By Paul M. Ingram
Mesa, AZ - Among GOP supporters were two distinct groups, a young and vocal throng of Congressman Ron Paul supporters who pushed through the crowd chanting “revolution…Ron Paul” and an equally youthful alliance of DREAM act supporters, who carried signs saying “Veto Romney, not the Dream Act.”
For a moment, these two groups clashed, supporters of both chanting slogans almost nose to nose with their opposition. The exchange was outside the Mesa Arts Center, the 19th and potentially final debate for the four GOP candidates. Mesa police officers kept a tight watch on the two groups, but nothing more than words were exchanged.
The Arizona Dream Act Coalition came in response to a pledge Mitt Romney made during a campaign stop in Iowa, when he promised to veto the so-called DREAM Act if it came across his desk as president. The act would create paths to citizenship for undocumented people under 35 who serve in the military or go to college.
Even as Paul supporters remain vocal, the Congressman’s support in Arizona appears weak. According to a recent PPP poll, Ron Paul has a fourth-place finish among the candidates, garnering only nine percent of the vote. In contrast, Romney and Rick Santorum are neck and neck, with 36 percent and 33 percent respectively.
Ron Paul supporters were some of the most vocal in the intersection of Main Street and Center Street. Along with more than three dozen other supporters, Adam Henriksen, 27, of Glendale, Ariz., chanted for revolution and “End the Fed!”
Sporting a blonde goatee and a Ron Paul Revolution trucker cap, Henriksen, doesn’t look like the typical young Republican.
“I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to vote for Ron Paul for a long time,” he said. “I didn’t have the chance in 2008, but I’m here now and it’s time for our generation to vote for someone who will change things.”
When asked about the other candidates, he said, “I see no contrast between Romney and Obama.”
He cited Paul’s “consistency” as a powerful reason to vote for the 76-year old Congressman and argued that the military “supports [Paul] twice as much as they do Obama.”
“He’s the only guy who talks about the real issue, the actual cause of the problem,” said Mike Durante, 26, who studied Regional Development until 2008, only to find that the banking crisis had destroyed his chances of finding a job after graduation. In addition to supporting Paul’s views on the Federal Reserve he is an avid supporter of Paul’s views on the Drug War and the PATRIOT Act.
For April Cardenas, 29, of Mesa, Ariz. the Congressman “preaches that we have to be self-reliant.” She discovered the representative’s sometimes quixotic campaign after seeing someone’s yard painted with huge letters reading Paul. “It’s plain and simple, if you’re reliant on the government that support can always be taken away from you,” she said.
In preparation for the debate, Mesa police officers cordoned off Main Street, creating a wide avenue for GOP supporters to watch the live CNN feed on a projection screen. In a bullpen just beyond the viewing party, supporters of the DREAM act voiced their disagreements, and during Romney’s answer about immigration, booed.
George Clifton, who carried a sign stating “I stand with all immigrants. Veteran: USMC and CIA” roamed the bullpen that kept protestors away from the viewing party, shouting “same old, same old” during the candidates’ responses.
Carmen Cornejo, the executive director of CADENA, an organization that advocates for the act, carried a placard with a red and green image of a student wearing a mortar board and graduation robe.
“I’m here protesting because Romney said he will veto the Dream Act,” she said.
In addition, DREAM act supporters were accompanied by Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with noted activist César Chávez.
As Paul supporters and DREAM act advocates faced off, there was a moment of agreement. “End the war,” yelled someone in the Paul crowd. “Yeah,” came the reply.