Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Alvin Greene for Senate' Goes Viral, Awesome

I remember being on the fence about Alvin Greene, and I know I wasn't alone. His candidacy for South Carolina's open senate seat came out of nowhere, and his immediate personal impact was still stuck there for days. Truth be told, my first impression was that he looked like that internet cat who is outraged about your failure to remember the chicken nuggets.

The early rumor was that Republican operatives had again paid for a straw-man Democratic candidate, reprising an old southern GOP trick of queering the purity of the turf by using money and back-channel influence to create a pliable and more beatable opposition. It seems like it shouldn't work, but it's easier to create candidates in states without strong opposition party machines, because the absence of value the party sees in investing in the state opens the field to more x-factor personalities. South Carolina is a Democratic state only every four years; the rest of the time the Democrats treat it like a vague testing ground for people and not something to really go to war over. At first, Greene's reticence only fueled rumors that he might be this kind of GOP-planted wild card. But after weeks in which no financial shenanigans have been discovered, I have to think he's sincere.

Apparently I'm not the only one, because a spontaneous user-generated online campaign has blossomed around Greene (which has been given the stamp of legitimacy from MSNBC) including Twitter support and this original song and video by a group calling themselves, "MC Grassroots feat. The Real Americans." It's awesome, check it out:

A friend of mine on Twitter hipped me to this just an hour ago, and at first I discounted it because it looks a little amateurish. But that's when I remembered Wolverines' "O.T.P (One Term President)" and how colossally un-slick they seemed. They were a grassroots teaparty rap group, and they had the backing of birther conspiracist website World Net Daily. If anything, being a bit hacky around the edges speaks to the authenticity.

That, I think, is something that progressives need to consider. Not every politically oriented song for the Democrats can be something manufactured by Bono and the luxury studios and sound-engineer teams behind him. Nor, really, can every politically oriented song be as serendipitously well put-together as "What If the Tea Party Was Black?" or "Made You Look Stupid (Death to Conservative False Hip Hop)." And if progressives, liberals, Democrats, what have you — if we want to be serious about this sort of thing, we need to expand our expectations.

Conservatism's sustained and viable epithet against the Democratic party is that it's a party of elites. And while that epithet swings back at the GOP viciously and truthfully, it doesn't do so as successfully in the media. It doesn't help that when the GOP goes to citizen commentary it can hear from Joe Wurzelbacher, while Democrats on the campaign turn to people like Sean Penn or whatever celebrity happens to be proximate to the issue. If the party wants to be truly democratized, its grassroots efforts need to be comparable in a media environment to the GOP's.

This is where someone like Alvin Greene is a boon rather than a hindrance. The DNC has all but run screaming from him because he's a little shy and sometimes inarticulate. But those are words you could use to describe George H.W. Bush or Sarah Palin, respectively. In fact, the GOP's warm embrace of their own Mrs. Malaprop points up the ugly elitism of the DNC's denial of Alvin Greene. Republicans publicly assure us that they know Palin has some flaws but will get to her point with heart and honest labor, but Democrats seem to suggest any heartland candidate lacking the slick patina of an Obama is a liability.

On the last issue, you can almost predict the DNC response to this video. They'll condemn the amateurishness and lack of distinct focus. But they'll mistake, if not totally overlook, the heart. There's a reason why Palin's Facebook messages galvanize so many of her followers, and that's because she's reaching out. This is Alvin Greene. It's time to leave him or, more boldly, join him.

There are other criticisms that might come to mind. The song mentions employment and living with his parents, but again we have to ask what kind of party we are. We're ignoring a man with family values enough to stay at home and help his aging folks. We're ignoring a man with the discipline to save his money to meet the goals set by his values, to meet his filing fees, to do it on his own. If we are going to claim that we are a democratic — and not just a Democratic — party, we must be prepared to accept Alvin Greene as a legitimate member because he demonstrated that he was such.

And that's the ugly fact, here. Alvin Greene didn't wait in line to become accepted by the party elite. Alvin Greene crashed the party. That's why he's being punished. Because the party of ostensibly the most populist appeal cannot compete with the teaparty anymore, because it relies strictly on the top-down value of legitimacy. Alvin Greene came from the bottom up, literally raised by his military bootstraps, and the moribund national Democratic narrative has no place for him. Alvin Greene might as well be a teapartier, given as much of a problem as he poses to the DNC's crumbling story of race- and worker-relations.

Which suggests one other pernicious idea. One that is ugly to entertain. There is the possibility that Alvin Greene is a false-flag candidate. Sometimes it seems too perfect that he is so well-meaning and naïve, so prone to homily and well-wishes that don't fit into Washington's comforting soundbites. There's a very good chance that Alvin Greene is the DNC fall guy, the plant that's meant to discourage populist Democrats from challenging the dominant narrative. They have their centrist mission, their decidedly anti-labor, anti-black, anti-Latino narrative to maintain. They have to placate the cooperative corporatism that began when Bill Clinton moved to the "third way" of globalization and the co-opting of GOP criticisms of liberal ideas that dated back to 1968.

If we refuse to take Alvin Greene seriously as Alvin Greene, it's entirely possible that we're meant to take him seriously as the DNC strike against every uppity negro who mistakenly thinks that Obama's election means it's time for social justice or equality. He's the false-flag operation destined for incompetence and failure meant to signify everything that is just not done if you want to be taken seriously in "Democratic" Washington. Alvin Greene is the cautionary tale. Watch him fail to know your place. Or, maybe, don't.

When I say ALVIN,
You say GREENE

UPDATE: This story is now being covered by the New York Times. Pretty amazing how deep the rabbit hole goes.