From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 refers to "behaviors intended to hinder an employee from performing their job or the organization from accomplishing its objectives".[2]

In politics[edit]

John O'Connor Power "the brains of Obstruction" Caricature by "Spy" (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, 25 December 1886

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 of a political debate or dispute.

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."[3]


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.[4]

Notable obstructionists[edit]

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is considered a prominent obstructionist

John O'Connor Power, Joe Biggar,[5] Frank Hugh O'Donnell, and Charles Stewart Parnell,[5] Irish nationalists; all were famous for making long speeches in the British House of Commons.[6] 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".

A recent example is United States Senator Mitch McConnell. The Republican from Kentucky has gained notoriety for orchestrating numerous filibusters of federal judge nominations as Senate Minority Leader (2007-15, 2021-),[9] and for repeatedly blocking such nominations as Majority Leader (2015-21). He has bragged about his obstructionism,[10] referring to himself as the "Grim Reaper" of the Democratic agenda.[11] He called the successful block of the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination "one of the happiest nights of [his] Senate career".[12] According to former President Barack Obama, in one meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and McConnell about a piece of legislation blocked by the latter, McConnell stopped Biden's explanation of the merits of the bill, saying "you must be under the mistaken impression that I care".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "obstructionism definition - English dictionary for learners - Reverso". dictionary.reverso.net. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  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. ^ "Comedy Central Official Site - TV Show Full Episodes & Funny Video Clips". Comedy Central. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Congress.gov - Library of Congress". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b Movement for Reform – 1870–1914, © M.E. Collins 2004; The Educational Company (Edco)
  6. ^ Jackson, Alvin Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000 p. 39-42, Phoenix Press (2003). ISBN 0-7538-1767-5
  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. ^ Green, Joshua (2011-01-04). "Strict Obstructionist". {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  10. ^ Mazza, Ed (2019-12-13). "Mitch McConnell Brags About Blocking Obama For 2 Years, Then Laughs About It". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  11. ^ Wolf, Zachary B. (2019-08-06). "Mitch McConnell's obstruction in the spotlight following massacres". CNN. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  12. ^ Kane, Paul (2017-02-18). "As the Gorsuch nomination proceeds, this man is taking credit: Mitch McConnell". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  13. ^ Scherer, Michael; Viser, Matt (2020-11-14). "After ambitious campaign promises, Biden faces a governing grind". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  14. ^ 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.