Rep Maxine Waters, who has been quite critical of the Obama Administration as of late, has come out to express her support for the jobs bill proposed by President Barack Obama last week. Waters told TheRoot.com that she believes that the bill holds promise and should be supported.
I think it holds a lot of promise, and it was more than many people expected. I’m very pleased, the closer I look at the details of the plan, to see the impact on African Americans and the economy. I’m looking at an additional document [pdf] that the White House put out, which focuses on that. We’ve asked for targeting to the areas that have the most need, and basically they have responded with some of the targeting that we wanted them to do.
Gaining the support of Waters is an important step in shoring up the black base for the Obama Administration as they prepare for the 2012 elections. Waters has been one of the most vocal challengers to the administration for policies that have been racially exclusionary to-date. As a result of this political neglect, African Americans have the worst jobless rate of the last 27 years.
The "For the People" jobs tour was a huge success for the Congressional Black Caucus. The caucus had lost a bit of "swag" over the last three years, as they remained silent out of fear of stepping on the toes of President Obama. The massive, unconditional love that many African Americans showered on the president only served to make things more difficult for those who really wanted to get things done in the black community. While many of the president’s protectors consistently screamed that Obama is the "president of all of America, not just black folks," they were unduly harsh toward those willing to do the work that President Obama was not being asked to do.
Waters, by stepping out from under the president and touring the nation to advocate for African American issues, immediately positioned herself as arguably the most active and progressive political advocate for black America during a time when our community needs it the most. Her courageous and candid reaction to one of the greatest black economic tragedies in American history is a reminder that the black community must open the door for strong female voices in our struggle for Civil Rights. I’ve personally met dozens of young Maxine Waters-like black women all across the country, and it is my belief that we should give them a chance to shine as much as the men.
The fact that Waters has come back to support President Obama’s plan after being critical of the administration also serves as a political lesson for the rest of us. Waters reminds us that critiquing the Obama Administration and being vocal about the needs of our community is not treasonous or "Uncle Tomish" (as unconditional Obama-ites like Steve Harvey might believe). It is actually Democratic, patriotic and most likely to lead to your needs being met. Silent wheels don’t get oiled and I can guarantee that Waters’ passionate, yet calculated outbursts had a direct impact on the structure of President Obama’s plan.
At the same time, I am hopeful that strong Obama critics like Cornel West and Tavis Smiley will get behind the plan, as did the Rev. Jesse Jackson earlier this week. If one earns the right to criticize the president when he makes mistakes, they must support him when he appears to be trying to do the right thing. West and Smiley do, however, still have a legitimate concern that President Obama’s jobs speech made almost no mention of the poor in America. Black people from all economic backgrounds do not necessarily have the same agenda – a complexity that is often overlooked, but serves to complicate our collective political ambitions.
Once again, I say what I said last week: Hooray for Maxine Waters. The political emergence of President Barack Obama, in contrast to what many believe, is not an excuse for us to kill off those who righteously advocate for the African American community. If anything, we need politically-independent and progressive black leadership now more than ever. We must be careful not to confuse Obama’s access to federal power with some kind of post-racial liberation for the rest of us. Obama’s fate and the fate of our community are NOT usually one and the same.