Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Greene Tea Party

I used to think things would be better when bastards like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms were dead. It was inconceivable that we could have worse senators representing the Carolinas. Younger somehow meant better. But, that was before Jim DeMint.  Thurmond was horrible in his defense of repressive norms. DeMint wants something new. He wants to overturn the secular world and create a simultaneously pro-business and fundamentalist empire that resembles nothing so much as Saudi Arabia.

This week, the big Washington pubs put out stories on DeMint. Steve Perlstein, the Washington Post’s Business columnist asked “Can Business Afford DeMint?” He addressed fiscally conservative Republicans directly from their point of view, and the answer was a resounding ‘no.’ Jonathan Cohn, in the New Republic, began his piece “Your Government, Held Hostage” by declaring that DeMint was a fourth branch of government.

The whole thing started when DeMint was quoted by Bloomberg Businessweek as saying he desired “complete gridlock” in the Senate. DeMint claims he was misquoted, but even in his explanation to Greta Van Sustern on FOX, DeMint said that gridlock would keep people from wondering what the Federal government is going to do next.

All this got me to thinking: If DeMint really doesn’t want anything to get accomplished, how is he any different than Alvin Greene?

I hadn’t talked to Greene for a while, so I called him up.

“Jim DeMint started this recession,” Greene insisted numerous times throughout our discussion. “He’s proved that he’s about getting nothing positive done. He started the recession in his first term. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

I was happy for a moment. That was a little more like it. Greene needs to attack DeMint. He needs to make DeMint put up a little bit of a fight and spend some money. So far, he has done nothing but feed the DeMint monster. Greene allows DeMint to be the Senior Senator of the Tea Party instead of the Junior Senator from South Carolina.

DeMint is able to travel around  raising money for radical candidates because he is not facing a serious challenger. In the primaries, he supported the worst of the new Radical Right who will later be his acolytes. He told the Wall Street Journal that he had several opponents—the White House and the Congress.

As DeMint’s national stature grows, you can already tell that he hopes to be president. Meanwhile Greene seems to shrink. When I went to Greene’s house, it seemed as if he were a man getting sucked into the twenty-four hour news cycle through the television in his living room. This was reinforced when I recently watched the footage of Greene, in his underwear, closing the door on a reporter on the day he was indicted for showing porn to a minor on a USC computer. He wailed “No! Go!” from the front window his home as his brother, wrapped in a green poncho, talked to the reporter in the balmy Manning rain.

Greene did not holler or yell when I talked to him, but there was something sad about it. He didn’t seem to understand the game he was playing.  I wanted him to say more about DeMint. “He caused the recession,” was as far as it went. When I asked whether he thought Green Party candidate Tom Clements would take votes away from him, Greene replied:

“Why wouldn’t they take them from my opponent? There is only one man in the South Carolina Senate race that caused the recession. He should take his votes away.”

Sure, he should…but this is American politics. “Well, but he is trying to appeal to Democrats,” I said. “You’re competing for the same votes.”

“The person who started the recession should be in the most trouble,” he insisted, hesitantly.

Greene wouldn’t say much about his campaign organization and I got the sense it was because he had none. He has not even raised the five thousand dollars that would require him to make his spending public. Meanwhile, DeMint raises millions for other radical candidates.

After my conversation with Greene, celebrated Lowcountry chef Nathalie Dupree entered the race. Of DeMint, Dupree says that she wants to “cook his goose.” I hope she does. But she won’t be able to do it alone. Dupree, Greene, Clements, and anyone else who can, ought to go on the full-out attack against DeMint. They may not be able to drive him from the Senate—but they could keep him from the White House.

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