Upon my arrival to Lancaster, New Hampshire last week aboard the Newt Gingrich press bus, I spotted an assortment of demonstrators who had congregated to greet (as in, chant directly at) the Speaker as he meandered into a townhall meeting. It was a small group — six or seven — but for way up in the North Country. As was often the case this week throughout the state, Ron Paul supporters and members of the Occupy movement found themselves working in concert.
I asked Jessica Bernier of nearby Sheffield, who wielded a Ron Paul placard, if she felt the Paul campaign and Occupy were fueled by similar anti-institutional energy. “Yeah, I definitely do,” she said. “Because what I’m seeing, with my friends — I’m a Ron Paul supporter. Most of my friends are actually progressives, and are extremely supportive of Occupy. And I have been too, because it’s actually a welling up of the people. It’s an organic thing,” she said.
“We’re sick and tired of being trampled on,” Bernier continued. “One of my big issues is food freedom, and I see a lot of overlap with that — we don’t even have the right to choose the kinds of foods that we eat. Monsanto owns the FDA. They’re all over the place. So in our rejection of these monster corporations that are controlling people, I very much see an overlap.”
At this point in our conversation, a full-fledged Occupier and former Dennis Kucinich campaigner, Roger Hughes of Jefferson, interjected. “Do you think public education should be killed?” he asked Bernier.
“I’ll tell you what,” she replied. “I have three boys. Two of ‘em are in public school right now. I don’t have a problem with public education.”
Hughes seemed slightly reassured. “There are some things I like about Ron Paul,” he told me. “I’ve been an anti-war protester all my life. But I also know he can’t do so much about that anyway. He’s one man and as president, he can’t do so much about that,” Hughes contended.
He said his wife serves as chair of Progressive Democrats of Northern New Hampshire; they’d just received a call from the Obama reelection campaign requesting the organization’s support. The couple declined, opting instead to focus their efforts on Occupy-related activism. Hughes said the Obama staffer seemed understanding of this.
“So you know, with Ron Paul, for me it’s a mixed bag,” he concluded. “Whereas with most of the other candidates, there’s nothing. There’s nothing to admire.”