by Chris Haire
Race matters in the political world. There's no point in denying it.
The election of Barack Obama. The selection of Michael Steele as the head of the GOP. The massive amounts of out-of-state cash coming into Tim Scott's 1st District campaign. Jake "Ram Man" Knotts.
But when it comes to the successful non-campaign of Alvin Greene, the Democratic Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate, race doesn't matter. If Greene was a Republican plant to bring white voters to the poll and ruin the campaign of Vic Rawl, the S.C. Democratic Party's preferred candidate, then it didn't work.
Truth be told, if Greene was a Republican plant, he was the worst plant ever.
According to Yahoo News:
Greene's candidacy has raised suspicions that he may have been induced to run by Republican operatives in order to sow dissension in the Democratic ranks. It's not uncommon in South Carolina for Republicans to recruit African-American challengers to run against white frontrunners in Democratic primaries in the hope of drumming up racial tensions. (Greene is black.) The straw candidates aren't supposed to win — they're just supposed to create a racially divisive primary to damage the candidate's ability to put together a coalition in the general election.
It's nothing new to Nu Wexler, the former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party. "In 2004, on the last day you could file to run in the primary, we were wrapping things up when an SUV with a Bush-Cheney sticker dropped off three black guys who came in to file to run in some local races, and they all paid the filing fee with sequentially numbered cashier's checks from a local credit union," he said. In 1990, famed South Carolina political consultant Rod Shealy was convicted of violating campaign laws after recruiting a black candidate to run in a GOP primary for lieutenant governor in the hope of drawing out racist voters — a maneuver he thought would bolster support for his candidate.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn certainly believes that Greene was a plant.
According to The Hill:
"I would hope the U.S. attorney down there would look at this," Clyburn said about Greene's qualifications for the ballot, also pointing to Greene's having allegedly tried to pay the fee to run for Senate in cash, despite being unemployed.
"I think there's some federal laws being violated in this race, but I think some shenanigans are going on in South Carolina," Clyburn explained. "Somebody gave him that $10,000 and he who took it should be investigated, and he who gave it should be investigated."
Um. Here's the thing. Very few people, beyond Greene, his family and his friends, knew who he was or that he was even in the race (a claim that you can make about Rawl himself). And the masses certainly didn't know that he was black. So the plant argument, at least the one that we are most familiar with in South Carolina politics, just doesn't apply. Greene's race is irrelevant.
Even more damning, the reasons for why a secretive Republican cabal would pay Greene to run against Rawl simply aren't there. Rawl posed no challenge to U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. None. In 2010, the era of the Tea Party, DeMint is untouchable.
And not only did DeMint have near-universal adoration on his side when it comes to Republican Party members, he also had a war chest that was substantially larger than Rawl's: $3.5 million to a little bit under $200,000.
As I've said it before, Rawl was defeated by money and marketing. He didn't have the money to compete.
Ask yourself this: Do you remember seeing a Rawl campaign sign? Do you remember seeing Rawl on the nightly news? Do you remember seeing anybody ever covering his campaign?
Rawl was as much of an non-entity as Greene. And Greene just won the luck of the draw.
And for those of you, like U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who are unable to believe that Greene won because of random luck, may I suggest you pick up a copy of The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives Is Wrong. Mathematics don't lie.
In other Greene news: You've got to check out Corey Hutchins excellent piece on the Democratic nominee. Here's a taste of the Free-Times article:
Standing in the shade of his garage, shuffling back and forth with a family of small, scruffy, dusty cats slithering around his feet, Greene said he wasn’t surprised about his win.
When he speaks, it’s as though Greene is participating in some kind of linguistic steeplechase in which he always seems to trip over the hurdle and has a hard time climbing out of the waterhole.
He often interrupts himself or just quits talking mid-sentence. He says “OK” before nearly everything. He’ll say one thing and then say the opposite. When he gets “on message” it’s as if he’s reading some invisible script for several sentences before blowing it and sounding like he’s reading something written upside-down.