Needed: An American Michael Howard
One thing about this "parliamentary opposition"
idea that Josh Marshall is kicking around. In a true parliamentary system, the minority party has a highly visible leader who acts as the voice of the party—and whose clout and national prestige is usually second only to the prime minister. Someone like Michael Howard
, only less inept. The Democrats don't have anybody like that, but they should. The opposition leader wouldn't really get involved in the day-to-day mechanics of obstructing GOP legislation (Harry Reid can do that) so much as put a clear and highly public face on what the Democrats stand for, what their alternatives are, etc. etc. He or she would basically be the Muqtada al-Sadr of what the New Democrats call the "reform insurgency"
. (Tasteless, I know, but...)
Now the obvious candidates for this position are John Kerry—who did after all receive the second-most votes of any presidential candidate in history—or Hillary Clinton, though I'm not sure either of those would be the shrewdest choices politically. Also, the "opposition leader" doesn't necessarily have to be a presidential contender in 2008. But the leader would frame what the party stands for, and the eventual Democratic nominee could hew to or steer away from this baseline as necessary.