Quote of the Day:
There is, of course, no alternative to accepting the results in November—peacefully—whatever they might be. Without the rule of law, we have nothing. The moderator’s other sins last night are at least arguable and negotiable; other moderators have done worse. But, for that atrocious final question, Holt, you’re fired.
–Paul Beston in City Journal
NBC's Lester Holt, who was moderator for Monday's presidential debate, asked a final question that has received insufficient comment. Paul Beston of City Journal does comment:
For me, Holt’s lowest moment came at the end. “One of you will not win this election,” he said. “So my final question to you tonight, are you willing to accept the outcome as the will of the voters?” Clinton responded with pieties about believing in the democratic system and supporting the election results. Trump bloviated for a few moments about illegal immigration, then said that he, too, would support the results of the election.
The candidates should have responded by asking Holt how he could even pose such a question. In primary campaigns, candidates are often asked whether they will support the party’s nominee, if they don’t win the nod themselves. That question implies acceptance of the outcome; the only matter at issue is whether the jilted candidate will get behind his rival, a dilemma of conscience with no legal significance. The implication of Holt’s question, by contrast, is that some alternative exists to accepting the will of the voters in an American presidential election—like, say, legal challenge, political resistance, or organized rebellion.
To even pose this question assumes that the U.S. has made a final descent into banana republic status. Yes, we had a recount when it was unclear whether George W. Bush and Al Gore had carried Florida. But this wasn't resistance or rebellion. It was recounting to find out which man had won the state (though arguably it poisoned the political atmosphere for years).
This has, as Beston points out, been an unusual campaign season, with Americans seeing low points in the debates and decorum we never thought to witness. But Holt's question almost implies that our very republic has evaporated. Beston writes:
Still, it’s at least plausible that such rhetoric is the overheated result of an overheated campaign that has smashed through one barrier of decorum after another. (What presidential debate before last night’s saw one candidate calling the other a racist? What debate before last night’s brought Rosie O’Donnell into the conversation?) There is no justification for giving it additional reinforcement. Holt’s question elevated both sides’ most fevered warnings to legitimate discussion: let’s consider what extra-legal means you might take, should you not get your way at the ballot box.
One campaign will be broken-hearted when the results are final in November, but, despite Holt's almost incitement, the results will be accepted. To imply otherwise, to ask the two major candidates this question, implies that the orderly transition of power, the cornerstone of our system, is no longer.