The Victory of ‘No’
The GOP’s unprecedented anti-Obama obstructionism was a remarkable success. And then it handed the party to Donald Trump.By Michael Grunwald, Politico.com
December 04, 2016
On January 29, 2009, the whittled-down and beaten-up Republican minority in the House of Representatives gathered for a 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 conference chairman, a then-obscure Indiana conservative named Mike Pence, underscored the point with a clip from Patton, showing the general rallying his troops for war against their Nazi enemy: “We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time! We’re going to go through him like crap through a goose!”