It strikes me that the biggest single weakness of the US political system, as compared with the situation in Australia, is that there is no US equivalent to the Leader of Opposition.
In Australia the leader of the party that loses the election automatically becomes the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He is in effect an alternative prime minister-in-waiting. The Opposition Leader serves as the focus for those who did not vote for the government. It is a recognised and important position and the Opposition Leader gets almost as much attention from the media as the prime minister.
The Opposition Leader appoints a “shadow cabinet” with each member having a responsibility to act as spokesman in that area of government. If the Attorney-General does something outrageous the Shadow Attorney-General will call him out for it. If the Minister for Trade has proved to be a failure the Shadow Minister for Trade will put him under pressure.
The Opposition does not wait until election year to decide on its policies. Any Opposition that did this would be doomed to defeat. The Opposition has its own policies which are constantly being presented to the people as an alternative to the current government’s policies. After an election loss they have three years to present themselves as an alternative government.
In the US by contrast there is no single figure from the losing side to serve as a focus of opposition to the governing Administration. This proves to be a dangerous weakness when you have a bad president like Obama. A president like Obama can ride roughshod over the Constitution and the people and there is no organised political resistance. No-one has any idea who will be the losing party’s candidate next time around until shortly before the election. Then the candidate has a very brief period in which to try to convince the voters of his credentials as an alternative president. And until shortly before the election the voters have no idea of the actual policies that candidate will be presenting to them at the election.
All this is a gift to an unscrupulous political schemer like Obama.
It also strikes me when reading conservative blogs from the US that the almost exclusive focus of those blogs is on the failings of Obama. This indicates the extent to which the incumbent president controls the political agenda. In Australia conservatives are able to focus on presenting a coherent alternative political strategy rather than merely criticising the present government. It allows opposition to the government to be much more positive.
We know that Tony Abbott will become prime minister if the government loses the election this year. We’ve known this for the past three years, and for the past three years we’ve known exactly what he stands for and exactly what his policies will be if elected. He’s had three years to prove himself as a competent and viable alternative prime minister. As a result there’s a good chance that the disastrous socialist Labor Party government will be thrown out on its ear later this year. Whereas in the US the Republicans seem destined to drift helplessly without leadership or direction until 2016 when they will most likely face yet another presidential election defeat.