These Republicans haven't learned that their obstructionist policies backfired

We know that Republican congressional leaders, on the night of President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, chose a deliberate policy of uniting in opposition to all of his initiatives, even before he served a full day in office. Now we have a pair of blue-ribbon establishment Republicans fundamentally suggesting the same approach — one that has contributed to the decline of the Republican brand, the rise of Donald Trump, the weakening of GOP leadership and the growth of know-nothing radical anti-government sentiment — months before the election of a president.

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To be sure, that delegitimizing approach had big payoffs in the historic midterm gains of the Republican Party in 2010 and 2014. Hamstringing government while trashing any policies that actually get enacted almost inevitably works against the party of the president, which is held responsible for action and inaction in Washington. And the same approach might well pay off in 2018.

But the strategy backfired in the presidential contest in 2012 and has helped create the disaster the party faces this year. And the price the country, and the party, will pay will be fearsome. The challenges facing the United States are real and broad. Our infrastructure is crumbling, and the cost of replacing aging water and sewer systems once they collapse will be sharply greater than acting now. The same is true of the lock and dam system, mass transit, bridges and other transportation systems. The electrical grid needs both modernization and hardening to combat cyberterrorism that could shut the country down. Finding ways to enable people who do their part, working hard to support their families, to have roofs over their heads, food on the table and a safety net against an illness, accident or other disaster is a key to our social contract.

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