Here in the US, we don't have a "loyal opposition." We have our two-party system, in which the parties vie by any means to win elections. We have our history of election fraud, our gerrymandering of districts to help our side and stick to the other side, Nixon's dirty tricks, poll taxes, stealing debate prep books, etc. All's fair in an election except beating people up at the voting stations. So we might be nasty, but we're not violent.
The election season has somewhat looser rules. After election, it's back to civilized behavior, and maybe division of the spoils. In the past there was more bipartisanship in Washington, maybe because policy outlook was more regional than party-based. The northeastern Democrats had more in common with the northeastern Republicans than with southern Democrats.
For the past 3 years, that bipartisanship has completely broken down. Now, the party that happens to be the majority now isn't working with their compatriots who are likely to be majority sometime in the future. Instead, we have bitter combatants who haven't laid down any weapons or accepted the outcome of the last election or the election before that.
It's always been true that the last election never settled questions for good, no matter how much the last winners wished for it. But the lack of truces now makes me wonder if all major legislation is doomed for the foreseeable future. It's hard to imagine this Congress agreeing on changes to the tax code, even though everyone's tax rate is set to increase significantly at the end of 2012. Not even this impetus is enough to get these bloody-minded opponents to negotiate.
We need to go back to the days when the election-season fighting ended with the election.
By the way, once I thought about it, I realized what "loyal opposition" means. It means that the party which lost the election isn't going to make war on the winners. They will be loyal to the elected government, and not take up arms, split the country, and start a civil war. As angry as people may get in Parliament, I think they consider how great a tragedy would occur without the loyalty of the losers. We need to take a lesson.
Loyalty, my arse!
Link: My guess about the origins of our current amped-up partisanship.