June 15, 2010
South Carolina Causes Consternation—-Again
Have you heard this joke?
A man walks into his local Democratic Party office and plunks down ten grand to run for the United States Senate.
Then he goes home and sits on his butt. He has no campaign manager, hires no staff, doesn’t raise a dime, does no campaigning, produces no campaign literature, makes no appearances and … gets elected!
Oh wait, that’s not a joke … that actually happened in South Carolina’s recent primary election.
Alvin Greene, by all accounts, strolled into a regional Democratic Party office, handed officials a check for $10,400—and then apparently did almost nothing else. Since paying the filing fee, almost nobody can vouch for Greene’s activities. What he seems to have done is just sit on his rear at his home in Manning, South Carolina and wait for primary election day to roll around. At the end of that day he was declared the winner and will be the Democrat’s horse in the upcoming race for the U.S. Senate in November.
This has left lots of egg on the faces of local Democratic Party officials who can’t explain how this guy wound up winning by a significant amount – 59 percent to 41 percent over the second-place candidate. That second-place finisher was Vic Rawls, a reasonably well-funded politico who was expected to win handily. After all, Rawls had raised money, had an actual campaign staff, ran a traditional race, and was a respected figure in South Carolina Democratic political circles.
The bigger picture however is that no Democrat’s going to unseat the incumbent, Republican Senator Jim DeMint. DeMint is the odds-on favorite in a state that has consistently voted Republican.
Only an act of God might prevent DeMint from winning in November, something that hasn’t prevented some Democrats from pointing fingers at Republicans for complicity in the Greene scandal. The Democrat’s House Majority Whip, James Clyburn, hinted that Greene was a Republican plant, saying that there was “elephant dung all over the place.” If this was true, Clyburn needed to produce some sort of evidence quickly – something he’s been completely unable to do.
And exactly how would running a Republican plant serve the interests of Republicans? No Democrat threatened DeMint, so cooking-up some scheme to insert a shill in the race would have been simply silly. Clyburn has since backed off this ridiculous charge.
Nonetheless, the mystery surrounding Alvin Greene remains. How’d he do it?
Theories abound. Was it stupidity on the part of some South Carolina voters? After all, some argue that many voters may have believed that Al Greene, the well-known soul singer and Baptist preacher, was somehow on the South Carolina ballot. Personally, I think it would be great to have Al Green in the U.S. Senate, with all the political clowns in Washington D.C., at least Green can bust a move and lay down some soothing lyrics. But, let’s get real ... Al Green doesn’t even live in South Carolina.
Then there’s the belief that Greene won because of a low voter turn-out among Democrats, since the Republican, DeMint, will be a virtual shoe-in for re-election. Additionally, Alvin Greene’s name alphabetically came up first on every ballot in the state and since no Democrat had high name-value, some argue voters simply pulled the lever for the first candidate on the list.
Whatever the reason, the result is that an unpolished, unknown, unemployed man will be on the ballot against a seasoned and sophisticated veteran politician. This is an unfair situation at best——it mocks the concept of American democracy. Voters at the very least deserve competitive candidates who can serve if elected.
But there was something momentarily appealing about a dark-horse candidate like Greene, a “regular guy” emerging from the primary with a shocking victory. However, once we began to learn more about who this guy is. To be blunt, the picture isn’t pretty.
As it turns out, Greene has a pending felony charge – the legal complaint alleges that he sexually harassed a female college student by showing her pornographic pictures … something she neither encouraged nor welcomed. If convicted, Greene’s facing a possible five-year prison term.
It also appears from radio, television and print interviews that Greene may be mentally functioning one or two bottles short of a six-pack. He answers questions in a mumbling, monosyllabic and intellectually unstructured fashion that is painful to hear or watch.
The fact that Greene is completely unqualified to represent South Carolina’s voters in the U.S. Senate is obvious. However, since Greene is black, some have claimed that racism lies at the root of attacks on the man’s abilities and intellect, and also underlies simply asking where an unemployed man may have gotten ten grand to run for elected office.
In The Root, the website run by black scholar Henry Louis Gates, writer Cord Jefferson says that “as a person of color, I can’t help but question the motives of those who agree with me.” What were these “minions who agree with me” doing that Jefferson finds so troubling? Well, after interviewing Greene for The Root, Cord said “I’m absolutely certain I wouldn’t want him in any political office, high or low.”
Okay, I’m stumped. Alvin Greene’s race has no part to play in this embarrassing political tale. Those who inject skin-color politics into a discussion of this particular South Carolina primary race should simply back off and take another long and hard look.
However and whatever may have conspired to allow Alvin Greene to win his fifteen minutes of political fame in the harsh and unflattering glare of the national media spotlight is less important than this: The losers are South Carolina voters who expected that the little-known Greene would be able to perform capably if their votes pushed him into the victory circle. Instead, democracy got a black eye when the votes were counted.