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Obstructionism: A history lesson for Republicans



I get yelled at by Trump supporters all the time on social media who tell me to “get over it”; their side won, he’s POTUS, and I should stop obstructing. “He’s OUR President,” one woman lectured me on Facebook. “If you don’t like it here, move to Russia,” a guy told me, ironically, given the Trump-Russia connection. These Republicans expect, I suppose, that everybody should stop criticizing Trump.

My reply is that criticism of elected officials is part of the American fabric. But I would add an important caveat: this current climate of hyper-partisanship and obstructionism was instigated by the Republican Party around opposition to the Obama presidency, in one of the ugliest political coups since the Civil War.

History time

Barack Obama was elected president on Nov. 4, 2008. Even before he was sworn in, the top Republicans in the Congress, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell, had “secret meetings…in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect,” reported TIME. Adds David Obey, then Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, “What they said from the get-go” was that “it doesn’t matter what the hell you [i.e. Obama and the Democrats] do, we ain’t going to help you. We’re going to stand on the sidelines and bitch.”

After Obama was in office, McConnell made what is probably the most infamous Republican remark concerning Obama’s young presidency: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Republicans: Did you ask Cantor and McConnell to “get over it”?

It’s against this background of facts—not fake news—that opposition to the Trump regime needs to be seen. Republican opposition to Obama—who had said in 2004, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America”—was fast, furious and unrelenting, no matter how bipartisan he tried to be. He was never the “socialist” Republicans, like Sarah Palin, painted him to be; the stimulus bill (TARP) for which the Tea Party and the Koch Brothers initially castigated him was in fact signed into law by President George W. Bush in October, 2008, a month before Obama was even elected. What ensued was the “war” on Obama, about which I wrote about a few days ago, that saw the rise of Citizens United and an unprecedented wave of secret money, astro-turf groups, patently false rhetoric, vigilantism and the stoking of racial, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim resentment, especially in the Rust Belt and the Bible Belt.

So, to my dear friends on the right who demand that Democrats cease and desist from criticizing this president, I say: Why should we? Tu quoque.

We are correct on the issues and History will support us, while we are equally convinced you are on the wrong side, with your nationalism, religious fanaticism, autocratic tendencies and obliviousness to facts. While we may lose an election here and there (Tuesday’s Georgia 6th was a disappointment), we also win on occasion; and, after all, elections aren’t our only refuge. We have the courts (which thus far will not allow Trump’s vengeful Muslim ban, and which thankfully legalized gay marriage, which the Tea Party abhors), and we have objective, non-partisan law enforcement agencies, like the F.B.I., whose mission is to uphold the law in a way that is “faithful to the Constitution of the United States.” Surely Robert Mueller will keep this in mind as he doggedly pursues his investigation.

So, yes, I freely admit we Democrats (and many others) are obstructing this current president. And we learned how to do it from the masters of obstruction: Republicans.

  1. Peter Ricci says:

    Obstructionism was started well before President Obama, who started it is not what is important. Anyone who blames one party or the other are fools.

    That is what is wrong with America today, parties and people spend more time trying to proving the other side wrong then working on the issues of the day.

    Anyone who reads this article must decide – Do they want to be part the problem or part of the solution? You have made your position very clear, you want to be part of the problem.

    Shame on you and shame on the fools who are trying to prove your version of history is wrong.

  2. Dear Peter Ricci, I gladly accept your criticism of me. It is a badge of honor. Moving forward, I invite you to join The Resistance. Thanks for reading my blog!

  3. “That is what is wrong with America today, parties and people spend more time trying to proving the other side wrong then working on the issues of the day.”

    Ah yes, working on the issues of the day. I wonder what that would look like when it comes to, say, health care:

    (a) producing a draft bill early in the process, so that senators of both parties have ample opportunity to review, comment, debate, and negotiate, so that the CBO can score it, affected groups can provide input, and the public can be heard; or

    (b) negotiating the bill in secret among the majority caucus only, sharing it only with certain industry lobbyists, and then releasing it at the last minute and rushing to a vote before too much media attention can be generated, before the public notices, and without facing the voters at town halls.

    One party called for (a), the other opted for (b). But folks like Peter, who supposedly just want both sides to “work on the issues of the day,” doesn’t notice when one side can’t be bothered to work together.

    Give credit to Republicans — they noticed a long time ago that people like Peter won’t punish them for their behavior. It’s like a teacher or parent who declares “I don’t care who started the fight” — the lesson they’re unintentionally providing is, “you’re going to get into the same amount of trouble either way, so you might as well get in the first shot.” Republicans have learned that lesson and put it into practice; Democrats just sit there and take it and seem to think they’ll get credit for being the good kids.

  4. Steve Kornacki (in his new book) identified the source of this poison: Newt Gingrich and his “Revolution” in the 1990s which unleashed the politics of personal destruction. Fed by the right-wing media (unchallenged after Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine). It was no longer “we are all Americans, but we differ on our approach to making America better”; instead it became “liberals are the enemies of America and need to be crushed and destroyed.” This has brought us to today, where people can no longer disagree among fellow Americans; but see themselves of against an “evil foe.”

  5. Mike K, yes, you’re right. Gingrich–a loathsome creature–was a big part of these cultural wars. I might date the source a bit earlier, to Nixon’s “Southern Strategy and, in the 1980s, Lee Atwater’s appeals to racism to get Reagan and Bush elected. But Gingrich was the most reprehensible of the bunch. Trump has now mastered the dark arts of the smear, the fake accusation, the direct appeal to fear. The question is, what do we do about it now? I say, vote! Vote Democratic. Contribute money to Democratic candidates. Thanks for your reply.

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