Open main menu

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


As workplace aggressionEdit

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 politicsEdit

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 strategyEdit

Obstructionism can also take the form of widespread agreement to oppose policies from the other side of a political debate or dispute.

Mass mediaEdit

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 obstructionistsEdit

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".

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

Newt Gingrich brought obstructionism to the United States Congress "crippling the congress" in an attempt to make the minority rule.[10]

John Boehner "chalks up his theatrical obstructionism to the reality of being minority leader" further developing obstructionist tactics.[11]

Mitch McConnell has been accused of obstructionism for his tactics during the Obama administration.[12]

Chuck Schumer has been labeled as obstructionist for similar tactics during the current Trump administration.[13]


  1. ^ "obstructionism definition - English dictionary for learners - Reverso". 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. ^ " - Library of Congress". 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. ^ 27 Mar 1889 - 'THE GENERAL ELECTION. - Trove
  10. ^ Seitz-Wald, Alex (30 January 2012). "How Newt Gingrich Crippled Congress". Retrieved 8 January 2019 – via
  11. ^ The rise, fall and rise of John Boehner
  12. ^ Singh, Anisha; Glynn, Nathaniel (14 July 2016). "Mitch McConnell: A Legacy of Obstruction". Center for American Progress. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  13. ^

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.