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(Sort of) defending Greene

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By Travis Jenkins

South Carolina has certainly made a lot of national news lately where politics is concerned. Most of the attention stems from allegations, or admissions of infidelity. Whenever there is a story of post-marital trysts, people's interests, prurient interests especially, are going to be piqued. That's not new or surprising.

What's hard to figure is the coverage generated by Alvin Greene's victory in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.

Put aside for a second the felony charges Greene is facing. A victorious primary candidate having charges hanging over him certainly is attention-getting, but much of the focus put on Greene since his win has had precious little to do with those charges. Mainly, Democratic officials and pundits have conveyed that Greene just doesn't belong on the ballot. His candidacy has been deemed "bizarre" and "mysterious."

The first assertions toward Greene were that he had to have been some sort of Republican plant. That charge came from no less a source than House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. If Republicans did conspire to put Greene up to running and to support his candidacy, they stunk at it. The Republican Primary drew 425,449 people in the state, to the Democrats' 197,593. Those numbers hardly demonstrate a big, mysterious surge in turn-out for Democrats. The interest of the opposing party was wrapped up in the gubernatorial race and in some key house races. It's doubtful any Republican Party bigwigs felt it necessary to meddle in the Democratic race anyway, since it's unlikely that either Greene or his primary opponent, Vic Rawl, would have beaten Senator Jim Demint in November in a pretty reliably red state.

Questions now abound regarding where Greene, who has been unemployed for nine months since being discharged from the military, got the filing fee for the seat of more than $10,000. Would Rawl, had he won, have been asked the same questions? Would a protest of the election on the grounds that iVotronic machines malfunctioned for some voters have been lodged if Rawl emerged victorious? Where were the shouts that Greene is unqualified before the election took place?

Party leaders have gone as far as asking Greene to step down. He has no prior political experience, didn't really campaign leading up to the primary, still doesn't have a campaign website, didn't have yard signs and hasn't come across real well in his few interviews, they say. All that is true, but none of it is a reason for him not to run. The Constitution only says a senator needs to be 30 years of age and must have been a citizen for nine years, criteria Greene meets. Rawl is certainly wealthier, better versed on issues, better known, has been a judge and held elective office. That makes him a more appealing candidate to party chiefs. Those running the party don't pick the candidate, though.

Maybe folks knew Rawl and didn't like him. Maybe they picked Greene because his name appeared first on the ballot. Maybe, as state senator Robert Ford suggested, black voters pulled the lever for a black candidate. Maybe people mistook him for the R&B crooner who sang “Let's Stay Together” or maybe they flipped a coin. None of those would be the best means of picking a senator, but each individual's vote belongs to them and can be cast for whomever they want for whatever reason they deem fit. By asking him to step aside or declaring him unfit to serve, party officials and media members aren't just attacking him, they are saying those meddlesome voters just don't know what's best. Maybe the party needs to work more towards informing voters about their choices on the ballot ahead of time. We should never get to the point, though, that a “regular person” shouldn't feel free to seek office if they so choose.

Any questions about Greene's candidacy revolving around the charges he faces, or the possibility that he got his filing fee from somewhere other than his own savings (which he alleges) are totally legitimate. The idea that he should step aside because he wasn't the establishment choice is absurd. Intimation from certain media members that a person who isn't telegenic, wears t-shirts, is unemployed, doesn't have the right education or doesn't come from a particular background shouldn't pursue public office is, frankly, distasteful.

Greene may not have a chance of winning in November and may not make a good senator even if he does. By a wide margin, though, he was the choice of Democratic Primary voters, which is all that should matter.