The Media's Fascination With Obama Criticism
Maxine Waters' statement is not anything new.
I have a radio ad for the Republican nominee to run against President Obama on black radio stations across the country. You start off with some Club Nouveau music in the background. Then you start in with a series of voiceovers quoting famous black folks:
Diddy – “I want the president to do better.”
Jay-Z – “He’s trying not to be the angry black man.”
Then end with Rep. Maxine Waters’ quote from the Detroit Jobs Initiative townhall from earlier this week:
“We don’t put pressure on the President,” said Waters. “Let me tell you why. We don’t put pressure on the President because y’all love the President. You love the President. You’re very proud…to have a black man [in the White House] …First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the President too hard, you’re going after us.”
And then a calm condescending voice -- probably Rep. Allen West's (R-Fla) -- will say, “We leaned on Obama, and he let us fall. Isn’t it time to get off the plantation?”
Republicans will believe that these statements indicate a substantial level of discontent with Obama that can be exploited in the next election. But it’s not that deep.
Let’s be honest, the cries over Rep. Water’s comments about the President are old news. Mainstream and majority white press outlets (led often by Fox) flip over backwards to find quotes from famous black folks criticizing Obama while ignoring the African-American community on everything else.
Some outlets (I won’t name names) only seem to report on internal African-American discussions in a voyeuristic manner when they deem something is a problem: sistas not getting married, brothers on the down-low, someone critiquing Obama, etc. No one paid Tavis Smiley and Cornel West this much attention during the Bush Administration when they were laying into him.
From the campaign perspective, what Rep. Waters said was more interesting and creates a potential dilemma for Obama. On the one hand she’s right: Black districts love them some Obama, and don’t like to see him criticized. African-American females had the highest turnout of any racial, ethnic or gender groups in 2008.
Without huge African-American turnout, Obama wins the election, but doesn’t win states like Florida or North Carolina.
On the other hand this enduring recession runs the risk of ruining Obama’s relationship with black women. The real electoral story is about what Obama is going to do to soothe the nerves of his strongest constituency, not Rep. Waters expressing the same internal gripes about Obama that the African-American community has always had.