Politico's Michael Grunwald sees GOP obstructionism as a lesson for Democrats in the age of Trump, noting the House GOP's post-2009-inaugurational "strange celebration of defeat:"
The Democrats had just drubbed them at the polls, seizing the White House and a 79-seat advantage in the House. The House had then capped President Barack Obama's first week in office by passing his $800 billion Recovery Act, a landmark emergency stimulus bill that doubled as a massive down payment on Obama's agenda. Even though the economy was in freefall, not one House Republican had voted for the effort to revive it, prompting a wave of punditry about a failed party refusing to help clean up its own mess and dooming itself to irrelevance.
But at the House GOP retreat the next day at a posh resort in the Virginia mountains, there was no woe-is-us vibe. The leadership even replayed the video of the stimulus vote--not to bemoan Obama's overwhelming victory, but to hail the unanimous partisan resistance. The conference responded with a standing ovation.
"I know all of you are pumped about the vote," said Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip. "We'll have more to come!"
The Republicans were pumped because they saw a path out of the political wilderness. They were convinced that even if Obama kept winning policy battles, they could win the broader messaging war simply by remaining unified and fighting him on everything.
Their unified obstructionism, writes Grunwald, "helped Republicans take back the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016," as "Unprecedented intransigence has yielded unprecedented results:"
The Republicans had real philosophical differences with Obama about the size and scope of government, and many viewed their resistance as a principled return to the GOP's limited-government roots after a spending spree under Bush. But they also filibustered and voted in lockstep against previously uncontroversial Obama priorities, like extended unemployment benefits, expanded infrastructure spending, and small-business tax cuts. Senate Republicans even turned routine judicial nominations into legislative ordeals, filibustering 20 of his district court judges--17 more than had been filibustered under all of his predecessors.
Grunwald quotes a "senior Obama aide" who offers this comment: "I guess obstructionism works. It sure worked for them."