Since I come from Chicago, people out here often tease me about the politics of my home city and state. South Carolina is starting to take the heat off my homeland when it comes to scandals.
First there was Gov. Mark Sanford who claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail while he was actually on a trail to his Argentinean mistress. Then Nikki Haley, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in the recent election was accused of having an extra-marital affair with a “conservative blogger.” Who accused her? The conservative blogger. The latest shocker came when a complete unknown with no ties to powerful politicians, who had not waged a smear campaign, and who made no campaign promises won the Democratic nomination for governor. Naturally, the professional politicians were outraged.
Alvin Greene, an unemployed veteran, beat Vic Rawl, a former judge and state lawmaker, 59 percent to 41 percent. Greene said that he ran because he had turned to the office of Republican incumbent (and candidate) U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint for help in dealing with his disability, but got nowhere. When you listen to Greene talk, you certainly believe that he could have some sort of disability, so your heart goes out to him. When I first heard the story, it sounded like an old Frank Capra movie in which a non-politician, a man of the people who lives with his elderly father, whips the political insider. It was just too good to be true.
And it might be. In the movie version of this story, Greene would’ve made rousing speeches to the common man. Other veterans would have marched to protest the way in which they are mistreated all too often. He would’ve won debates with his simple, but honest talk. However, none of this happened. So how did he get elected? Also, he’s currently facing charges of showing pornography to a college student. Of course, usually college students are showing pornography to the rest of us.
One theory is that South Carolina holds “open primaries.” See the kind of thing we Californians have to look forward to now that we’ll have open primaries? Anyway, this theory suggests that plotting Republicans were behind Greene’s election so that Sen. DeMint would face an easy foe in the fall election. However, this cynical plot would only work if the bad guy politicians had put Greene’s face in front of the voters, if they got throngs of people to show up for rallies, and if they had organized a huge grass roots movement to help him win the election. None of these things happened. So even if you believe that some untrustworthy Republicans got his name on the ballot, how did they make him win while keeping him a secret?
Race has been a staple of political scandal, and it has come into this story. State Sen. Robert Ford said that he thinks Greene won because he’s an African American. (He’s not the same Robert Ford who killed Jesse James). Ford theorized that the reason Greene won was that even though nobody knew who he was, he got a huge percentage of African-American votes because his name ends in an “e.” According to Ford, “No white folks have an ‘e’ on the end of Green. The blacks after they left the plantation couldn’t spell, and they threw an ‘e’ on the end.”
So, he’s saying that when African Americans see “Greene,” they think black. I don’t know. When I see “purple,” I don’t think “orange.”
Besides, what about Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene, writer Graham Greene, and, of course, “Bonanza’s” Lorne Greene? They were all “white folks.” To make Ford’s definitely bizarre and seemingly racist statement all the more interesting is that Ford is black.
If we learn that Greene is a seriously disabled man who really is unqualified for the job, it will be a sad situation. But the question will still be there: how did he get elected?
I hope it turns out that Greene is legit. I hope it’s the movie plot in which the simple American defeats the professional politicians just because he’s a simple American. On the other hand, if it turns out that chicanery has taken place, none of us will be surprised. As I said before, South Carolina is replacing the Windy City and the Land of Lincoln as the home of weird politics. In fact, this replacement might have already taken place. After all, I can’t remember the last time I heard a newscaster or a late night host utter those two famous words: Rod Blagojevich.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.