A Senate Candidate of Their Own: Alvin Greene in South Carolina

06/09/2010 12:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Mother Jones headline asks, "Who is Alvin Greene?" The magazine answers its own question: "An unemployed 32-year-old black Army veteran with no campaign funds, no signs, and no website shocked South Carolina on Tuesday night by winning the Democratic Senate primary to oppose Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)."

While the Mother Jones story is filled with speculation about how he won and how unprepared he is to compete against Senator DeMint, Mr. Greene offers a succinct rebuttal to all his detractors. "I'm not concentrating on how I was elected -- it's history. I'm the Democratic nominee -- we need to get talking about [putting] America back to work, what's going on, in America."

Sound familiar? It's the faint echo of the UCubed ads that ran in South Carolina last week. These GOTV spots ended with "now we get to turn the screws. Together we have the power to put America back to work." So, in the Palmetto State, its 265,000 "officially" unemployed heard that message often.

Note: Ur Union of Unemployed or UCubed ran over 2,300 cable TV spots in South Carolina. It did not coordinate with any candidate, campaign or party organization. It ran an identical ad in the week before the Pennsylvania primary. In both states, its goal was to increase voter turnout among the jobless.

Did the UCubed message resonate? That is hard to tell. But turnout in South Carolina was up 222 percent over the 1998 and 150 percent over the 2002 midterm elections.

Much of that voter surge was caused by the down and dirty brawl for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Turnout this year was only 23,000 votes lower than in the 2008 Republican presidential primary between John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. About 100,000 more GOP voters turned out for Tuesday's primary than in the last contested gubernatorial primary back in 2002.

In the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial and senatorial races, turnout was dramatically below the 2008 primary between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and five other candidates. In fact, turnout was down 336,000 votes from that 2008 high water mark. The good news is that 88,000 more Democrats voted in 2010 than voted in the 2002 primaries (when the party did not field a candidate for governor).

Did the jobless come out to vote? Alvin Greene certainly did. An unemployed Army vet beat the Democratic Party's handpicked candidate by 30,000 votes, or by 59 to 41 percent. He did not do that alone.

Greene's victory may have been serendipitous. But it was not a fluke. He received more votes than Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson did two years ago, combined! He won all but four counties in South Carolina and three of those four had unemployment rates below the national average.

There is something stirring across this land, particularly among the 31 million Americans idled by this Grave Recession. And now the jobless have one of their own as the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.