Sen. Harris talks “Radical Optimism”

by | Oct 19, 2020 | Why I am a Democrat

This month’s Why I am a Democrat features former U.S. Senator Fred Harris: I grew up in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and Depression years of the 1930s.

My dad was, back then, a day laborer without a job, a sharecropper without a farm to sharecrop, my mother, a housewife with no outside income. For a time, my family was homeless and shared the home of a Comanche Indian family.

Then, Democrat Franklin Roosevelt was elected president. My dad got a Works Progress Administration (WPA) job helping to build the courthouse in my little hometown. My Uncle Jack joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCCs) and planted trees in New Mexico, most of his small monthly stipend being sent home to his parents, my grandparents.

Franklin Roosevelt was what I call a “radical optimist.” He believed in government of, by, and for the people and that aggressive, and progressive, action would bring better days. He was right.
As an old coal miner once said to me, “When Franklin Roosevelt took his seat, we commenced to climb, and we clumb!”

John Lewis was a radical optimist, too.
So is Joe Biden, whom I’ve known since I campaigned for him when he was a 29 year-old candidate for the U. S. Senate.

I am a Democrat because Democrats are radical optimists and because we believe, as I like to say, that “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”

Former U. S. Senator Fred Harris, University of New Mexico professor emeritus of political science, is a former National Chair of the Democratic Party, as well as a former State Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Presently, he is known as ‘Chief of Stuff’ for his wife, Marg Elliston, State Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

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