Friday, November 12, 2010

Alvin Greene’s Windmills

South Carolina Voters—and Alvin Greene—Live in a Fictional World

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. I’ve been talking to him relatively regularly since immediately after he won the primary and I still can’t tell if he thought he would win. Michael Lewis’ great book about the candidates who didn’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. He’s neither a policy nor a politics guy.

Yet, in the general election, he did surprisingly well—garnering over 358,000 votes—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 States—but that he is not sure for what party.

“So you are running?” I asked.

“Yes, yes—still thinking about it—you know, because the economic situation is bad and the people behind the recession were rewarded and re-elected,” he answered in his somewhat hobbled baritone.

I asked him if he thought that President Obama was responsible for the recession. “Do you think he is doing a bad job?” I asked. “Because that’s who you’d be running against, not against DeMint.”

“I would ask Jim DeMint why he started the recession. He and others—Joe Wilson, Lindsey Graham, Sanford—started the Recession. But folks want to live in a make-believe world. They want to blame it all on Obama. That’s just make believe. They have to stop it. They just live in fiction. That’s the mentality of most voters in South Carolina. They live in fictition. They can’t handle reality. Look how they voted in this election. They live in make believe and can’t handle reality.”

When I asked him what was the reality—and why he would run against Obama if he thinks Obama didn’t start the Recession—he repeated himself. I asked if he was taking any lessons he learned from this race on to his new campaign. “No, no. I’m running on exactly the same issues. Because we still have this Recession.”

“Have you yourself been looking for another job?” I asked the unemployed Greene. He paused for a long time.

“No, no.” he finally answered. “I’m getting prepared for another one. Thinking about the election.” He was planning, he said, for the big job.

Richard Ben Cramer began his monumental book “What it Takes” 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 took—deserved—to be president. So he asked, what makes a person feel like he or she should be President.  The people detailed in his book—H.W. Bush, Dole, Gary Hart, Joe Biden, etc—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 can’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 Quixote—a man made grandiose to himself not by the events, but by the media, of his day.

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