Saving Democracy Means Changing the Game

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Changing Course by Wayne D. King

By Wayne D. King,
The View From Rattlesnake Ridge

Whether you live here in the shadow of Rattlesnake Ridge or anywhere else on planet earth, the four most dreaded words for anyone in a relationship: gay, straight, business, personal, married couples, partners alike – are “We Have to Talk.”

They are code for “something is very wrong and only dialog can begin to resolve the problem.”

Sometimes the resolution is heartbreak, sometimes it’s compromise, sometimes it’s revelation. That’s where we are in America today . . . in a “We Need to Talk” moment.

Former state Sen. Wayne King of Rumney writes View From Rattlesnake Ridge.

Democracy is broken, Capitalism has run amok and the signs of danger for our Republic seem to flash ever more brightly every day.

Last week I scoured everything I could find on the Kavanaugh nomination, process and
outcome. I’m thoroughly convinced that a complete restructuring of the nomination and approval process for Supreme Court justices is in order, but this revelation is nothing new. Dozens if not hundreds of journalists and pundits have said the same in so many words.

This will not be easy because much of the process is enshrined in the constitution and what is not is sure to be highly controversial and perhaps only exacerbate the deep divisions in our country. So far I’ve heard people talking about a repeat of FDR’s “court packing” scheme; but if FDR with all his political capital couldn’t do that, it’s unlikely that any modern day President and Congress will be able to do it either.

It would also dramatically up the ante on the swing away from Democratic norms.
Then there’s the term limits idea, essentially limiting each Justice to an 18 year term and
granting every President the same number of appointments in any one term of office, unless there is a death on the court. This idea might have a bit more cache with both sides but as long as one side or the other dominates the court all the hypocrites who crow about term limits will find a hundred reasons why the Supreme Court is different.

It seems far more likely that we can change the tenor of the dialog in the House and the Senate than make major constitutional or legislative changes to the Court itself. . . and of course, given the tenor of the dialog today, even that is a tall order.

There is no doubt about it. The Supreme Court has been changed dramatically and for at least a generation or more. Progressives can wail and gnash their teeth over the injustice of what happened to Merrick Garland, but they will have to be satisfied in the knowledge that Mitch McConnell will take his place in history beside Bull Connor, George Wallace, Ross Barnett, Strom Thurmond and Joseph McCarthy because that will be the only justice we can expect on this, I’m sorry to say.

What struck me most about the various articles I read as I poured through the writing, podcasts and videos providing analysis was that there seemed to be one area where there was near unanimity on the question of whether this new more conservative Supreme Court would reverse previous courts and that was on the issue of same-sex marriage.

There were plenty of people who fell on both sides of the line on the effect of this more conservative court on voting rights,  Roe V. Wade, Citizen’s United and dozens of other decisions over the past few decades by a more moderately inclined court. But there was nary a soul who predicted that the same-sex marriage decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) would be reversed. Quite the contrary, they all declared that it would not be reversed.
So what makes it different from all these other decisions?

To many Americans the decision seemed to come at near-lightning speed compared to other social changes. One day even those who were considered to be friendly to the causes of gay Americans were hedging on the issue and suddenly the sky opened up and gay Americans were entitled to all of the rights and privileges as well as the joy and heartaches of marriage.

Truth is, all of this did NOT happen overnight, it’s just that it bubbled up from the grassroots to the states and finally to the nation. For years communities, cities and towns, and states had been building the national consensus and finally it broke through to establish a national norm that the Supreme Court recognized in their decision.

There’s a name for this: Federalism. It’s a new Progressive Federalism. Progressive in the
sense that it fosters progress toward establishing national norms; not liberal, not conservative but a city by city, town by town, state by state battle for the creation of those norms.

The federal government still has a role to play, of course. But it is in the push and pull of power and influence that these norms are formed. Most important, citizens are at the center of it: citizens who advocate for change at the local level, citizen’s that run for local, city and state office and citizens that speak out at every level.

Democrats and Republicans alike had best get used to it because in the Era of the Roberts Court the rallying cry has to be organize, organize, organize – and talk to one another. Above all be civil with one another. Make your case with vigor and energy: argue, fuss and fight. Sometimes you will win and sometimes you will lose – but there is no shame in losing when you fight for what you believe.

Your opponents are not your enemies, they love this country every bit as
much as you and if you remember this the pathway for moving forward will become much clearer.
We have to talk.
We have to Listen.
We have to Act – seeking common ground or creating new ground where we can stand
together: innovate, explore, experiment. Embracing shared American values as we forge
solutions that can stand the test of time and a Supreme Court – whether we like it or not.

About Wayne D. King: Wayne King is an author, artist, activist and recovering politician. A three term State Senator, 1994 Democratic nominee for Governor, former CEO of MOP Environmental Solutions Inc., and now launching a new
Podcast – The Radical Centrist. His art is exhibited nationally in galleries and he has published three books of his images and a novel “Sacred Trust” a vicarious, high voltage adventure to stop a private powerline all available on He lives in Rumney at the base of Rattlesnake Ridge. His website is: You
can help spread the word by following and supporting him at .


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