Opinion

The South Carolina Democratic problem

Pretty good for a guy who spent about $1,000 on his campaign and received virtually no acknowledgement that he was the first African American to be nominated for U.S. Senate by a major party in South Carolina’s history.

How much did the South Carolina Democratic Party spend to get Frasier and Corden that extra 1% of the vote?  It’s nothing compared to the amount of bad press they got by bad-mouthing their own candidate.

Sure, Alvin made his share of embarrassing gaffes, but so did many upstart Tea Party-backed candidates.  The difference is that the Tea Party stood by their candidates, but the South Carolina Democratic Party did not stand by Mr. Greene.  Americans value loyalty, and they frown upon elitism.

Alvin wasn’t brilliant or articulate, but he won the nomination fair and square.  Rather than acknowledge his accomplishment, the party did everything they could to undo it.  Maybe his gaffes would have been curtailed had he been brought into the fold, rather than isolated in a way that made him an easy target for opportunistic media.

We’ve been following Alvin for the last five months while shooting a documentary, and we saw him press on despite humiliating in-person rejections by the party.  At one point, Alvin placed a “Greene for Senate” sign at the Democratic booth at the state fair only to have it taken down when he walked away. In Alvin’s hometown of Manning, the Democratic headquarters did not even put up one of his campaign posters.  Taking a cue from the statewide party, some local Democratic organizations began to unofficially back Green Party nominee Tom Clements, despite rules against endorsing outside candidates.

The party leadership was very gracious in granting us interviews and access during our shooting.  They are smart, passionate people, but at the same time, they presented a wildly inconsistent message to voters: we encourage you to vote a straight Democratic ticket, even though we do not personally support Mr. Greene.

California Democrats supported a recently-deceased candidate who ended up winning a State Senate seat, but South Carolina Dems couldn’t back a live candidate who desperately needed their help.  In a strange twist, it was conservative talk radio hosts like Keven Cohen and Keith Larson (WBT 1110 am Charlotte) who gave Alvin a venue to present his campaign platform when the party wouldn’t.

Despite his awkward appearance on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” in which he answered virtually every question with “DeMint started the recession,” Alvin received Lawrence O’Donnell’s seal of approval: “I don’t think Jim DeMint personally started the recession, but I do think Alvin Greene — still better than Jim DeMint.”  That was a more enthusiastic endorsement than Greene’s own party gave him, and a catchy one: Alvin Greene — still better than Jim DeMint.

Spanish poet Unamuno said of Catholic marriage, “If your wife has a pain in her left leg, you shall feel that same pain in your left leg.”  Alvin Greene lost, but the Democratic Party of South Carolina feels his pain.  Not just because most of their candidates also lost, but because the party contributed to the “shellacking” that Dems took around the country by trying to avoid its own “embarrassing” candidate.

The real winner?  Alvin Greene.  While the butt of many jokes, he went after his American dream when many others never do.  Alvin Greene is a candidate who never quit even when his own party turned against him.

Leslie Beaumont is a documentary filmmaker whose credits include the African adventure “Glory Bound” and “The Sumba Project,” which provides a rare glimpse into one of the world’s oldest and intact animist cultures. David Garrett is a Razzie-nominated writer/director who has written feature film scripts for Disney, Paramount, Universal, Dreamworks and MTV.