In case you haven't been paying attention (or are more concerned about bigger news items), on June 8th the Democrats in South Carolina had their primary for the Senate campaign. To everyone's surprise, the winner was Alvin Greene: a man with no job, no campaign staff, and no known financial support.
When I first heard about Alvin Greene, my first thought was election manipulation. But as I learned more about it that seemed less likely. Polling places dropping the ball would need to be more systematic than is reasonably plausible and fraud on this scale would require massive resources. If Greene was behind it (perhaps using illicit resources the public doesn't know about) then his win would be more planned out. He'd at least have a website and be more eloquent when talking to reporters. Republicans simply don't have a motive to commit the fraud. DeMint, the Republican incumbent, won by nearly ten points and the Democratic party basically ignored the primary race. Remember, this is the state that tried to get the Confederate flag flown over its capital. It doesn't make sense that Republicans would pull such a desperate act (this also goes to the even stranger and less relevant accusation of a plant).
It's still very early to tell; perhaps various investigations will reveal an elaborate conspiracy. It's still a mystery how he got the filing fee. But right now my best guess is the following simple story:
Alvin Greene's life was in the toilet. He had no job, no prospects, no plan. Then he got a windfall: perhaps it was an inheritance, or from criminal activity. Maybe he really was saving (though longer than the claimed two years). Not sure what to do, he runs for Senator. Yeah, he probably would have been better off going to a technical school, but maybe he's a poor student or just didn't want to put up that much effort. He has a degree in political science, after all, and it hasn't seemed to have done him any good. But a senatorial candidate? That's easy and potentially very impressive on his résumé. In his mind, he didn't need to win; he just need to fill a gap in his employment history and make himself sound more impressive to potential employers. Yeah it sounds crazy, but I'm not the first person to question his mental health.
But then he won, mostly because no one paid attention to the race. Being listed before his opponent and sharing a name with a famous singer surely helped two. Cameras descended on Greene, especially after people learned about the felony charges. In his heart of hearts, Greene knows he doesn't deserve this. But admitting that would require him to take a hard look at himself and come to terms that not everything happens for reason. It's hard to recognize that you got something you didn't earn so Greene tells people he wasn't surprised by the results (really!?) and insists he went all over the state campaigning, though he can't remember any towns he went to.
Whatever the reason, this is a vivid example of what happens when a lot of people see their vote as cheap talk. Stampedes only happen when the entire herd runs to Greene pastures.