In case you missed it this week, my favorite California Congresswoman, Maxine Waters, was in the news this week after pleading with the black community to allow the Congressional Black Caucus to challenge the policies of the president and rejoin the political fighting in Washington.
“When you tell us it’s alright and you unleash us and you tell us you’re ready for us to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation." She went on to say, “We’re elected officials. We are trying to do the right thing and the best thing. When you let us know it is time to let go, we’ll let go.” Maxine Waters was finally uttering a feeling that I think a lot of Democrats have been having about President Obama, but have as yet felt unable to speak about. I personally don't think the Obama presidency has been a failure of leadership, but as a liberal, I would say that I am frustrated with the policies that have come out Washington during his tenure.
Maxine Waters, as one of the leading voices of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, should be able to press the president day after day on every policy to try and push the legislation - and the country - in a more progressive direction. But what congressional members are seeing, and especially Democratic - and especially especially very liberal Democratic - members are seeing, is the president continually extending the olive branch to Republicans, watching them spit in his face, and then watching him wipe the spit off and extend the olive branch again. They're feeling as though he's continually trying to work across the aisle, but by doing so has forgotten about the people who supported him and elected him in the first place.
I think this is especially true of the Congressional Black Caucus, who as Mrs. Waters so vociferously pointed out, has felt "leashed" and unable to confront the president, because they worried about a backlash from the black community. While obviously the black community, and no other group as well, vote as a bloc, I think congressional Democrats - and especially the Congressional Black Caucus - have been walking on egg shells with regard to criticizing the president, because they don't want to scare people away from voting in 2012, and they don't want to anger a constituency that will get them personally re-elected. Waters stated this point in her meeting in Detroit, “We don’t put pressure on the president. Let me tell you why. We don’t put pressure on the president because ya’ll love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud to have a black man — first time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.”
So why is it that people are so protective of the president? Why do Democratic members of congress, and especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus, feel unable to speak freely about the president and his policies? I think that part of it might have to do with the fact that president Obama, both as a great orator, as well as the first black presidential nominee from a major party, excited a group of voters that has up til now [then, 2008] felt left out of the political process and felt like they had no one that cared about them or was representing them. And while President Obama may have seemed to be this shining knight, for congressional members he's proven to be just a politician, and not a voice for the voiceless. So what congressional Democrats - and again, especially the Congressional Black Caucus - want to do is to give voice to dissent against the president in an effort to create better policy, and stop letting Republicans be the only alternative voice to the president's, without upsetting this very group of people whose political involvement is tenuous, and who because they are either blinded by his professorial manner and oratory skill, or because they don't necessarily follow politics, still see the president as the knight that is going to be the champion of the downtrodden.
Important Note: I think I've stated this before, and I think it's worth noting again; I support the president, and I think that he's accomplished quite a lot in such a rough political climate. Has he fully represented the liberal perspective like I would like to see - not at all. But then again, he ran on a platform of change, and his idea of change was post-partisanship, not necessarily progression and reform. But look for the president to change after November 2012. I think that during the president's second term, he will be the leader that we've been waiting for, and the champion of the downtrodden that we hoped he would be. With no political ramifications to hold him back, the president will be able to push ahead with his progressive agenda unfettered. He will become what we've always wanted him to be; or maybe I'm just blinded by his professorial manner and oratory skill.