Support the Timberjay by making a donation.

Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

America needs a loyal opposition


In 1973, I lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a year. One of my friends was Lawrie Cherniak, who was on the city council and whose father was Saul Cherniak, finance minister in the provincial government, the second most important position after Premier Ed Schreyer. I asked Lawrie why it is the case in a parliamentary system that the governing majority listens to the minority, since they have the votes and party discipline to pass any legislation they want. He said, you absolutely have to. The opposition sees things from a different perspective, and if you don’t listen to them, you end up making big mistakes. In a way, the role of the “loyal opposition,” as it is called, is to be a reality check. It takes two to tango is true in government as well as dance.
But what happens if you have an opposition that is not interested in reality but invents its own “bespoke reality,” an ephemeral, changeable phenomenon as in the story of the King’s Clothes, where a king is tricked into wearing nothing but thinking he is dressed in the finest clothing, and everybody goes along for fear of being isolated as a troublemaker? In the story, it takes a child to break the spell and bring out the truth. But who can break the spell of a political party trapped in a cycle of obedience to an authoritarian leader and his sometimes-violent cadre of true believers?
It has been a long time that America has been functioning with one and a half political parties. Agree or disagree with them, love them or hate them, but Democrats still act like a traditional political party with policy agendas and internal debate. The Republican Party has become a cult whose main focus is to “own” their enemies, and who don’t even have a party platform anymore. It’s very difficult to have functional government when one partner is trying to dance and the other is off in the ozone.
This is not to say that I oppose conservative political parties. I don’t. I think they are absolutely essential for a functioning government. The problem is that the U.S. no longer has a conservative party, and that is America’s greatest loss.

Fred Schumacher