Curious Case of Alvin Greene
Baltimore – In the political season that many are calling a referendum on President Barack Obama it is curious that the season has produced Alvin Greene. Just to refresh those who have not heard of Greene he captured the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in South Carolina. It has people like me scratching my head, wondering why?
Here is a man who saved the $10,440 to file for the Democratic Primary. Congressional Members Black and White questioned his intentions suggesting he was merely a plant by the GOP (similar challenges in the Palmetto State are not uncommon). The leading Black Congressman for South Carolina, Representative James Clyburn suggested this(and others did as well) when they learned of the win.
Similarly, Greene’s primary opponent, Vic Rawl a Charleston County councilman and former judge, suggested something must be amiss in the election. Candidate Greene, who hails from Manning, a small town in South Carolina, was probably more shocked than anyone. He racked up nearly 30,000 votes. A number of political observers called it “a fluke.”
But the truth they same is sometimes stranger than fiction. Here is a sampling of comments heard from voters: “his name was the first on the ballot; I thought he was Reverend Al Greene (a soul singer from the 70’s); all I knew I wanted to replace the incumbent.” This last sentiment is plausible as we have seen various politicians whom seemed to have secure positions bounced by the electorate.
I’ve been reporting on this voter restlessness. In many instances it hasn’t affected most Black Politicians. The “Tea Party” has claimed a number of victims but not so much in Black Political circles. What is evident is the Black electorate has come of age. Where there is scandal the results don’t bode well for incumbents.
Examples include Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana where he was bounced for accepting millions of dollars in a telecommunications case (I still can’t believe he hid money in his freezer). The most recent victim is Rep. Caroline Kilpatrick of Detroit. She could not avoid the “sins of her son,” Former Detroit Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. Waiting in the wings are a pair of veteran Black Politicians, Representatives Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters.
Congressman Rangel has a litany of problems. The allegations include asking for tax breaks on various homes, accumulating several rent controlled apartments in his district and taking sponsor paid junkets to the Caribbean. All these charges come as he seeks a 21st term in congress (the irony is Rangel is facing a challenge from Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. he replaced his father in 1970).
Congresswoman Waters’ situation is a little different. She was recently charged with ethics violations by the House Ethics Committee, but defended her position during an interview with Roland Martin on the Tom Joiner Morning Show.
These are all very curious cases and I believe are coming of age stories for Black Politics. The tried and true political aspirations for African-Americans are changing. The assault is not coming from the post Obama Generation struggle but rather from failure to heed that old adage, “all elections are about local issues.”Adding to this is the often quoted saying, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Which brings me back to Alvin Greene case?
A Splash in a Bucket or a Wake in an Ocean
My initial thoughts on Greene mirrored much of America. Not very bright, not well spoken, elusive, a possible stooge ect… But listen to Greene his message is simple, it’s about jobs, education, and infrastructure (roads/sewer/energy).It’s not polish which is refreshing. I want to remind you this is a candidate who garnered 30,000 votes in a reliable Republican state.
I’ve come around to belief, “Why not Alvin Greene.” His back story would be a storied political tale. A 32-year-old unemployed military veteran seeks to bring back a state rank 49th in most surveys. You won’t hear that tale from the incumbent, Republican Senator Jim DeMint. His apparent claim to fame is the often quoted remark about health care being the president's "Waterloo" which would "break him."
What Greene doesn’t have is Black Political pedigree? So what is the pedigree in Black Politics. I believe it is a combination of things.
1. Name recognition from relative (think Ford’s – Harold Ford, Jackson’s- Jesse Jr., Kilpatrick etc…)
2. Wallowing in the fields. (Obama’s shunning of Wall Street to do activist work)
3. Mentoring by previous politicians.
4. Running for dog catcher, city council, state delegate, state senator etc…
5. Bring civil rights experience to bear on politics.
The New Black Political pedigree has few of these values.
1. They have the audacity to run without the political backing of “tried and true” political structures.
2. They espouse ideas that sound and may be Republican ideas.
3. They are young and unafraid of "Blacklash."
4. A lost is a win in their opinion
5. They can be Republican and Black at the same time.
6. Toppling an incumbent who they revere is the end all to be all.
This later pedigree so encompasses much of what Alvin Greene is about in my opinion and he is not alone. There are others of his ilk and my brethren and sisters who cover politics have not connected the dots to understand this shift.
Is This Race Close?
Here’s what The State, the Columbia South Carolina Paper reported on August 3, 2010 about a poll showing Greene down by 42 points. “Alvin Greene, the enigmatic U.S. Senate candidate, is drawing 20 percent support in a Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters. U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, Greene's Republican opponent, is backed by 62 percent of voters.
Greene, who won the Democratic primary as a virtual unknown, is having trouble mustering Democratic support. Less than half of Democrats -- 46 percent -- say they plan to support Greene. Among Republicans, 96 percent say they plan to support DeMint's re-election bid.
DeMint has a 70-14 lead over Greene among independent voters.”
For uninitiated the Rasmussen Poll, is conducted out of New Jersey using random auto phone calls (when was the last time you did a survey with an automated voice). Several GOP candidates point to their polling which seems to favor their candidates when other polls which have actual people calling disagree. Hmmmm!!!
Lastly, does Greene have a chance? I don’t think so but remember what the new Black pedigree is all about. I’m going to watch and you should too. Will Sen. DeMint debate Greene?What’s the Senator got to loose? Will a restless electorate prove too much for an incumbent candidate who knows the public is looking to unleash anger at the status quo.