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Not to be confused with Obstruction of justice. ‹See Tfd›

Obstructionism is the practice of deliberately delaying or preventing a process or change, especially in politics.[1]

As workplace aggression[edit]

An obstructionist causes problems. Neuman and Baron (1998) identify obstructionism as one of the three dimensions that encompass the range of workplace aggression. In this context obstructionism is "behaviors intended to hinder an employee from performing their job or the organization from accomplishing its objectives."[2]

In politics[edit]

Obstructionism or policy of obstruction denotes the deliberate interference with the progress of a legislation by various means such as filibustering or slow walking which may depend on the respective parliamentary procedures.

As political strategy[edit]

Obstructionism can also take the form of widespread agreement to oppose policies from the other side, regardless of any efforts at compromise. An example is the agreement by a group of Republican politicians at a meeting on January 20, 2009 when Republican strategist Frank Luntz met with seven Republican representatives, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, and Dan Lungren and five Republican senators, Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, and Bob Corker. Newt Gingrich was also in attendance. The agreement included among other things that they were to "Show united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies." Eight days later the Minority Whip, Eric Cantor, held the House Republicans to a unanimous "No" vote against Obama's economic stimulus plan. At the end of the meeting Newt Gingrich said "You'll remember this day. You'll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown."[3]

Mass media[edit]

In September 2010, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show announced the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, an event dedicated to ending political obstructionism in American mass media.

"We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles."[4]


The most common tactic is the filibuster which consists of extending the debate upon a proposal in order to delay or completely prevent a vote on its passage.

Another form of parliamentary obstruction practiced in the United States and other countries is called "slow walking". It specifically refers to the extremely slow speed with which legislators walk to the podium to cast their ballots. For example, in Japan this tactic is known as a "cow walk", and in Hawaii it's known as a "Devil's Gambit". Consequently, slow walking is also used as a synonym for obstructionism itself.[5]

Famous obstructionists[edit]

John O'Connor Power, Joe Biggar,[6] Frank Hugh O'Donnell, and Charles Stewart Parnell,[6] Irish nationalists; all were famous for making long speeches in the British House of Commons.[citation needed]In a letter to Cardinal Cullen, 6 August 1877, The O'Donoghue, MP for County Kerry, denounced the obstruction policy: "It is Fenianism in a new form."[7] The tactic deadlocked legislation and 'the autumn Session of 1882 was entirely devoted to the reform of the Rules of Procedure with a view to facilitating the despatch of business.'[8] Sir Leslie Ward's "Spy" cartoon of John O'Connor Power appeared in Vanity Fair's "Men of the Day" series, 25 December 1886, and was captioned "the brains of Obstruction".

Two other famous obstructionists are Jesse Helms and Mme Flemington.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-cobuild/obstructionism
  2. ^ Neuman, J.H., & Baron, R.A. (1998). Workplace violence and workplace aggression: Evidence concerning specific forms, potential causes, and preferred targets. Journal of Management, 24, 391–419.
  3. ^ Draper, Robert. Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives. New York: Harvard Free Press, 2012. Print. xv-xxii
  4. ^ Rally to Restore Sanity website – (September 18, 2010)
  5. ^ U.S. SENATE BUSINESS – (Senate – June 05, 2002)
  6. ^ a b Movement for Reform – 1870–1914, © M.E. Collins 2004; The Educational Company (Edco)
  7. ^ Letter to Cardinal Cullen from The O'Donoghue, 6 August 1877. Cardinal Cullen papers, Section 329/3
  8. ^ O'Connor Power, John, The Anglo-Irish Quarrel: A Plea for Peace, 1886.
  9. ^ http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/6234343

Jane Stanford, 'That Irishman The Life and Times of John O'Connor Power', Part Two, 'Parliamentary Manoeuvres', pp 77–84, 'A Change of Government, pp 105–107.