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La Donna Harris Still Alive and Scrapping The Citizens Party in Texas RIBLIUPEI 3!1 By Paula Manley LaDonna Harris is minutes away from San Antonio’s Alamo Plaza where she would prefer not to have a press conference. The Alamo. Symbol of oppression. The Mexicans think of it that way and, actually, she does too. When she arrives the wind is blowing, the press is waiting, and she is thinking “What if . .” What if somebody asks why she, a Comanche Indian and purveyor of economic democracy, has chosen such an inappropriate place to hold a press conference. But no one asks. Neither is the Citizens Party vicepresidential candidate asked her position on nuclear disarmament, renewable energy, corporate control of industry and the long-range goals of the party. Harris has come to Texas San Antonio and Austin in late October to talk about the Citizens Party’s plans for the future the future after Nov. 4. But it is 12 days before the presidential election and the barrage of “What do you think of Anderson?” and “What’s the point of running when you know you can’t win?” questions are inevitable. She answers the questions by using them as Paula Manley is an Austin freelance writer. starting points to explain the relative unimportance of the election itself to the Citizens Party, the failure of the twoparty system, and the importance of starting a third party in order to keep a progressive liberal voice alive in national politics. Although she may feel that nobody is asking the right questions, Harris always manages to steer her answers toward the issues of her choice. Her rambling method \(which might go from the need for a national policy to deal with nuclear waste to the labor-intensive nature of renewable energy to the downfall of the auto industry to the Citizens Party plan forces the connections between the social, the economic and the political. In the Harris approach, social issues, including racism and sexism, are economic issues. And economic control is political control. She does not seek to simplify and categorize; she does not treat energy, economy, environment and employment as unrelated areas. Hers is not a mainstream approach in the strategic sense. It is not the stuff of network television. And getting it across will take time. The Citizens Party originated in 1979 out of disillusionment with the existing two-party system which was unable and unwilling to face the source of the nation’s crises. Organizers included ecologist Barry Commoner, Gray Panther Maggie Kuhn and Georgia legislator Julian Bond. Their platform called for an end to nuclear power; an end to monopolistic corporate control of industry; a reduction in defense spending, initiatives toward nuclear disarmament; reindus .trialization through development of renewable energy, mass transit, and the railroads; community control of the energy industries; full employment and price controls on essential goods and services. Commoner, perhaps the most popular member of the scientific community to speak out against nuclear energy and weapons proliferation, and Harris, an American Indian activist and wife of former Oklahoma Sen. Fred Harris, became the Citizens Party candidates for president and vice president. Until the election, the party struggled to gain ballot access for Commoner-Harris in as many states as possible. There was little money or energy left for involvement in local issues. Following the November election, however, the party will shift from “top-to-bottom” to “bottom-totop” organizational activities. It’s time for the grassroots stuff, the party believes working for local and state candidates, learning to lobby effectively, canvassing, educating, building for the future. In Texas, the San Antonio Citizens Party group will be campaigning to get city council candidates elected in two districts. The Austin group will decide within a month which city council candidates it will support. The Austin organization will also work to elect candidates running for mayor, county commissioner and several judgeships, and will work toward creating single member districts to guarantee minority representation on the city council. For the time being, none of the local candidates supported by the Citizens Party are their own. The first goal is to build a broad base of support through candidates with compatible philosophical views and support of particular issues. By 1982 the party hopes to have its own candidates and a permanent spot on the Texas ballot. At the national level, the Citizens Party has allies in the organizers of Democrats for Commoner-Harris which include Ralph Nader, Fred Harris, and the Machinists Union’s Bill Winpisinger. Harris feels the “pressure of the lesser of two evils” kept much of organized labor from supporting the Citizens Party before the election. “There is talk among union leaders about starting a union party because the Democratic Party is 12 NOVEMBER 14, 1980