06 October 2008

The Presidential Candidates: Joe Schriner

Schriner prefers to be called "Average Joe." In a way, this is rather arrogant of him, but it's one way to pitch yourself to the so-called common man. But like many an "average Joe," Schriner juggles a lot of tasks. He's a freelance journalist, a Little League coach, a Catholic outreach worker in poor neighborhoods, and a part-time house painter. This is his third presidential campaign.

Since 1990, Schriner has been traveling the country "to look for common-sense solutions" to societal problems. He comes back from his research with some ambitious claims.

On the Southside of Chicago in a gang war zone, I learned how to end homelessness. In Atwood, Kansas (pop. 1,500), I learned how to balance the National Budget. In Grand Junction, Colorado, I learned how to get healthcare for all. In High Springs, Florida, I learned how to end global warming, for good. In Juarez, Mexico, I learned how to unequivocally solve
the immigration issue.

Schriner is a walking clippings file. He constantly drops the names of newspapers across the country that have interviewed him. He claims to have logged 80,000 miles since his first national effort in 2000. Most recently, he's returned from a "Buckeye Backcountry Tour" of rural Ohio. And since he's returned home to Cleveland, his blog reports, his family has had two bikes stolen. He's used to rough treatment on his quest.

His running mate is Dale Wray, a man he befriended in Cassopolis, Michigan, where Wray is active in the chamber of commerce and the local arts community. “For me, the choices I make come down to following the only two commandments that Jesus gave: ‘Love God. And love your neighbor." Wray says, "I have spent a lifetime trying to define [and live out] those terms.”

Getting to the issues, Schriner commented on the bailout crisis on his campaign blog last week. "Foreclosures seem to be starting a chain reaction," he wrote, "A homeowner is foreclosed upon when they can’t pay the mortgage anymore. This begs the question: How many people are simply living beyond their means these days? Sure there’s inflation. And yes, variable rate mortgages are going up. So in the face of this, many could adjust by, say, living more simply, and creatively (like house-sharing). This should be how we approach the National Debt as well. That is, the Federal Government should: tighten it’s belt and come up with creative ways to pay it off." Earlier in September, he recounted how mortgages have evolved in recent years.

We then stumped in Delaware, Ohio, where I talked with a man-on-the-street about the economy. He said his first mortgage was a one-page document that said the bank was going to loan him so much money and he would have to pay so much money each month in return. That’s it. Now those documents are multi-page, small print, extremely complicated (and convoluted) legalese, with all kinds of additional provisions, loopholes, etc.. Extrapolated out, that’s the picture of our economy in general these days. For instance, the recent stories of all the intricacies of the Federal bail outs, and the tremendously multi-dimensional dynamics of the companies being bailed out, paint a picture of an extremely complex (and superfluous) behemoth — that needs to go back to a simple, one-page form, metaphorically speaking.

That's hard to argue against.

On Iraq, Schriner says, "I would have weighed a potential, pre-emptive war in Iraq (and any possible future war), against the criteria of “Just War” principles. In this case, it didn’t match up.~ Before declaring any war, I would go to Congress, not with a pre-conceived plan, but with an open mind. And I would respect the consensus decision. ~ Likewise, I would go to the U.N. with the same type of paradigm." He proposes to go to Iraq, if elected, to apologize personally to the Iraqi people. He would leave our remaining in the country up to a vote by the Iraqis, while recommending South Africa and Northern Ireland as models for reconciling the various Iraqi factions.

Schriner would fight terrorism without the Bush administration's extraordinary surveillance measures and without resort to torture. He also believes that the U.S. should stand down from its own "terrorist" policies toward the rest of the world in order to reduce the danger of terrorism striking home. Here's his position paper on the topic, which showcases the way he learns about issues from interviewing people on the road. It's a wide-ranging if not necessarily comprehensive approach that Schriner's rivals might emulate.

He'll deal with energy issues by signing the Kyoto Protocol and developing wind and solar technologies while encouraging home-scale conservation with a peculiar emphasis on home-sharing. More nuclear power is verboten. Here's the position paper, which is too detailed to summarize in this article.

Schriner espouses a Consistent Life Ethic," or what others call the "seamless garment." That means he opposes abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. He seems to lean against war, but while he condemns the invasion of Iraq according to "just war" criteria, the very existence of such criteria implies that he would endorse at least a defensive war. Once he contrasts the "Culture of Life" with the "Culture of Death" you know religion will have to come into it.

I personally believe God pre-destines the life span of someone. And in that span, the person has a set of opportunities to impact the world, for “the good.” However, for reasons of: convenience(abortion); for reasons of revenge (the death penalty); for reasons of selfishness (unequal distribution of food, access to health care, adequate shelter… between the advantaged and the disadvantaged); undue expedience (a motor vehicle fatality in America – every 13 minutes)… God’s design for a person’s lifespan, and their impact on the world -- gets cut short.

However, Schriner wants to do more than just say no. "For one, as president I would work exhaustively to try to help reverse societal trends that often lead to abortion. Among the most prominent, in my opinion, are: increasing poverty, the wide scale breakdown of the nuclear family, declining social mores leading to rampant promiscuity; a growing cultural perception children are a “burden” in respect to lifestyle choices; and, an ever increasing devaluation of Life (with the unborn, the handicapped, the elderly…) in this country."

Conspiracy theorists beware: Schriner actually supports the idea of a North American Union. "This would be for the purpose of inspiring more joint environmental conservation projects, more joint business ventures, more tourism (especially eco-tourism) to help boost poorer economies, more cultural exchange," he writes, "and, most importantly, it would promote much more general camaraderie between nations. " He also calls for amnesty for the undocumented, a "living wage" for immigrant workers, and temporary worker programs.

There's a lot more to learn about on Schriner's website, into which he's put a lot of work, or at least a lot of words. He's clearly put much more effort into learning about the issues than many comparable independent candidates. My great reservation about Schriner is his lack of any record of leadership in any venture. Intelligence and a capacity to synthesize a lot of grass-roots data are valuable qualities, but there's no evidence that Schriner could convert those qualities into political power. He himself contends that he'll have accomplished something if he gets the people he meets on his long campaign trail to change their lives in some way. To the extent that he's seen people do that, he once suggested jokingly, he may as well be President already. Rather than see him elected, however, I'd like to see someone subsidize him so he could better publicize his findings. He ought to be made the editor or publisher of some national magazine or a regular contributor to television or radio. He could probably do more good that way in the long run. He might at least lose the temptation to cite his own press clippings all the time.

Schriner was ambitious enough last year to seek the Green Party nomination. Here he is making his pitch. I found that the quoting of himself was more obnoxious in a speech than on the website. "Average Joe" ought to be more modest.


crhymethinc said...

The volume on the video clip is pretty low, so I can't quite make out a lot of what he's saying, but given what's on his home page, he sounds like yet another egostroking cretin to me.

And again, anyone who tries to make "god" or religion part of their campaign should automatically be disqualified for violation of Freedom of Religion (or, in my case, Freedom of No Religion).

Samuel Wilson said...

"Cretin" goes a bit far, don't you think? I suspect you're giving poor Average demerits for his faith, which begs the question: must a candidate be avowedly atheist to win your endorsement, or can candidates get away with simply keeping their faiths to themselves?