Bernie Sanders – Leader of the Opposition?

In the current desolate state of US politics there are two opposition voices that are often heard, those of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren speaks rather narrowly on banking and consumer protection, Bernie Sanders on everything. What Bernie Sanders does is admirable, but not enough in terms of opposition politics.  

The tandem of Schumer and Pelosi is completely ineffective and remarkably tone-deaf. In their defence one should perhaps remember that opposition is hard when both the Presidency and the two chambers of Congress are in the same hand. Democratic opposition is made even harder when the Republican Party is so disunited as to form its own opposition groups. 

The Democratic Party could learn from the mother of all parliaments, that of the UK. Although British democracy is also in dire straights at present, there is something that is worth emulating, and that is the system of shadow cabinets. Such a system might come more easily to a system where the government emanates from the Parliament, but it can, of course, also operate in a presidential system. 

What the Democrats should do is to formally designate shadow cabinet secretaries that could always be the counterpoint to the actual cabinet secretaries. This would move opposition politics a bit away from being only no, and would allow a broader front towards the ruling party. Relying on the senior member of the individual committees does not work, even if shadow ministers, of course, could come from those ranks as well. 

But, most importantly, a shadow cabinet would force the Democrats to start to coalesce around a leader already now, and would give that leader an opportunity to lead the party before it gains power. The Republicans are currently a classical example of how easy it was to be a party of no, and how hard it is to become one of yes. 

Choosing a leader now would not mean scrapping the primaries system, but would set the scene for it. Choosing a leader now would make it hard to change horses later on. But given the advantages that is a price worth paying! Letting the unprepared assume the mantle of the most powerful office in the world is really not a good idea!


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