Waters’ remarks, coming at an official CBC event, have prompted much speculation whether the black caucus is prepared to publicly turn on the black president. CBC members largely represent districts with large black populations—and levels of unemployment at 16.1 percent, or higher.
But the CBC has largely stayed silent when it comes to criticizing the president. Some members, including Chair Emmanuel Cleaver, loudly complained about cuts in the president’s budget proposal this February. Others have grumbled about both housing and financial reform. But like most Democrats, the caucus has thus far reserved it’s criticism for the GOP’s obstruction while promoting its own initiatives—an alternative budget, a jobs bill that would help the long-term unemployed compete fairly, a series of jobs fairs that are drawing thousands.
Waters, however, is one of the few more vocally critical members. And Illinois Democrat Jesse Jackson, Jr. says he understands her frustration.
“President Obama got 96 percent of [the black] vote but he isn’t dealing with our biggest problem—unemployment—which is more than twice that of whites,” Jackson told Colorlines.com in an emailed statement. “We seem to be, not in a win-win situation, but in a never-win position.”
Members of the CBC have had several meetings with the president since he took office in hopes of pressing the concerns of black America. The CBC’s alternative budget was meant to illustrate how Congress can better meet the needs of densely black areas with high poverty and unemployment. Still, despite the high hopes of the members, no targeted policies have come from the White House.
Jackson explains how jobs policy should be structured by drawing an analogy to battlefield medicine. “When people are injured, the principle of triage is: Help those hurt the most first; then help the next most seriously injured; and then help those who are hurt the least seriously, last.”
The president is readying a major jobs speech for early September, in which he is expected to lay out a fresh suite of pre-campaign job-creation proposals. Administration officials have already signaled to the political press that those initiatives will focus on tax breaks and the president’s long-discussed, but never fought-for infrastructure improvement project, which would create jobs.
Aside from the occasional frustrated outburst like Waters’ last weekend—and even she later walked back her criticism of Obama for visiting rural areas—the president largely appears to continue enjoying the support of the CBC, as well as the larger Democratic caucus. The question looming over that relationship, however, is the same that looms over much of Washington now: What will happen as the “super committee” negotiations over budget cuts unfolds?