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Exclusive: A Year Later, Maxine Waters Reflects On Reclaiming Her Time

The prolific congresswoman from California joins the Bros for America podcast for an exclusive sit-down interview.

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters in an interview for the Bros4America podcast Alex Mohajer

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) had no idea last July when she used ordinary parliamentary procedure during her questioning of embattled Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, that she would go massively viral and introduce “reclaiming my time” into the public discourse as a sort of battle-cry for the resistance. Lovingly referred to by fans and supporters as “Auntie Maxine,” the Los Angeles-based Congresswoman has since become a household name and an icon of the resistance.

Waters, who is seeking re-election in California’s 43rd congressional district this November and faces a primary hurdle on Tuesday, June 5th, spoke with me and Thomas McAbee about her clash with Mnuchin, almost a year later.

“Tell you the truth, I was very surprised that it went viral,” Waters said during the interview. She has, after all, been in her fair share of dust-ups while a member of Congress (which we have fondly reported in the past).

“Because ‘reclaiming my time’ is a regular order of business in the Congress of the United States. It’s not original. It is said often by different people at different times when you’re trying to get back the time that you have been allotted to speak and someone else is kind of, uh, intruding or imposing on that time.”

“But then I began to understand,” Waters continued, “after talking with people, what it meant. It meant something different for everybody. I think that it struck a nerve because, here you had Mnuchin, our treasury secretary who had been the owner and CEO of a big bank. And here you had an African American woman sitting on this committee and not accepting his rudeness and not accepting business as usual and challenging him by using the rules.”

It’s no surprise. The Washington Post described the moment as “bigger than Maxine Waters” for capturing the frustrated sentiment of an entire nation.

The moment marks a long list of viral moments for the Congresswoman, who has been dubbed ‘Auntie Maxine’ by her adoring supporters, new and old alike, and praised as one of Donald Trump’s most outspoken critics and a hero of the resistance. She fearlessly calls for the president’s impeachment even as a timid Democratic Party leadership tiptoes around the issue, and has no qualms calling him a liar or dubbing his team “The Kremlin Klan” or a “bunch of scumbags.”

Her criticisms aren’t just rhetorical.

“It is an insult,” Waters said in our interview, speaking about the news that Donald Trump has publicly claimed that he holds the “absolute power” to pardon himself. It was one of the few moments that the Congresswoman referenced the president specifically in the interview, but with a clear distaste for the president and his circle establishing him as above reproach and above the law.

But at the campaign event that preceded our interview, a millennial meet-and-greet, Waters’ young

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) with political commentator and Bros4America co-founder Alex Mohajer.

supporters burst into their own impromptu session of the Electric Slide just as enthusiastically as when asked to speak about the issues facing them and the direction they want for the Country.

Trump/Russia didn’t come up during the event. And it didn’t matter. Yes, Waters has built a huge groundswell of support for those criticizing Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, and there is, of course, convincing evidence to suggest that his campaign conspired with a foreign hostile power to influence an American election. Maxine Waters is right to aggressively call for the president’s impeachment and to question his legitimacy.

At her campaign event, Waters was adept and quick on her feet. She showed a formidable command of the facts and a passionate, thoughtful reply to every policy question, from affordable housing and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to student loans, from homelessness to economic growth.

“I am the ranking member of the [House] Financial Services Committee. If we take back the House [of Representatives], I’m going to be the chair of that committee. And I’m going to get them!” said Waters to the crowd, in reference to the financial services community.

“We have to deal with our big banks in this country. Wells Fargo is one of those banks. They have cheated people. We have fined them over and over again. We gotta put somebody in jail. These are criminal acts. So we gotta get tough on the financial services community.”

During the interview, Waters was most poignant in reflecting on the Women’s Movement. She recalled the disappointment of a general slump in civic-mindedness and engagement in recent years. Until the Women’s March.

“It’s back,” Waters said with a glint in her eye. “The Women’s movement is back!”

Waters is somber but optimistic about the political realities of the given moment. Despite her having won her district handily in the last election, her position is being threatened due to redistricting and an opponent who has received millions of dollars in donations from dark money and a terrifying list of deplorable contributors, including Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Joe Arpaio, Barry Goldwater Jr., etc. and more.

“They’re trying to take me out,” Waters said to her crowd of millennial voters grimly, before turning around with her trademark guffaw, and exclaiming, “but they’re going to have to take me out in a casket!”

Till then, Auntie Maxine lives to fight another day, the same way she has been doing for her entire life:

For us.


Alex Mohajer is a lifelong activist, organizer, and political writer.