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What happened to the concept of “the loyal opposition” in national politics?

By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times

As a young boy, it worried me that my grandfather liked to say he had lived too long when he didn’t understand how and why the world was changing so much in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I thought that meant he was ready to die rather than adjust.

Luckily for our family, Grand-Dad lived to be 91. But now, at the tender age of 80, I find myself tempted to think the same way when it comes to the deterioration of American politics.

I was driving to my part-time job last week when a car pulled in front of me and I spotted a series of rear windshield stickers. The largest one caught my eye and instantly infuriated me.

It was a shiny new drawing of the back of a human hand with the middle finger raised in what many call the “bird” position. Below the drawing was the name of President Joe Biden. It was clear to me and other passersby that the driver was sending an obscene message to the 46th president of the United States.

The 2024 presidential election is still 20 months away and the hate messaging is already well underway. The growing disrespect of the presidency threatens to become a greater tidal wave than during the 2020 campaign.

I often reflect on the disgust I feel for the lack of civility in national and state politics. I wonder what has become of the concept of “the loyal opposition” which emerged in this nation in the mid-1950’s.

History tells us the phrase “the loyal opposition” was coined by John Hobhouse in a debate in the English Parliament in 1826. 

The expression came to life in the U. S. in 1956 when newly elected President Dwight Eisenhower asked his fellow Republicans in Congress to speak out on national issues but to never lose sight of what was best for America. That eventually led to the minority party getting the right to challenge each president’s State of the Union message.

However, it appears to me that the bitterness between political parties today is akin to realizing that you brought a knife to your opponent’s gunfight.

(Contact Keith at keithkappes@gmail.com).



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