Thursday, May 15, 2008

It DOES take a rocket scientist!

Left: Former rocket scientist and South Carolina 4th District Democratic congressional candidate, Ted Christian, consults with campaign advisor Sheila Jackson about why he forgot to mention global warming on his new leaflets.

Last evening at the Coffee Underground, sitting in on a brainstorming session with Christian, Jackson and an unidentified, deep-cover Obama campaign worker (not pictured, not named, not even supposed to say they were sitting there!), I realized I hadn't charged my camera battery again. This always happens when I am trying to take important pictures vs. trivial ones. Ted asked me-- does it take a rocket scientist?--flipped open my camera battery (I have trouble remembering WHERE it is), quickly exchanged it with his own, zip-zip, and handed it back to me. "Should work now," he said.

A ROCKET SCIENTIST! Ted is one of the few people who can really make that joke because he was one, working at NASA HQ in Houston with bigshot contractors like Lockheed. I realized, this needs to be a campaign slogan: IT DOES TAKE A ROCKET SCIENTIST!!!! I think it should be on bumper-stickers, buttons, signs...

And so, we pick over the fascinating details of Ted Christian's life, wondering what the Republicans will say. He knows he's not a typical candidate. The rest of us wonder how much that fact will hurt or help his candidacy.

The simple fact is, Ted Christian might be TOO COOL for upstate South Carolina. For instance, he retired at age 28, after successfully playing the stock market for several years as only a rocket scientist could. This fact may bring admiration, and then again, it may bring envy and suspicion. It's one thing for the members of the upper classes to waste time on yachts and dash around Europe in expensive sports cars; quite another for a very smart working class kid to figure out the ins and outs of capitalism well enough to make a lot of money so he can do interesting things like live in the desert for awhile, hang out in Australia and make pilgrimages to the Vatican ("Including the gift shop," he says) and Tibet. Tibet? He'll have some explaining to do around here in Baptist country. Although the Tibet stories would probably get him instantly elected down on the coast, say, in Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head or Charleston. But up here?

Well, I don't know. Have we arrived as a real live Metro area or not?

Whether Democratic voters in the June 10th primary will vote for an interesting person with new ideas borne of different and varied experiences around the world, or stick with the same old homespun Bubba-characters and/or party hacks, will tell the tale.

Ted Christian was born in Japan (to a Vietnam veteran father) and grew up in Florida. After college, he went to work in the aerospace industry in Houston, working on the space program. He also lived near Las Vegas for a time, studying the mathematics of various card games, which he considered researching for a dissertation. It makes sense he would be captivated by the mathematical probabilities of the stock market.

After making enough money to live on, he decided to see the world and eventually ended up here in Greenville in 1999, which is also the home of his sister. I first met him during his work on the Billy Mitchell mayoral campaign. Ted founded the Greenville Antiwar Society, virtually the day the war began. Like Obama, he was against the war before it started and is the only candidate who can make this claim.

And so, here he is, running for congress as one of three candidates vying for the Democratic congressional nomination. (The others are Greenville resident Bryan McCanless, and Paul Corden, a former marketing executive and retired community college teacher from Spartanburg.) He is eager to debate the other candidates, who seem utterly terrified of him. They should be; he is smart, witty and quick. My concern is that he will blurt out something irreverent, which he likes to do (he's funny!) and then get raked over the coals for it (at worst) and/or misunderstood (at best).

Example: Every candidate in the upstate is duly interrogated about religion, and expected to give their church affiliation when they run for office. It's standard operating procedure and Christianity is required, much as it is for the presidency. I asked Ted what he was going to say, and he quipped "Uncommitted!"

Now, see, you can't say that stuff. They will eat him alive.

But of course, a candidate's religion IS seriously no one's business in a democracy that supposedly prides itself on the separation of church and state. These questions are highly inappropriate, but the media ask them anyway and the candidates answer like trained seals. They obediently provide the details of their multiple-year-membership in whatever approved Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian denomination (and it better be one of those, no off-brands!) they have dutifully enlisted in. And this information is printed on the campaign leaflets. If Ted wants to be the "change candidate"--he might actually be the first upstate candidate to declare, "I find that question inappropriate!"--but then again, this might make him look like an educated snob. (Even if his opponent, incumbent rightwingnut Bob Inglis, is the one who went to Duke.)

Ted could also be his witty self and reply with something like "Well, I haven't decided on a church membership yet, but I've noticed church membership doesn't stop our Congressman Bob Inglis from engaging in morally questionable acts, such as giving his wife a pricey job in his re-election campaign!" Using the occasion to hammer at Inglis, might be the way to go.

I will be leafletting for Ted and busting my butt before the primary. He is a shaft of sunlight peeping through the door, a harbinger of a new Upstate that thrives on diversity and real debate. He signifies that the 4th district has come of age and is ready to entertain some actual political argument.



the fruitfemme said...

Wow. Wish *I* could vote for him!

annie said...

wow indeed. i love reading about southern progressives. thanks!

JoJo said...


Oh yeah, BTW, "Abbadon" is now posting as "Deadman".

Ted Christian said...

With enough Daisies we could conquer the world.

Daisy said...

What a nice thing to say! :)

Octogalore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Octogalore said...

Daisy's a huge advantage for any campaign. I liked TC's talking points on his site. A little more conservative on some fronts than I would have thought you would like, Daisy... eg immigration. I personally do agree with the policy designated there.

My only quibble would be that the "abortion" section become a larger "women's rights" section covering reproductive rights as well as other issues.

Ted Christian said...

My opponent in the primary doesn't mention abortion on his website. On the Republican side Inglis is of course against it, but only in principle.