Dateline Arizona: Does a candidate’s bad grammar affect your vote?

My governor, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, stammered and stumbled during her one and only political debate with her opponents this week. She has now joined the ranks of other less than articulate political figures of the past 20 years – George Bush, George W. Bush and, in her own way, Sarah Palin. You’ve probably seen it by now, but if not, click on the video above.

Brewer became the head of Arizona when our previous governor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, was named as the leader of the Department of Homeland Security by President Obama. Brewer’s chances for being elected to the office on her own record looked doubtful until she signed the now infamous SB 1070, also known as the “papers, please” law. It’s the law that allows Arizona police officers to ask for documentation of citizenship or legal immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. I’m not supportive of the law,  but I think opponents have exaggerated some of its provisions. Mainly, I think it grows out of an irrational fear about the immigration problem, and I think the fear has been created by vote-seeking politicians. The fact is, the number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. has fallen by almost two thirds between 2005 and 2009. And those who are still with us in Arizona don’t seem to be going around beheading people, despite the governor’s assertions.

If you’ve guessed that I won’t be voting for Brewer, you’re correct. Despite her being a Republican, the party that’s “good for business,” I think her signing of SB 1070 set back Arizona’s economy by causing a boycott of the state. I also don’t like to see politicians playing fear cards and race cards to generate votes.

Right now, people are raking her over the coals for yet another reason. They’re making fun of the bad grammar she displayed during her debate. I have to admit, I do this with politicians I don’t like, and even those I do. It’s not too much to expect a reasonable mastery of the language from those who want to lead us. An ability to speak well correlates to an ability to think well, so I become uncomfortable when politicians can’t speak reasonably well.

I understand that even the best speakers sometimes flub their grammar when they’re under pressure. In Brewer’s case, her gaffes are numerous, but they will play a relatively minor role in my decision to vote against her. They do seem to me, however, to be one more reason not to support her.

What do you think? Do you feel uncomfortable about candidates who have trouble expressing themselves?

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2 Responses to Dateline Arizona: Does a candidate’s bad grammar affect your vote?

  1. Bart Butler says:

    Pete: I agree with you on Jan Brewer, and the importance of leaders expressing themselves well.
    But my opinion is tempered by my experience with people like my former boss, Wendy’s Dave Thomas.
    A high school dropout, Dave was not a person with polished language skills, and often had our communications staff — and sometimes his audiences — rolling their eyes at the quirky way he sometimes put words together.
    But Dave was an absolute master at interacting with people and building relationships. He also had a keen sense for making the right moves for his business, and getting people to enthusiastically support those moves.

    So, as much as proper grammar and language usage is important to me, I try to remind myself that it can’t be the sole measure of a person’s value or effectiveness.

    By the way, late in life, Dave, who always felt bad about dropping out of school, went back and got his GED.

    • Peter Faur says:

      Hi, Bart. Thanks for your comment. I agree. There are many people who have a wonderful ability to engage and inspire others even though they don’t speak the king’s English. If you become too much of a snob about these things, you miss a lot of good people. I know I’d be less focused on this issue if I had more in common with Gov. Brewer on other fronts.

      I have a great deal of admiration for Dave Thomas and people like him. He created a successful business, and he did wonders for the cause of adoption. Whatever grammatical shortcomings he had pale in comparison!

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