Maxine Waters should be tired. At 78 years old, she shouldn’t be the congresswoman leading the fight against Donald Trump, but don’t tell her that. She’s fought bigger and tougher, and to her, this is the fight in front of her and she isn’t the running type.
Serving since 1991 as the U.S. representative for California’s 43rd Congressional District, and previously for the 35th and 29th districts, Waters isn’t new to this; she’s true to this. Like the time in 1997 when Waters spent her own bread to fly down to Nicaragua after reports that CIA operatives had been responsible for helping to flood California with crack. She wanted answers, so she followed the money.
She works tirelessly with youngsters in gangs, trying to show them a better life, and if you still need to check her hood-fax, go no further than this: She knows the real Rick Ross—not the Florida rapper who once worked as a correctional officer, but the infamous California drug trafficker-turned-author whose name the rapper lifted.
So when the immaculate and pristine black first family left office unstained, Waters wasn’t teary-eyed. She was ready.
“My feet are firmly planted on the ground and dealing with the reality of things and what’s happening and what’s going on,” she tells The Root. “It has not been difficult; I just know that we are now going to have a new president. I don’t care for him, I don’t trust him, and I know what I’ve got to do.”
And what she has to do is this: Fight. Waters doesn’t know any other way; in fact, if your first introduction to Waters was this appearance on MSNBC Live With Tamron Hall, then you are late to the party.
Waters has been here holding down this fort since the early ’90s. She was there in 1992 to call out white California police officers who beat Rodney King. She was there to hand out supplies after the Los Angeles riots when those officers were set free. And when camera crews asked Waters about the destruction, she didn’t bail on her constituents; in fact, she called the visceral response to injustice a rebellion and not a riot.
In 1998, Waters wrote a letter to Cuban President Fidel Castro asking that he not extradite Assata Shakur.
For years, Waters has been calling out the government, all in support of the people she was elected to represent. In truth, Waters’ brand of politics shouldn’t be new or exciting; it should be the way. But other Democrats refuse to call out what they see. So Waters isn’t waiting for others to catch up; she is using her voice to speak truth to power.
“I don’t have any intentions of pretending that we can get along with him,” Waters says of Trump. “He has defined himself. We know who he is, we know what he cares about, and I don’t know why any of us would try and make ourselves believe that he is anything other than what he has shown us to be.”
And her brutal honesty is making her the emerging voice of a leaderless Democratic Party and maybe, more importantly, black America’s favorite aunt. You know, the aunt who will tell you lovingly that you are gaining weight, or that your new girlfriend is a tramp, all while casually wiping the lipstick from the corner of her mouth. The aunt you love a little more because even if the truth hurts, you know you need to hear it. The aunt who isn’t going to pull any punches because she doesn’t know any other way.
She’s that aunt for all of us, and when it comes to how Trump came into power, Aunt Maxine has words for that, too.
“There is more as to why people voted for Trump; there was a lot of talk about [how] people were upset about the economy; they lived in small rural communities and they were upset that the jobs had left. I think what Trump did was connected with people who never believed in [President Barack] Obama in the first place,” she says.
“These were people who held out some notion that we’re not deserving, that we’d gotten too much, that we’d gone too far. And they were unhappy about themselves and their lives, and he tapped into that,” Waters says. “So he got away with something that I never thought anyone running for president could get away with.
“I can’t get the picture out of my head of him mocking and mimicking a disabled man,” she continues. “I mean, have you ever seen a grown, mature human being mock a disabled person? There are people who don’t know any better, but this is a man that is running for the president of the United States who did this. I can’t get it out of my head.”
And, alas, here we are with the president who once declared that he was so famous he could grab women he didn’t know by their “pussy,” standing against black America’s favorite black aunt. And let’s be clear about this: Maxine Waters is willing to fight all of this on her own because she’s built that way. She realizes that the fight isn’t just against Trump; it’s against everyone he’s put in place, a group she calls “the billionaire class,” and what she wants is for those in her party who claim to detest the president’s ways to be the leaders they were elected to be.
“We’re going to have to resist; we’re going to have to march and protest and rally and never let up,” she says. “We are going to have to demand that those elected officials who say that they are opposed to him show up and say it, and make sure that they understand that we are not playing, and know that we’re about the business of stopping Trump.”