Imagine a nonpartisan presidential candidate who lives in a modest house, walks or bicycles around town, mows his own lawn, travels in a 1990s motorhome, and does without air conditioning and TV. Meet "Average Joe" Schriner. Joe explains that his age (52), his height (5'10"), his weight (180 pounds), his yearly income (five digits), his home state (Ohio) and his overall political outlook represent the average American.
In 1990, this Cleveland journalist and inner-city substance abuse counselor relocated to Tiffin in northwest Ohio to experience rural life. In 1992, along with his wife Liz and children Sarah and Joseph, Mr. Schriner embarked on an eight-year, 60,000-mile journey of the nation's back roads, visiting hundreds of small towns to collect research. In 2000 "Average Joe" Schriner registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to kick off his quiet presidential campaign. Since then-with the added company of a third child, Jonathan-he has traveled another 20,000 miles through the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and the Southwest. In this 2008 election year, Joe is touring his home state once again. "We're running as concerned Midwestern parents," he explains to reporters. "What Liz and I are most concerned about are mounting levels of violence, poverty, drug abuse, sex in the media, pollution." The Schriners have devoted their lives to making a real difference in the country, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Joe's campaign slogan? "The common Joe for the common good."In 1997 the Schriner family had moved from Tiffin to Bluffton, a quiet town on I-75 about one hour north of Sidney. This led to a 2002 book called America's Best Town: Bluffton, Ohio 45817, in which "Average Joe" presents this little-known village as the most accurate representation of his platform.
This is a man who is not simply walking the fence, pandering to each group of voters in order to win votes. No, Joe believes wholeheartedly in each of his positions on each issue. Very few candidates for office have presented so many helpful and innovative ideas, all within a devout Catholic perspective. Not only do most of "Average Joe's" issue positions make good sense by themselves, but they make superb sense when combined into a single, organic, positive and sensible political philosophy.
A holistic pro-lifer, Joe firmly opposes abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research involving embryonic abortion, and the death penalty. He would also open more crisis pregnancy care centers thruout the nation.
No big-name candidate can compete with "Average Joe" on fiscal responsibility. Joe would abolish the personal income tax and the IRS; institute a national sales tax; simplify the tax code down to a one-page form; and ensure corporations pay their fair share. He says we must "tighten our belts and pay... [the record-busting national budget deficit] off so our children don't inherit it."
If elected, Joe would replace landfills with recycling centers and outlaw toxic pesticides. He sees a deleterious trend toward mass-production mega farms, which he hopes to reverse by encouraging the retention and growth of small family farms. He would slash energy prices and clean up the environment by dramatically shifting America's energy sources to electric, wind and solar power. Joe favors US ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.
On the surface, Joe's agenda of free health care and social security for all Americans sounds like Clinton socialism. Not so, however. "We would shift power in a tremendous fashion back to people at the local level," says Joe. With the federal bureaucracy tamed, less defense spending and America's nuclear weapons program stopped, hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenue will be available for social programs. Banning toxic farm chemicals, tightening emissions regulations, and encouraging sustainable agricultural practices will lead to a healthier populace less in need of professional health care services. An emphasis on natural remedies as well as reining in the corrupt pharmaceutical industry will also reduce health care costs. In light of Joe's comprehensive approach and attention to the root causes of problems, free health care and social security make more sense.
Regarding the complex immigration issue, Joe would first have local communities support the aliens' immediate needs, including temporary employment, and would dismantle the nation's new southern border wall. Then he would cut red tape from the legal immigration system and clamp down on American mega-businesses operating in Mexico; the latter would help expose and clean Mexican government corruption. Then "Average Joe" would aid Mexico in developing its own distributist (free but fair) economic system, giving the Mexican people incentive to remain in their home country.
Joe is no slouch when it comes to foreign policy either. On a colorful website, www.voteforjoe.com, he has compared Middle Eastern terrorism to US inner-city violence: "Frustrated kids in US cities join gangs. Frustrated kids in the Middle East join terrorist cells." Joe will distribute foreign aid more evenly to develop the world's needy countries, initiate global nuclear disarmament to cool off the "arms race," and establish a U.S. Department of Peace. His plan for Iraq includes a formal apology to the Iraqi people for invading their land and stealing their oil, more intensive training of the Iraqi military, humanitarian and financial assistance for rebuilding the country, and a gradual withdrawal of troops effective immediately. "I would also admit there is a tremendous duality in telling other nations they can't have WMD's-when we have the biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world," adds "Average Joe."
Finally, Joe gives the current unthinkable atrocity in Sudan, "the first genocide of the 21st century," the attention it deserves. He supports the recent deployment of 18,000 UN-AU peacekeeping troops in Darfur; would demand that Omar al-Bashir halt the Sudanese genocide immediately; and would rally international humanitarian assistance for the millions of starving, destitute and threatened inhabitants of Sudan.
Mr. Schriner's first book about his unique presidential campaign, published in 2000, is entitled The Back Road to the White House. "We wouldn't live in the White House," declares Joe. "We've grown too soft as Americans...We're asking Americans to cut back tremendously on lifestyle." And Joe himself is leading by example. He told Alabama journalist Ken Kifer in 2002: "We share the bath water and then use the water to wash clothes. Not rhetoric, but our way of living." That year the Schriners spent Thanksgiving Day with Kifer, eating a simple four-course meal Liz had prepared the day before.
Says Joe, "I don't want to leave a world of climate change, war, abortion, rural and inner city poverty, violent streets, nuclear proliferation, astronomical national debt, little social security, dwindling access to healthcare... to our children. What sane parent would?" "Average Joe" sums up his grassroots campaign thus: "We believe that if you heal the family, you heal the country."
As a baby boomer, Joe deeply understands his generation's needs such as health care and Social Security, but he also strongly appeals to younger folks with his radically fresh, well-grounded, grassroots approach. Joe's philosophy transcends the ideological warfare of America's two-party system to reflect a perfect balance of individual responsibility and concern for the common good. The common sense, coherence and integrity of this philosophy are incomparable.
In the 2004 election, I wrote Joe Schriner's name on the ballot both to support him and show my dissatisfaction with Bush and Kerry. I intend to vote for Joe again in 2008. Currently, Joe is hoping to get his name on the ballot as the Green Party choice for president. This past September he attended the Green Party convention in Philadelphia and attracted considerable positive attention. After doing what little I can to support and promote his candidacy, I pray for Joe and his family and wish him the best of luck.
Instead of targeting big cities and preaching to emotional crowds about what his lobbyist backers claim America needs, Mr. Schriner ventures into every corner of the country to let people show and tell him what America needs. His courageous, idealistic, open-minded grassroots campaign is successful, vibrant and growing. Less than two months before writing his name on the ballot, I had the honor of meeting Joe personally at a farm festival in Yorkshire, so I can vouch for his honesty and integrity firsthand. He may be just "the little guy" with limited chances of winning the American presidency, but he gets me genuinely excited as no other candidate can. "Average Joe" Schriner has taken to heart John F. Kennedy's famous maxim, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." And he is inspiring the rest of us average folks to live by that motto as well.