“I got 60 percent of the vote is not luck. 60 percent of the vote is not an accident.”
-Alvin Greene, S.C. Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate
Eddie Murphy was in a movie years ago called The Distinguished Gentleman, where Murphy played a con man named Thomas Jefferson Johnson who won a seat in Congress because of the similarity between his name and that of a recently deceased congressman. The similarities between con men and politicians that the film showcased made for great comedy on the big screen.
Now we have real life imitating art in South Carolina, where an unknown, unemployed, 32-year-old ex-military man with pending felony charges who lives with his parents in his hometown garnered over 100,000 votes in the South Carolina Democratic primary to become the party’s presumptive nominee for the U.S. Senate. Alvin Greene defeated opponent Vic Rawl, a former circuit court judge and four term state representative, which means, at least for now, that Greene will face current senator Jim DeMint in the fall. with no campaign staff, no campaign contributions, no campaign website, no campaign literature, and no communication with his state party organization.
How did Mr. Greene get elected by a margin of almost 20 percent with an invisible campaign? If you’ve seen Mr. Greene’s performance in any of the videos that are now floating about the web, you have to ask yourself – how could he convince more than a handful of voters to take him seriously? The Democratic Party of South Carolina’s chairwoman, Carol Fowler, has advanced all kinds of specious arguments, including the order of the names on the ballot, to explain how this could happen. And the media, who are dutifully reporting her assertions, have not done much to analyze any further what could have happened.
A young military veteran, who by his own admission was involuntarily separated from the service because “it was just not working out”, Mr. Greene is not polished, as his recent video appearances show. In an ABC News interview, his performance could be charitably described as falling somewhere between “godawful” and “ridiculous.” Maybe he thought it was going to be a radio interview. Or maybe he was down to his last clean shirt. I was so taken aback by the lime green family reunion t-shirt he wore I had to rewind the video twice to follow what he was saying. Especially since the middle class living room in the video with the built-in heart pine bookshelves and paneled walls looked suspiciously like the one I grew up in, and his father was a retired extension agent for a land grant college, like my own father had once been. Couldn’t he have found an oxford shirt or a neutral colored polo style shirt somewhere in his closet? Mr. Greene appears to have no campaign organization, other than the nebulous “family and friends” he claims helped him to campaign across the state.
WATCH ‘COUNTDOWN’ COVERAGE OF ALVIN GREENE HERE:
On camera, Mr. Greene seemed to come across as being fairly moderate on “the issues” – exactly what these “issues” are we don’t know, although he referred to “staying on the issues” often when questioned about his specific policy stances. They do not deviate all that much from the Democratic Party platform. None of his friends or family members have come out of the woodwork yet to either sing his praises or vent about his faults, so for now, he is Candidate Brand X.
I’ll agree with Mr. Greene – getting 60 percent of the vote on Tuesday was not an accident. Someone wanted him to win. But how did they do it? And why? I spoke to some politically connected folks in South Carolina off the record who acknowledged that some sort of “whisper campaign” was conducted to tip off African-Americans to the fact that Greene was African-American. A recent Newsweek article states “it’s also worth noting that Greene’s opponent in South Carolina, a judge and former state legislator named Vic Rawl, polled poorly among South Carolina Democrats last month: only 4 percent had a favorable opinion of him, while 82 percent were unsure, according to a May survey by Public Policy Polling.” In a state whose political climate is still highly polarized by race, the whisper campaign explanation, though unconfirmed, is a very plausible scenario—just ask John McCain how powerful political gossip can be in South Carolina. There aren’t enough data points or quantitative demographic breakdowns in this theory to satisfy political scientists and academicians, but as someone who hails from the Palmetto State, I can believe that it is entirely within the realm of possibility.
No one is stating the obvious — the gargantuan voter registration drive that the Obama campaign mounted across the country registered more new voters than anyone, including Jesse Jackson, had ever corralled in one election cycle. These registrations did not evaporate after one use, and did not expire at the end of 2008. More important than the registrations was the fact the Obama campaign actually got people who had never voted before to go to the polls. And they found out that it wasn’t hard, wasn’t painful, didn’t really cost anything, and could be done in places more convenient to their homes than they might have imagined.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who has seen his share of shenanigans in South Carolina politics, was blunt in his assessment of the matter Thursday on the Bill Press radio show, a syndicated program featured on satellite radio. “Somebody gave him that $10,000,” Clyburn said, “and he who took it should be investigated, and he who gave it should be investigated.”
Which brings us to “who would do something like this?” Wes Wolfe, a South Carolina journalist and blogger who maintains the blog Wolfe Reports, asked this question on his blog back in March. After ruling out Jim DeMint’s camp or the state GOP as obvious suspects, and dismissing the Democratic establishment’s involvement as illogical, Wolfe sums it up in a way that makes perfect sense:
“This is how we see it: It’s like one of those things that gets a college football program into serious probation with the NCAA. Somebody with loyalties, but no connections to a particular side, and a shit-ton of money, makes life a little interesting. Probably, some wealthy conservative with no real ties to the people that matter decided to burn some money and have some fun with this Senate race. Why? Why do ridiculously wealthy people do anything? Obviously, this little gambit fell through, which is why there aren’t any signs or the proper papers filed.
And that’s where the juicy story is. Finding out who this rich freakshow is and listening to them explain how the idea came about, how the guy was chosen, how the money was doled out and how the plan fell apart. But like so many great stories, it’s likely never to come to light.”
Why does Wolfe’s summation make so much sense? Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Law & Order, but when you watch Alvin Greene on camera, there is something in the way he nods his head incessantly after answering each question about his improbable candidacy that gives you the distinct feeling that he is not telling anything close to the truth. Some candidates are agents of change — Alvin Greene is an agent of chaos, a bargain basement Manchurian candidate, programmed to wreak havoc upon the South Carolina Democratic Party for the next few months.