By Todd A. Smith
South Carolina politics has seen its share of media scrutiny recently. From Governor Mark Sanford having an affair with a South American reporter to Congressman Joe Wilson shouting “you lie” to President Barack Obama during a presidential address to Congress, South Carolina politics has been anything but immune to controversy.
However, the latest controversy centering on Alvin Greene, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate underscores a huge problem within the entire body of politics that must be addressed: the habit of Americans voting for candidates or issues without educating themselves on the consequences of their votes.
Greene, an unemployed veteran faces a felony obscenity charge for allegedly showing a University of South Carolina student a pornographic picture and later suggesting they go to her dorm room in November. Nevertheless, he was able to win the Democratic primary for senator defeating Vic Rawl, a state politician and judge, winning 60 percent of the vote on June 8.
More fascinating than Greene’s win was the fact that he did not campaign and did not spend any money, except for the $10,400 campaign filing fee, which he refuses to explain how he obtained the money.
Since his victory, many within the Democratic hierarchy of South Carolina politics have accused the Republican Party of planting Greene on the ballot and accused the state of voter fraud. These allegations have not been substantiated but many believe that his pending criminal investigation is grounds for his removal.
“If the allegations are true, I’d like to see another Democrat replace him unquestionably,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Robert Menendez. Nevertheless, the South Carolina Democratic executive committee recently voted to keep Greene on the ballot.
Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing soap opera better known as South Carolina politics, the issue of lack of voter awareness and education is epidemic in our society and needs to be addressed on a national level.
Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many in the Black community have believed that simply voting, regardless of how one votes, is better than not exercising the right that many of our forefathers gave their life for. However, too many times Americans from all walks of life vote out of habit and a sense of responsibility, not taking the position as serious as they should.
Many participants in South Carolina politics have admitted they knew very little of Greene and Rawl and simply voted for Greene because his name appeared first in the alphabetized listing of candidates. South Carolina, however, is just a microcosm of American politics, which can be described as apathetic.
I also have fallen victim to this type of voter apathy, voting for propositions without knowing the exact meaning of those amendments. When I was in college and running for a senatorial position with the Student Government Association, a member of that organization informed me that I had very little chance of losing because my name was fifth amongst six candidates and voters usually voted for the first five candidates that appeared on the ballot. Prophetically, the first five of us won, while the sixth candidate found themselves on the outside looking in.
As a society, we complain when we are unsatisfied with politicians or local laws but we fail to take the duty of voting serious enough to make educated decisions at the ballot box. The Alvin Greene dilemma is not germane to just South Carolina politics, it is indicative of the epidemic of political apathy that has gripped our nation for too long and must be addressed before the reality of South Carolina politics becomes the reality of American politics as a whole.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.