Americans are often accused of voting, not with their heads, but with their hearts — not to mention other anatomical regions. George W. Bush may have won the last election because he was the candidate most voters preferred to have a beer with. This year’s election might turn on such factors as a taste for moose burgers or the incendiary potential of porcine lipstick.
But what about the real issues? The genuine, non-sound-bite-driven issues that face the nation at this critical historic moment? Oh, come on, who pays any attention to those?
Kris Schoen, for one. The St. Anthony Park resident, 45, is a solidly built fellow who retains an air of youthful innocence along with his military haircut. He drives a GMC 3500 series truck whose sides are decorated with huge campaign slogans for Ron Paul, the Republican Congressman from Texas who has attracted an Internet following and a small corps of diehard enthusiasts with his brand of small-government, libertarian-influenced politics.
Schoen is indefatigable in the service of his candidate. His van can be seen at political events all over the Midwest. He calls Paul “the true maverick” candidate, noting that the “other Republican” has “hijacked the term.”
Schoen says his politics are based on the Constitution, and unlike most of us, he sounds as if that’s a document he’s read more recently than high school civics class.
A sound money supply and the imputed failings of the Federal Reserve System are the issues that get Schoen’s juices flowing, but he reserves special animus for the revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the recently passed legislation that grants immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping after 9/11.
“It’s an ex post facto law,” Schoen says. “If laws can change (after the fact), you no longer have the rule of law.”
On a September evening, Schoen and a couple of fellow Ron Paul supporters gathered in Schoen’s living room to reflect on their recent Walk for Freedom, a 280-mile trek — not a march, Schoen corrects a visitor — from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Minnesota that culminated in a Labor Day rally with Ron Paul at Langford Park.
Attendance on the walk ranged from a hearty band of seven at the outset to several hundred in the final miles. Schoen and his colleagues were especially pleased with the turnout at the Langford gathering, which they estimated at 1,000.
A former Air Force pilot who currently flies for United Airlines, Schoen says, “As a U.S. Air Force officer, I took an oath to abide by the Constitution. There are no politicians now abiding by that oath, except Ron Paul.”
It’s an unusual path for a man who grew up on Commonwealth Avenue, the son of moderately active Republicans, but Schoen and his friends feel that in some ways they didn’t leave the Republicans so much as their party left them.
“We’re Taft Republicans,” says Michael Maresco. “We’re noninterventionist, in favor of trade and a strong defense.”
But they’re less enthusiastic about recent U.S. policies toward Iraq and Iran, which Maresco brands as “wars for corporate interests” and “about empire-building and oil.”
How does Schoen feel about living in St. Anthony Park in what may be the demographic heart of Minnesota-for-Obama country, an area where DFL voters outnumber all other political adherents by margins usually reserved for the re-election victories of Third World dictators?
“I have neighbors that are DFL-ers,” says Schoen, “but they support Ron Paul’s ideas.”
“We get a lot of peoples’ respect,” adds Maresco, “if not their votes.”
Schoen says that his conversion to the kind of politics represented by Paul was a gradual process. There was no “ah-ha” moment, and if the job of getting out the Ron Paul message had been left to the traditional media, there might have been no awakening for him at all.
“A big part of it was the Internet,” he says. “On the Internet, you find information that the mainstream media doesn’t get out. I just started investigating, and that led me to Ron Paul.”
Schoen doesn’t see a lot of difference between the Democrats and Republicans, and he’s unmoved by the charge that voting for a third-party candidate means sabotaging the more palatable of the mainstream choices. His friend and fellow Ron Paul supporter, Rod Owers, sums up their viewpoint on the two main parties: “There’s a lot of lip service and posturing, but at the end of the day, their policies don’t change. People shouldn’t have to vote for the lesser of two evils. At the end of the day, it’s still evil.”
Not that Schoen is overly concerned with moving toward the mainstream or adopting consensus-building tactics. He’s staked out his positions and he defends them proudly. As a former military man, he believes in a strong defense, but the only war in American history that he wholeheartedly endorses is the Revolutionary one.
What about World War II and Pearl Harbor? “We were antagonizing Japan economically. That’s why they attacked.”
The Great Depression? “The Federal Reserve created the Depression,” says Schoen. “The New Deal prolonged it.”
And speaking of the Depression, according to Schoen and his colleagues, it’s only a matter of time until Hard Times return with a vengeance. “The economy will crash,” they warn.
In the meantime, Schoen is getting ready. “We’re looking at the long-term,” he says. “Everybody will come to it in their own time, but people are already waking up in droves.”