RAW SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY
given after Ralph Nader’s endorsement, October 5, 2002
saying anything else, let me first say the obvious: I cherish
Ralph Nader’s endorsement.
I cherish it because of what he stands for as an
activist. Not only
is he a militant consumer advocate whose
concern for people has led him to risk his reputation as
he battles against our nation’s corporate crimes, but Ralph
Nader is also a man who speaks across generations, mobilizing
the young as well as the old against injustice in general.
proof of Nader’s multi-generational appeal was evidenced in
his presidential bid in 2000.
It is also evidenced, maybe even more importantly, in the
role he currently plays in the anti-globalization movement, a
movement in which he stands side by side with many of
America’s youth in denouncing (1) corporate sweatshops in the
third world and (2) the havoc that institutions like the World
Bank’s and IMF’s predatory lending practices wreak on
developing countries. Because
of these lending practices, the world’s most economically
hard-hit populations – Chile’s copper miners, South
Korea’s squatters, Africa’s destitute, and many of our other
sisters and brothers across the planet – are pushed deeper and deeper into misery and suffering
while the wealth of multinational corporations mounts almost
beyond our capacity to imagine it.
Ralph Nader speaks out against such crimes makes him our brother
in the battle for justice.
As a result, the same thing can be said about him that
one of our
nation’s ancestors, little five-foot Mary Harris Jones who was
a union organizer, once said about herself.
She said, “My
address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide wherever
there is a fight against wrong.”
Mary Harris Jones, better known as Mother Jones, Ralph Nader’s
home address is wherever a fight for fairness is going on.
Therefore, I am proud to have received his endorsement.
I am proud to have received it because heaven knows we are
fighting injustice right here in Delaware.
And because of this fight, my campaign – and all the
grassroots people and organizations who are the true backbone of
this campaign – is a campaign not only about winning the
attorney general’s race, which we will do, but it is also about
laying the basis for an ongoing, independent-minded local movement
of people who want to challenge the local power structure on a
variety of issues including racial inequity, social justice,
environmental problems, worker rights, corporate crime and so on.
I don’t stand here tonight as a fragile spirit who plans
to disappear into the attorney general’s office or into
inactivity on Nov. 6, the day after the election. On the contrary, I stand here as the representative of tens
of thousands of Delawareans who understand that winning an
election is only one small part of what we must do.
We also have to go out into the streets in between
elections, year after year, mobilizing ourselves and pounding at
the doors of the powerful in order to change what must be changed.
The Republican and Democratic Party leaderships certainly
won’t do this for us, given how estranged they are from the
people they supposedly represent.
As proof of this estrangement, look at the Republican and
Democratic primaries that were held in our state a month ago on
Sept. 7. The
10% turnout for those primaries was an embarrassing example of the
two parties’ ineptitude and unpopularity.
why we’re here – because of the two parties’ failures.
That’s why this campaign is here.
That’s why so many people are collectively putting their
shoulders to the grindstone in order to build a movement, and to
elect an attorney general, that will take “we the people”
shouldn’t be a commodity bought by the wealthy in a sheik
boutique. Justice is
supposed to be for everyone, regardless of how much money you have
in the bank or the color of your skin.
one of the main jobs of the attorney general position that I am
running for is the prosecution of criminals, let’s take a few
minutes to look at prosecution and incarceration trends in
The first example I want to talk about is the issue of
racial equity in Delaware’s criminal justice system.
According to numbers compiled by the Federal Bureau of
Justice Statistics and the Bureau of Census, for every white
person who is imprisoned
in Delaware, 9.4 blacks are imprisoned in spite of the
fact that blacks make up only 19.2% of the population.
Just as disturbing is the fact that in Delaware, a
state in which the total person of color population is
approximately 25 percent of the total population, over half of
those on death row are non-white.
To say the least, this is a troubling
These facts reflect national trends.
For instance, as a majority of Americans now recognize,
the death penalty debate in our country
is often a coded dialogue about race and economic
status.. As all
the data show, if you’re a person of color or poor you’re
far more likely to be executed for a capital crime than is a
wealthy Caucasian. Additionally,
who you kill plays a significant role in determining what
punishment you receive. For
instance, from 1977-1998, of the 500 prisoners who were put to
death in America, 81.80 percent were convicted of the murder
of a white person. This
was in spite of the fact that about 50 percent of the
nation’s murder victims during that period were African
message of these numbers is clear: the U.S. judicial system
doesn’t consider killing a U.S. black as “bad” a crime
as killing a white.
In spite of facts and figures like these, neither Mr.
Schnee nor Ms. Brady, my opponents in the attorney general’s
race, have displayed the courage or principle to speak out
aggressively on this issue.
And yet the problem of racial equity within the justice
system is pivotal to the very meaning of democracy.
If the law isn’t applied equally to all people
regardless of race, the law becomes a fiction as opposed to a
reality and what we are left with is not actual equality but
only the hallucination of equality, as if we are all trapped
together in an asylum in which the real and unreal are mixed
together in a permanent state of racist disorientation.
This is why one of my priorities as soon as I take office will
be to establish a task force for aggressively attacking racial
inequity within the state criminal justice system.
The task force’s mandate will be not only to come up
with solutions to the problems already mentioned, but also to
develop ideas for rectifying
racial imbalances within police departments, both in
terms of who works there and who receives promotions there, as
well as for correcting similar imbalances within the attorney
general’s office itself.
Historically, racially imbalanced justice systems have
NOT produced the level of racial justice we need to be truly
democratic in the state or nation.
second topic I want to talk about with reference to the
attorney general’s race is the issue of the lack of
prosecution of corporate crime.
I want to begin my comments on corporate crime by
talking about the Delaware connection to a scandal with which
you’re all familiar: the Enron fiasco.
Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other
media outlets reported that Enron’s rise to power was helped
along by a group of Delaware laws that amounted to a corporate
As the Inquirer stated, these laws allowed Enron to
“shroud high‑stakes deals from investor scrutiny” by
setting up 685 Enron subsidiaries
in Delaware. That’s
right, 685 subsidiaries!
By doing this, Enron hid its true financial status from
its investors – including thousands of its employees who
were encouraged to invest in Enron stock for their retirement
– even while
the company was collapsing.
It is precisely this kind of a survival-of-the-fittest
economic climate that makes Delaware so attractive to large
is why our state is called the U.S.’s “corporate
Given Delaware’s pro-corporate legal landscape, it is
no wonder that the state’s industrial contaminators get away
with so much. Look
at the facts. We
live in a state in which one
of our counties – New Castle County – ranks among the top
5% of U.S. counties that emit toxic substances like mercury,
benzene and arsenic compounds.
On top of this, 236 of the state’s animal species are
on the endangered list because of environmental damage.
Also, a higher percentage of Delaware’s native plant
species have been killed off by development and lack of
industrial oversight than in any other state in the nation. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, our cancer rate is the
fourth highest in the nation and in Claymont, long known for
its industrial pollution problems because of Sunoco and
General Chemical, the rate of respiratory ailments among
children is the highest of anywhere in the nation.
It seems not to matter to those who run these chemical
companies that if you destroy a people’s land and air and
waterways, you run the risk of destroying
people’s bodies too.
spite of all this pollution, the state’s Department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Control – better known
as DNREC – has done criminally little to take Delaware’s
industrial polluters to task for breaking state
environment-protection and health laws.
Usually as a penalty a guilty company receives no more
than a slap-on-the-wrist fine which it is more than able to
pay – and so for all practical purposes, no real penalty has
attorney general I will step in and end such softness on these
accomplish this, my first move will be to investigate possible
criminal behavior on the part of DNREC for
its failure to adequately oversee polluters while
persisting in close ties with the very industry it is mandated
My second move will be to re-orient the
attorney general’s office so that it is willing to take the
type of aggressive action that was taken in Texas when the
Justice Department charged and convicted 2 managers of a
chemical plant under the Clean Air Act.
The 2 managers were sentenced to 36 months in prison.
This is the kind of thing I will do when necessary.
Under my leadership, the attorney general’s office
will not sell justice to the highest bidder.
The law will be applied to the rich as well as to the
And this is exactly the way things should be. After all, corporate criminals who commit their crimes from a
distance – while sitting in their luxurious offices or
boardrooms - shouldn’t be viewed as somehow less responsible
for their crimes than other people.
In fact, we could make the point – and I think we
should make it – that those who endanger our health and
lives by making corporate decisions that contaminate our land,
air and waterways are involved in a higher level of violent
crime than is the average street criminal.
As I stated earlier, Delaware has the fourth highest
cancer rate in the country.
If even only a fraction of our state’s cancer deaths
are caused by industrial pollution, that means that the CEOs
and managers of the responsible plants have participated in a
collective serial killing of far greater magnitude than any
violent crime perpetuated by any other individual criminal the
state has ever known. Why
should such criminals be left free to wine and dine each other
in the Hotel DuPont’s Green Room while many nonviolent drug
addicts are warehoused in jail rather than receiving the
medical rehabilitation they need.
third issue I want to talk about with reference to the
attorney general’s race is
Now of course, strictly speaking, health care
isn’t under the jurisdiction of the attorney general’s
office. At least
this is what Ms. Brady and Mr. Schnee would like you to
believe so that they can have an excuse for not talking about
health care. The
reason they don’t want to talk about this issue is because
both their parties have close financial ties to the insurance
and pharmaceutical companies, and these financial ties
compromise their ability to monitor the health care delivery
industry vigorously. As
people say among their friends about Republicans and
Democrats, “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.”
Neither I as a candidate, nor the coalition of people and
organizations that stand behind my candidacy, have this
problem. We are independent, we do not take money from corporations,
we are fierce in our determination to apply the law equitably,
and we are committed to a vision of justice that includes the
right of people to adequate health care.
Therefore, as Delaware’s Attorney General, I will
take my marching orders regarding health care rights from no
one except “we the people.”
This means I will investigate insurance companies’
behavior and I will prosecute any company or group of
companies that illegally deny customers health care
procedures, medications or office visits that the customers’
health warrants. Also,
in my capacity as attorney general, I will use my position to
advocate the passage of Delaware’s House Bill 552, The
Delaware Health Security Act, which would create a
single-payer style health care system, which is something our
state desperately needs.
And desperately is the right word to use here.
There are 100,000 Delawareans who have no health care
insurance and another 100,000 who have sub-standard health
care. Additionally, Delaware is 44th among the
states in the percentage of low-income children without health
makes this even more depressing than it already is, is that
Delaware’s below-average health care system exists in the
midst of a wealthy state that is known nationally as the
nation’s “corporate capital.”
Additionally, Delaware’s infant mortality rate is the
seventh-highest in the country, with the rate among blacks
more than twice as high as among whites.
In fact, The mortality rate for Delaware’s
African-American newborns is so bad that there are 46 nations
in the world that have lower infant mortality rates than black
born in poor countries like Bosnia, Croatia, Cuba, Chile,
Estonia, Malaysia, Lithuania and Jamaica have a better chance
of reaching their first birthday than does a black infant in
Delaware. While insurance companies deny care to the needy,
this is what happens in our state.
With Delaware suffering from realities like these, you
can take this to the bank: as attorney general I will
prosecute any health care delivery company that violates any
aspect of the law in terms of providing care.
No HMO or pharmaceutical company will stand in the way
of justice when I run the attorney general’s office.
conclusion, let me say this.
you know, we are running a grassroots campaign that has been
kicking butt and stunning Delaware’s
political status quo. And
I say “we” on purpose. This
campaign isn’t just about me; it’s about winning office, yes,
but it’s also about lots of people working together to build a
grassroots mass movement for justice.
the truth is that this campaign is not just my campaign, it is our
campaign. It is not
just a politics-as-usual campaign, it is an insurgent
Those of us who are here today are bound together by our
independent spirits, our vision of a more equal justice system,
our refusal to be taken for granted
by the powers that be, and our willingness to put our
shoulders to the grindstone and fight for a new, more open
politics here in our home state.
many of you, my inspiration for doing such work does not come just
from the electoral process. In
fact, much of what inspires me comes from outside the electoral
process– although I am putting it to work within the electoral
process now The
spirit that drives me – as it drives most of you – is the raw
spirit of democracy. This
is the spirit that fueled the earliest struggles against racism,
that inspired the 1930s unionization drives, that motivates the
gay and lesbian struggles for justice, that brought the
environmental movement into being, and that has propelled most of
what is best in U.S. history.
energy is what we have introduced into this election.
And this is why we are going to win!
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Committee to Elect Vivian Houghton
The Green Party of Delaware