By Baynard Woods
No one expected Alvin Greene to win the election against DeMint. But of course, no one expected him to win the primary either. And somehow, inexplicably, he did. Iâ€™ve been talking to him relatively regularly since immediately after he won the primary and I still canâ€™t tell if he thought he would win. Michael Lewisâ€™ great book about the candidates who didnâ€™t have a hope in the 1996 presidential campaign showed that not only are the fringe candidates more interesting people, but they often produce the ideas that the mainstream candidates later siphon up.
Not so with Greene. He was not motivated by ideas; he had no passionate issue that he could not stop talking about. Nor, however, was he motivated by a love for the political process. It is hard to think of a modern senatorial candidate who showed less aptitude for or interest in the process of campaigning. Alvin Greene does not have a wonkish bone in his body. Heâ€™s neither a policy nor a politics guy.
Yet, in the general election, he did surprisingly wellâ€”garnering over 358,000 votesâ€”even though his own party was against him and his opponent never even acknowledged him. Today, I talked to Greene and he said that DeMint never spoke to him at all. That he had no number to call to concede the race. This shows the lack of character that Senator DeMint generally displays. You should at least acknowledge that your opponent exists and is human. But I expect nothing more from the demented one.
On his website, Greene blames the Democratic party for sabotaging him. And so now, Greene claims that he is going to run for the President of the United Statesâ€”but that he is not sure for what party.
â€œSo you are running?â€ I asked.
â€œYes, yesâ€”still thinking about itâ€”you know, because the economic situation is bad and the people behind the recession were rewarded and re-elected,â€ he answered in his somewhat hobbled baritone.
I asked him if he thought that President Obama was responsible for the recession. â€œDo you think he is doing a bad job?â€ I asked. â€œBecause thatâ€™s who youâ€™d be running against, not against DeMint.â€
â€œI would ask Jim DeMint why he started the recession. He and othersâ€”Joe Wilson, Lindsey Graham, Sanfordâ€”started the Recession. But folks want to live in a make-believe world. They want to blame it all on Obama. Thatâ€™s just make believe. They have to stop it. They just live in fiction. Thatâ€™s the mentality of most voters in South Carolina. They live in fictition. They canâ€™t handle reality. Look how they voted in this election. They live in make believe and canâ€™t handle reality.â€
When I asked him what was the realityâ€”and why he would run against Obama if he thinks Obama didnâ€™t start the Recessionâ€”he repeated himself. I asked if he was taking any lessons he learned from this race on to his new campaign. â€œNo, no. Iâ€™m running on exactly the same issues. Because we still have this Recession.â€
â€œHave you yourself been looking for another job?â€ I asked the unemployed Greene. He paused for a long time.
â€œNo, no.â€ he finally answered. â€œIâ€™m getting prepared for another one. Thinking about the election.â€ He was planning, he said, for the big job.
Richard Ben Cramer began his monumental book â€œWhat it Takesâ€ about the 1988 Presidential campaign on the perception that neither he, nor anyone whom he had known, had ever thought they actually had what it tookâ€”deservedâ€”to be president. So he asked, what makes a person feel like he or she should be President. The people detailed in his bookâ€”H.W. Bush, Dole, Gary Hart, Joe Biden, etcâ€”were all extraordinarily ambitious men who were touched by some event that made them feel in some ways larger than a mere mortal.
Alvin Greene lacks all the hallmarks of that ambition and yet, as far as I can tell, he actually believes that he should be the president. Greene says the voters of South Carolina live in a fictional world and canâ€™t handle reality. I just have to wonder about the reality that Mr. Greene inhabits. He now seems like no one so much as Don Quixoteâ€”a man made grandiose to himself not by the events, but by the media, of his day.