"I will tell you that I think the most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again."
The Congressional Black Caucus finds itself in the frustrating position of having to criticize the Obama Administration. Many of its members worked hard to get Barack Obama elected as the United States first African American president. And with a 90% approval rating among African American voters, President Obama is extremely popular with their base constituencies. But as the realities of an election year approaches, the need to bring home some bacon to bolster their records means the CBC members have to put their own legislative agendas above their allegiance to their president.
Can black Congressmen and Congresswomen pressure a black president to help their black constituents without creating the kind of race-centered political fallout Barack Obama has studiously avoided his entire political career?
"As a candidate, President Obama said in his speech on race during the Democratic primary, 'race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.' The facts speak for themselves. The Congressional Black Caucus recognizes that behind virtually every economic indicator you will find gross racial disparities."
Rep. Barbara Lee (D- Calif.)
For many of the African American voters in the districts of these congressional representatives, Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the White House was not only an electoral victory, it was a moral victory, a validation of all the “We Shall Overcome” gospels and “I Have A Dream” speechifying. Obama himself pointed out during the campaign that African Americans had a vested interest in voting for him.
"The decline of wages and incomes for African American families during the Bush era has been significant," he said. "So I think nobody has more of a stake in the reversal in these policies than the African American community does."
Senator Barack Obama
Now, to a president with shrinking job approval ratings in national polls and an economic recovery strategy whose effects may not be seen for some time, the CBC does seem to run a very real risk of jeopardizing the access they currently have to the White House. But the CBC’s latest hardball tactics, which included House committee meeting boycotts, have borne fruit just this week by getting $4 billion added to a Wall Street regulation bill and $2 billion to a proposed House jobs bill.
"In their fight with Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus should keep pressing, not out of hate for the president, but out of love for their constituents."
Professor, Syracuse University.
It will be interesting tomorrow to see how the GOP and the Beltway pundits react to these recent events as they make the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk show circuit.