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by Charing Ball

Alvin Greene is not the typical candidate for a Senate.  He isn’t an embedded political player with a long resume. He wasn’t delivered on the ballot, neatly gifted-wrapped by the two-party political machine. And despite accusations of foul-play, Greene didn’t have big money donors backing his run for change.

Recently, South Carolina state agents had reviewed Greene’s bank accounts and concluded that Greene was in fact telling the truth when he said that he was able to afford the 10 grand needed to file his petition through a combination of saving the money and living frugally. This new revelation should put to rest any conspiracy theories about Greene being a plant for the political opposition. So why is the black community so divided over his candidacy?

By all accounts, Greene is the little engine that could; a commoner, who knows first-hand the issues faced by the little guys; he is an unemployed vet, taking care of a terminally-ill parent, with first-hand knowledge of what’s it like to face a trumped-up criminal charge.

For whatever reason, Greene believed that he could best South Carolina’s interest. And without the millions needed to run ads, set-up campaign offices and travel the state to shake hands, he was able to pull off one of the biggest upsets in South Carolina’s political history. His story should come as a breath of fresh air to black voters, who are sick of politics as usual. And for those potential black candidates considering public office, the message is clear: if Greene could do it, what is stopping the rest of us from challenging the system?

On the other hand, Greene is not Ivy-League, law school educated, not very articulate and to be frank, a bit simple-minded. Those factors combined present a major liability in the mind of many black voters. Generally speaking, we like our candidates to speak about the two Americas – just as long as he or she does not speak like they’re from the second one. As with any other sector in life, African Americans feel an added pressure to conform to a narrow image of ourselves to maintain a certain level of appeal to the masses. Black candidates for office must always look and articulate the part, even if it means that the candidate is on the wrong side of our general interest, while our white counterparts can feel free to vote on ideals and principles (i.e. Jesse Ventura).

If we are honest, politically, there is not much difference between Greene and those who have long been representing our communities; he too is running on a platform to improve education and bringing jobs back to that state. And much like other politicians before him, the explanations of achieving these goals are just as hollow, and in some cases senseless.

The mystery remains as to how Greene was able to garner the votes needed to get him to the general election, but I suspect that those that voted for him did so because they were frustrated with the existing representation in the current two-party system. And while Greene may not be the ideal candidate for office, perhaps a vote for him will send the message that the people of South Carolina are looking for more than image and rhetoric. If he was in office right now, it would be safe to say that Greene wouldn’t have voted against extending unemployment benefits unlike his Republican challenger, the incumbent Joe DeMint.

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