't mention the circumstances that have led to the doubts about 2020, but presumes that they are without merit — and that any doubts about 2022 will be without merit as well, and will be an insufficient basis for challenging election results. 

Why is this a "yes or no" question?  Why does it exclude any consideration of concerns that arose in 2020?  This is less a question than it is a command to "kiss the ring."

To such a question, if Walker said no, he would have been demonized by the media.  He (as did Vance) said yes.  If serious voter fraud issues do arise, he cannot challenge them without breaking his word.

In Pres. Biden's Union Station speech of  November 2, he said,

I hope you'll ask a simple question of each candidate you might vote for.  Will that person accept the legitimate will of the American people and of the people voting in his district or her district? Will that person accept the outcome of the election, win or lose?

What a coincidence.

Pres. Biden notwithstanding, such questions are the wrong ones to be asking.  Instead of asking whether voter fraud has occurred, we should be asking something else.  We should be asking about what we can know not after the election, but prior to it.  We should be asking whether our electoral system is as secure against such fraud as it can reasonably be.

Toward that question, it has long been recognized by persons and organizations that include Jimmy Carter and the New York Times that the greatest source of fraud comes from absentee voting.  This is not to suggest we eliminate such voting, but it is to suggest that we restrict it to those who request it and have no other alternatives, as opposed to those for whom it is simply more convenient. 

In such regard, we need to consider the possibility that Pres. Biden was elected by virtue of voter fraud.  Was the convenience worth it?

In his speech cited above, Pres. Biden alleged that "election-deniers" constitute a threat to democracy.  His answer has been to harass, suppress, and imprison such deniers.  There is a better way, which is to reduce the vulnerability to fraud in the electoral system to the extent possible (considerations of convenience and voter turnout notwithstanding).

But that, of course, is a job not for Pres. Biden, but for the states, either legislatively or acting in in reliance on their own state constitutions regarding election integrity and in reliance on Article 4 §4 of the U.S.  Constitution.  (Such courts need not order such a process, but might order special, optimally secure elections in which such reforms might be adopted.)  Given optimally secure electoral systems, "election-deniers" would have the least grounds for suspicion and no legislative or judicial objective to strive for.  That, and that alone, will end the true threat to democracy, and that is where political debate moderators should be directing their questions.

Hat tip to William Sullivan's American Thinker post, "The Big Lie about 'The Big Lie.'"

Image via Pickpik.

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