Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

During the 2016 election, I listened to a cadre of political podcasts, which satisfied my craving for political debate and allowed me to escape the dystopian world of cable news. One of my favorite “pods” (which is what the cool kids call podcasts) was called “Keepin’ it 1600,” hosted by several former high-level Obama administration officials. The podcast, known as “Pod Save America” in its post-inauguration iteration, served as an emotional shelter for many liberals from the unceasing barrage of soul-deadening campaign coverage.

On one episode in December, Obama’s former chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, and former communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, mulled over how the congressional Democrats should resist President Trump’s agenda. They began talking about Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

“Let’s say,” Pfeiffer pondered, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg or any progressive justice retires in the third year of Trump’s presidency. Do you do the same thing that we decried?”

“Yes!” Favreau jumped in.

“Yeah, I agree,” said Pfeiffer.

“Wait!” I said to nobody, completely taken aback. I thought we Democrats are the good guys who oppose obstruction because obstruction is immoral. Just because we are in the minority doesn’t mean that we should don our Mitch McConnell costumes. In the Trump era, have progressives become (*gulp*) obstructionist hacks?

Obstruction isn’t unethical or malicious. It’s the only rational behavior for an American political party in the minority. Obstructionist political parties and activists should be evaluated by the righteousness of their goals, not disparaged for their tactics. The progressives, inside and outside Congress, engaging in anti-Trump obstructionism are doing the United States a moral service.

After Obama’s victory in 2008, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell infamously declared, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for Barack Obama to be a one-term president.” McConnell pursued this goal with obstructionist vigor, masterfully corralling his caucus into total opposition to nearly every Obama priority. And although the Republicans failed to defeat Obama in 2012, McConnell laid the groundwork for his party’s near-complete control of the American government. By explaining his legislative strategy so bluntly, he made the classic Washington mistake of being honest.

Although I take issue with McConnell’s aims, there’s nothing morally suspect about his strategy. As University of Maryland political scientist Frances Lee observes in her brilliant book, Beyond Ideology, political parties have an institutional interest in holding power. For a minority party to become the majority, it must impede the current majority’s success. Let’s go back to the McConnell example. McConnell thinks conservative policies are better for America than liberal policies.

As a leader of the minority, he had two options: work with Obama or don’t. If he had worked with Obama on major legislative priorities, McConnell would only lend the appearance of bipartisanship to the Obama administration, which would improve the Democrat’s chances in future elections. In our system, it’s illogical for a minority to be bipartisan; cooperation only prevents a party from enacting its policies in the future. Today, Republicans dominate American government because obstructive tactics sunk Democratic popularity across the country.

Of course, the Democrats are in the minority now, and casual political observers can be forgiven for feeling a strong sense of 2009 deja vu. In Congress, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are marshalling all available resources to fight the Republican agenda. Democrats have gummed up the cabinet nomination process, forcing Andy Puzder to withdraw his nomination for labor secretary. The Republican plan to repeal Obamacare during the first month of Trump’s presidency has fallen into shambles. And Democrats have stalled the House Republicans’ scheme to sell off more than three million acres of public land.

Democratic leaders are receiving potent ground support from a progressive movement that strongly resembles the Tea Party. In response to massive “resistance” protests against Trump’s travel ban, the administration reneged on its promise to bar 500,000 green card holders from entering the U.S. The progressive uproar against the ban encouraged the legal challenge that forced Trump’s administration to retract and revise the Executive Order. And boisterous town hall meetings have Republicans quaking in their Obamacare-loathing boots.

I think all this obstruction is great for America. I think this because I believe the government should avoid taking health care away from poor people, and I would rather the executive not close off the United States from the most vulnerable people on the planet. Democrats and progressives should use every available tool to remove Trump from the Oval Office. Working with the Trump administration will only buoy his poll numbers and facilitate his re-election.

At this point, you, wise reader, might be considering the endgame of such a philosophy. If political parties reach for obstructionist tactics every time they lose an election, isn’t America facing permanent gridlock? Well, yes, because our system is unequipped to accommodate highly polarized political parties. To break out of this partisan quagmire, America either needs a major party realignment or meaningful revisions to our Constitution.

There are many checks built into our constitutional system: the judiciary can strike down illegal laws, the Senate has to confirm a president’s nominees and the president can veto bills coming out of Congress. Polarized parties add an extra level of checks to our system. If one party controls any of the major institutions of government, it has the power to paralyze policy development. Currently, Democrats control none of those institutions, but have a large enough minority in the Senate to filibuster any Republican bill. American government has become what political scientist Francis Fukuyama calls a “vetocracy,” in which an avalanche of power constraints prevents a majority from forming and governing.

So, for a minority party pursuing moral objectives, obstruction is rational, moral and imperative. But polarization and warped incentives have ensnared American government. To break out, the Constitution must adapt to accommodate our political reality.

Max Foley-Keene is a freshman government and politics major. He can be reached at