Mystery man Alvin Greene upset a respectable, accomplished and well-known opponent in the Democratic primary that decided who would try to unseat South Carolina G.O.P. Senator Jim DeMint in November. Even before the vote, it was widely reported that Greene was unemployed, with no political experience. After the vote and the stunning results, it came to light that in 2009, the victorious Democratic Senatorial nominee asked a young college girl to look at some pornography he had downloaded, leading to an obscenity charge that is still pending. Embarrassed, chagrined and confused by the fact that their standard-bearer appears to be a goof or worse, Democrats are accusing everyone in sight, especially Greene and Republicans, convinced that there must have been a plot, a scam, anything to explain what happened without focusing blame where it belongs: on the Democratic candidates who couldn’t defeat Greene, and the South Carolina voters who elected him.
Here is the country, facing multiple crises internationally, domestically, financially and philosophically, with two faltering wars and unemployment frightening high. Polls say the public is disgusted and hungry for new directions and new leadership. The election in November will affect all of our lives, and perhaps the lives of many generations to come. Yet Vic Rawls, the veteran South Carolina lawmaker running against Greene, allowed him to win without ever challenging his credentials, insisting on his policy views or forcing him to campaign. This was arrogant, incompetent, lazy, and irresponsible.
Then voters trumped Rawls’ breach of duty, by breaching their own duty of responsible citizenship. Some, it is believed, voted for him solely because he is African-American, though that “qualification” is shared by, among other notable Americans whom I would rather have watch me run flaming into the Gulf of Mexico than have me watch them sit in the U.S. Senate, O.J. Simpson, Michael Vick and Louis Farrakhan. Voting for a candidate because of his or her color alone reduces democracy to pure bigotry. Some apparently voted for Greene because his first name begins with an “A”, putting him first on the ballot. Adolf Hitler and Alvin the Chipmunks also would have been first on the primary ballot, and presumably these poor excuses for citizens would have voted for one of them over Rawls too. Other voters, it is believed, voted for Greene because they mistakenly thought he was soul singer Al Green, who also has no qualifications for Senator but who used to sing a mean song. These voters couldn’t even make their mistakes intelligently: Al Green’s name is not “Alvin,” and his last name is spelled without an “e.” Never mind. These voters were only half paying attention anyway.
Showing her own credentials for apathy and thus proving she is ready to assume, and botch, the responsibilities of a South Carolina voter, is the student to whom Green showed the porno. She told an interviewer that, gee, if only she had realized he was running, she would have let everyone know about him, because, you know, a guy like that shouldn’t be a Senator.
Ah, the engaged young voter! The hope of the future!
Meanwhile, where was the South Carolina news media? Reporters only dug into who Alvin Greene really was after he was elected, when it was too late. Why do we lament the demise of newspapers when they act like this? What good are they? It was the journalists’ job to examine Greene’s record. It was Rawls’ job to show that voting for Greene was reckless and irresponsible. It was the Democratic Party’s job to make certain that if it had a blatantly unqualified candidate in the race, the public knew enough not to vote for him. And it was the public’s duty to inform themselves, since nobody else was being responsible, to take the sacred duty of voting seriously, and to care enough to vote competently.
All of them failed. All of them breached their duties to the state and the country, and all of them were unethical.
The toxic, mindless partisanship that has conditioned too much of the public to make crucial decisions based on labels and litmus tests rather than character and ability has, at least in South Carolina, crystallized into a total abdication of the duties of responsible self-government. It isn’t only the politically ignorant or apathetic who think like this: MSNBC Angry Left icon Keith Olbermann told guest Robert Klein that he would still rather vote for Greene (“What’s an ‘indictment’?” Green is quoted as innocently asking during a recent interview) than DeMint. Better incompetent than Republican!
South Carolina’s apathy and slovenly citizenship should frighten more than just South Carolinians. Americans are notoriously complacent about their governance, because most of the time, sometimes bt pure luck, things have worked out well. Things will not work out well from here on, however, unless the parties, the voters and the press take their duties seriously. Even one state full of Ethics Dunces is too many.
** For his part, comedian Klein identified DeMint as the one who shouted “You lie!” during Obama’s State of the Union. He needs to move to South Carolina too: it was Joe Wilson who shouted, and he is a) a Congressman, not a Senator, and b) from that other Carolina. But the fact that he had no idea what he was talking about did not disqualify Klein from playing left-wing pundit with Olbermann on national T.V. After all, he could tell Alvin Greene from Al Green.