by Vivian Houghton
Note: The following
principles are my local versions of the Green Party’s ten key
Wherever we look, major decisions that affect our lives in
Delaware are made not by “we the people,” but by
economic elites who act as if they know the answers to
everything. One example is standardized testing in
Delaware schools, which was brought about by a massive public
relations effort sponsored by some of the state’s largest
corporations. Another example is the prioritization of
profits over human needs; for instance, while computerized
cow-feeding and milking techniques have decimated the
state’s number of dairy farm workers, robotization and
outsourcing have eliminated many Delaware auto industry jobs.
Again and again, lobbyists and big business decide our fate.
The grassroots concept of government “by the people, for the
people and of the people" is dying more each day.
In a real democracy, power flows from the bottom up, not the
other way around.
Pedro Martinez, a Mexican immigrant, was asleep in the back
seat of a car that had been stopped by the police at a railway
crossing. As the car sat on the tracks and the police
stood off to the side, a train smashed into the vehicle,
killing Martinez. When, over the following days,
questions arose concerning how this tragedy could have
occurred while Martinez was under police supervision, Newark
Mayor Godwin snapped at his questioners that the incident was
a minor matter that was being blown out of proportion by
"reporters and sensationalists . . . who like to make
sensational-looking stories out of nothing.” So, Pedro
Martinez’s life was “nothing.” It is unlikely the
mayor would have made the same comment if the killed person
had been a UD professor or a member of the Perdue poultry
business family. Certain lives don’t seem to count as
much as others.
In a real democracy, all people –
black, Latino, white, gay, immigrant, etc. – are valued.
In the late 1990s Delaware gave AstraZeneca a “gift” of 86
acres of ecologically diverse land to help the company expand.
Such unplanned development is one reason Delaware tops the
U.S. in killing off local plant species. Also, in the
name of protecting business, the state has hidden the emission
of hazardous chemicals from the public, as it did in a case
involving Newark’s Rodel Corp. No wonder New Castle
County possesses one of the nation’s worst pollution
records, ranking among the top 5% of U.S. counties that emit
toxic substances like mercury, benzene and arsenic compounds.
Just as troubling, toxic wastes have been found in Wilmington
areas where low-income, predominantly African-American
In a real democracy, health and good sense come before
industry and environmental wisdom rules the day.
Politicians say youth should be less aggressive, yet
politicians regularly use ruthless tactics to win elections.
Elected officials also talk about their hatred of violence,
yet they invest billions of dollars in the industrial
world’s largest prison system - a system that rehabilitates
almost no one, but produces much violent behavior.
In a real democracy, common sense would tell us that such
contradictions produce more violence, not nonviolence.
We need more power over our communities. We need
civilian review boards to stop police abuse. We need a
citizen-controlled commission to prevent water pollution
caused by the state’s poultry business. We need
government-funded citizen work teams that repair boarded up
houses and make them livable dwellings for the poor.
In a real democracy, people control the government, not vice
Since 1979, U.S. manufacturing jobs have steadily decreased
while the number of service jobs rose by about 40%. On
average, service jobs pay approximately one-half of what our
disappearing manufacturing jobs once paid. With lower
paying jobs increasing and higher paying jobs declining,
employment is no guarantee against poverty. Although
Delaware has a relatively low unemployment rate, from the late
1970s until now the income gap between the wealthiest 20% of
Delaware’s families and the poorest 20% has grown by a
In a real democracy, working should keep a person out of
70% of Delaware’s entry level male workers earn more than
female entry level workers. This gap continues beyond
entry level. On average, local women earn 22% less than
local men. Women hold approximately 80% of all low-paying
clerical jobs but are barely represented (6.3%) in the
state’s best-paying blue collar sectors -- e.g., precision
production, skilled trades, repair. In addition,
one-fifth of the state’s single mothers live in poverty.
As national statistics show, the economic situation for women
of color is even worse. Nationwide, African-American
women earn 35% less than men do and Latinas earn 48% less.
In a real democracy, a person should earn money on the basis
of the work he or she does, not on the basis of what sex they
Delaware hosts a diversity of festivals and events that
highlight various racial and ethnic communities.
Unfortunately, the state’s diversity of opportunity isn’t
as impressive as our festivals would indicate. Example:
in Delaware, African-Americans’ per capita income is only
60% of whites’ per capita income, and for every white person
who is imprisoned, more than 9 blacks are imprisoned.
Such imbalances are reflected even in higher education.
For instance, in spite of the fact that 18.8% of Delaware’s
population is black, the University of Delaware has done
little to cultivate an African-American presence on campus;
blacks make up only 4% of the student body and only 3% of the
faculty. There is a similar lack of a black presence in
high-level state government jobs.
In a real democracy, “freedom of opportunity” isn’t a
slogan; it’s a fact of life.
Responsibility. Many Americans wonder about possible
health problems arising from genetically engineered foods.
Yet Delaware’s state government has invested $15 million,
without public discussion, in a Biotech Institute that DuPont
wanted built. Meanwhile, half a world away, Indian
farmers have threatened to burn genetically engineered crops
owned by Pioneer, a seed company run by DuPont. The
farmers made this threat after burning genetically engineered
crops owned by another U.S. company, Monsanto. Why?
The farmers fear that biotech firms are forcing India to grow
genetically altered crops before enough research has been done
on the crops’ possible harmful effects. The world’s
more interconnected than ever. Problems here are linked
to problems overseas. Since firms are global, we must be
global. People must unite across borders to keep
monopolies under control.
In a real democracy, people’s global interests come before
corporate global interests.
Our grassroots movement for greater democracy isn’t only for
ourselves; it’s also for our children. Their fate will
spring from what we do, or don’t do, today.
In a real democracy, freedom is constantly expanded and handed
down to the next generation.