America's mid-term elections provide the latest example of an expanding phenomenon: democratic governments that face no effective challenge by an opposition. More precisely, this phenomenon entails the growing number of democratically elected political leaders who do not confront alternative leaders able to gather the disaffected into a viable opposition.
The phenomenon is by no means confined to what once was the political right. Britain is nowadays experiencing what can almost be called the self-destruction of the opposition Conservative Party. For the third time in seven years the Tories are devouring their own leader, without any viable alternative leader for the party anywhere in sight.
In Germany, Gerhard Schröder's narrow victory is made secure by the intense soul-searching now underway among the defeated Christian Democrat opposition, as well as because of the moral collapse of the CDU's junior partner, the Free Democrats. Even more starkly unbalanced political landscapes can be found in France and Italy, where neither President Chirac nor Prime Minister Berlusconi need fear their challengers; indeed neither has a challenger to speak of.
Moreover, this situation is not confined to Europe. The self-destruction of the Congress Party has left India's government unworried by any political threat from outside its own ranks. In Russia, President Putin bestrides his country's elected Duma like Gulliver over the Lilliputians.