Theory Proven: Brewer Debate Conclusively Shows That “90 Percent of Success is Just Showing Up”

For years, political scientists have marveled at the new “strength” of candidates in being viewed as not too smart or educated. It is sometimes called the “beer test” associated with polls of George Bush who would make embarrassing mistakes only to go up in the polls as being more personally likable for voters. Sarah Palin expanded on this notion by attacking those who are well educated and shrugging off problems with geography, history, or grammar. However, the Arizona debate between Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Terry Goddard is a particularly fascinating example of the syndrome.

By any measure, Brewer’s performance was viewed as horrific by experts from this excruciating beginning to the merciful end. The result? She has received a sizable bump in the polls: with a lead of 22 points. She is now at 60 percent over Goddard’s 38 percent. It makes one think that, if she simply became distracted by a shiny object and stayed transfixed and speechless, she would get near unanimity with the public. Indeed, given the long gap at the start, these polls would suggest that Palin is too conservative in her “smart words don’t matter” theory. In fact, words don’t matter. You are better off without words by giving a series of grunts and foot stomping. I can only imagine what the reaction of today’s voters would have to Adlai Stevenson or Daniel Webster. Indeed, preps for debate are likely to have handlers screaming “too smooth,” “too insightful,” and “dumb it down” to hit the right level of common appeal.

I would love to hear from my political science colleagues on this trend.

This has nothing to do with the politics or policies in the race. I know little about Goddard, who seems to running hard to beat the write in vote. However, what is interesting is the disconnect between the performance in the debate and the post-debate bump. This proves Woody Allen’s advice that “90% of success is just showing up.”

Source: State Column

Jonathan Turley

24 thoughts on “Theory Proven: Brewer Debate Conclusively Shows That “90 Percent of Success is Just Showing Up””

  1. Buddha,

    It’s usually the comedians who get it right. Right??? They know how to cut to the quick of the matter.

    I wish Carlin was still with us today panning politicians–and the public.

  2. “Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: ‘The Public Sucks. F*ck Hope.'” – George Carlin

  3. “if she simply became distracted by a shiny object and stayed transfixed and speechless …”

    Sorry, couldn’t help but giggle my rear off on this line!

    Oh, my … Arizona will continue to be in a world of hurt.

  4. Elaine,

    Right, so 90% of success is showing up. Let’s say the mind is 1/3 “Mind\Body\Spirit.” Two thirds of 90% is 60%, which is what she’s polling at.

  5. I think it has more to do with the anti-immiigrant wave that is sweeping this country than anything else. Brewer is merely riding the wave. The last governor who was elected there was Janet Napolitano, an intelligent woman.

  6. Elaine M.,

    As someone that saw the criminal side of the juvenile system, I could not agree with you more. What became apparent was the resume that some of these children were creating for themselves, which of course in some states are admissible even as an adult if they commit an adult offense within 3 years of majority.

    I know of only one child that I represented that went to prison. I could just see it coming as his father and only one that came to court with him was an ass.

  7. “90% of success is just showing up.”

    It happened here in jersey with our current governor,no matter how reporters tryed to get some direct answers to what he was going to do if he got elected,he”bobed and weaved”and people bought it.

    This is his biggest and most embarassing fiasco so far,and he blamed every body from the president on down for the denial and it turned out later he spoke and passed the blame to soon.

    Error on ‘Race to the Top’ application costs N.J. $400M in federal funds
    Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 9:38 PM

  8. Blouise,

    Who do you think has worked to “dumb down” the educational system? Teachers? How about the religious conservatives who insist that creationism be taught in science class? I’m appalled by the anti-science attitude of some of our politicians and citizens.

    Parents are their children’s first teachers. There are many today who shirk their educational responsibilities. They expect the schools to do it all. I even found myself spending valuable classroom time teaching children common courtesy and appropriate behavior. Our schools are reflections of our society. Schools are not the main cause of the problem.

    What I have been troubled by is the recent trend of spending inordinate amounts of class time prepping our children for mandatory state/national standardized tests. That was not the fault of teachers. Many of us spoke out about the state/national craze to “over-test” kids.

  9. It’s Arizona for cryin’ out loud … read their history …

    We have a few intelligent and insightful persons who live in Arizona and post on this blog … being from Ohio I sympathize with them.

    Trying to maintain one’s sanity when surrounded by such political insanity is exhausting.

    I am not a political scientist but common sense tells me that after years of “dumbing down” our educational system, especially in the areas of civics and history, we should not be surprised at the overall stupidity within our adult community and the appeal of politicians who wear the “uneducated” veneer.

    (On the other hand, many educated operatives within the DNC fell for the pseudo educated veneer adopted by Obama … )

  10. Elaine M.,

    Touche….or is that Torcher?


    Since you are the Brew Meister…you take is….too much hops…too much bull…

  11. I had heard something about the Righthaven tribe, but had not followed up on it. That is both scary and outrageous. They apparently do not really want to have to litigate this stuff, just gouge the user of content enough to make a profit. File endless nuisance lawsuits against persons who will give them a few thousand dollars to avoid risking loss of more.

    There has also sprung up a cottage industry wherein a handful of law firms are buying up dead and written off accounts receivable and going after the debtors, many of them poor people with few assets. In some cases reported, there have been arrest warrants served, with the bond set–curiously enough–at precisely the same amount as the amount allegedly owed on the account.

  12. Professor Turley,

    Theory Proven: Brewer Debate Conclusively Shows That “90 Percent of Success is Just Showing Up”

    You got that half right. Brewer’s body was there–but her brain didn’t make an appearance.

  13. JT – I was hoping you might cover the slew of lawsuits by Righthaven against the blogging community. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation on September 2:

    Righthaven has brought over a hundred lawsuits in Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement. They find cases by (a) scouring the Internet for parts of newspaper stories posted online by individuals, nonprofits, and others, (b) buying the copyright to that particular newspaper story, and then (c) proceeding to sue the poster for copyright infringement.

    My understanding is that much of the early content involved in the suits was originally published by the Las Vegas Review Journal, although there are several newspapers selling copyrights to the firm. At least one of the blogs I follow is removing these news references from their pages, including materials posted by guests in comment forums.

  14. “…You can fool some of the people all of the time…”

    These are the people you can fool all of the time. We found them.

  15. You get the politicians you deserve not the ones you want. More often than not, you get ones just like you!

  16. Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

  17. I would submit that this has less to do with the intelligence of the voters polled and more to do with the fact that a candidate can say anything she wants, so long as she dislikes Mexicans as much as that majority of voters does.

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