Cotton County, Okla., where LaDonna Harris grew up, harvests cotton, raises turkeys, and is home turf to "yellow dog Democrats." Her grandfather, a Comanche Indian with long braids, would have sooner voted for a yellow dog than a Republican. Like others in southwest Oklahoma, he looked to the party, rather than to churches or other institutions, to bring about social change during and after the depression.
Ms. Harris knows in her bones that asking such people to switch parties is like asking them to change religions. But that doesn't stop her from asking.
Convinced that the two main parties are simply replicas of each other, she thinks the time has come for a third party in US politics. To her, candidate John Anderson "is a warmed-over Jimmy Carter, and the Democratic Party looks like a warmed-over Republican Party.It you put a blindfold on, you couldn't tell [Carter and REagan] from each other, aside from their accents. They may change their phraseology a bit -- 'superior arms over the Russians' to 'increasing arms control.' But it's not that much difference. Often you have to choose the lesser of two evils, but this is a case of the evil of two lessers. We have to stand up and disagree."
Hoping to speak to disenchanted American voters, especially the 100 million who did not vote in 1978, the Citizens Party was born in Cleveland in April this year. The convention, attended by 275 delegates representing 30 states, nominated the environmentalist and scientist Barry Commoner for president and for vice-president, LaDonna Harris, an activist on Indian issues and the wife of former Oklahoma Sen. Fred Harris.
Ms. Harris notes that none of what she considers the forces for change in American society -- the Vietnam war protests, the civil rights movement, the women's movement -- started in established institutions; they came through indidividuals organizing themselves as the Citizens Party has.
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