Cardi B on government shutdown is all of us. (Photo: Cardi B/Instagram)
by Che Watkins —

Full disclosure: I only listen to National Public Radio and old school radio. Anything new on the radio and I probably won’t find out about for at least six to eight months.  My friends can verify this. We can be out and a hear a song and they’ll say, “Wow, that is the jam! while I’m saying, “Who is this and when did it come out?”  Typically, the only answer I get is a side-eye.  Case in point: I had never heard Ni**as in Paris until I watched the On The Run Tour on HBO so it’s a miracle my black card is still valid at the cookout.  

So it will probably surprise my friends to know that while I know who Cardi B is (but probably couldn’t pick out one of her songs) she can now count me as a diehard fan.

Recently she broke the internet by breaking down the tragedy of the government shutdown and gave displaced workers a popular voice of support.  

The gist of what she said really struck a chord:

Trump is now ordering…federal government workers back to work without getting paid.  I know a lot of you don’t really care because you don’t work for the government bit this (bleep) is really (bleep) serious.  This is crazy and I really feel bad for these people that have to go to (bleep) work and not get (bleep) paid.

Even with the bleeps, we can all understand that this is the day Cardi B became a much-needed voice for the working class.

This reminds me of when reporters go out to talk to people stuck at home during natural disasters. People watch these folks from the comfort of their homes and say, “I don’t understand why they didn’t just leave.” The realities of “why people stay” are multifold, complex and deeply personal. And many times those decisions center on economics. Plainly put, it costs to pick up and go far enough and quick enough to secure safety. Flights or gas, food and lodging (unless you’re lucky enough to have friends or family out of harm’s way) are expenses that, frankly, make the decision for many people. 

As for Trump’s government shutdown, I have heard similar bad takes about workers who are heading into their second pay cycle without a check.  “This is like an extended vacation.”  “They will eventually get their money.”  Eventually getting your money does nothing for expenses that must be paid today. Nearly 80 percent of American workers (78 percent) say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by CareerBuilder. Women are particularly vulnerable: 81 percent of them report living paycheck to paycheck, compared with 75 percent of men. In addition, 63% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency, Forbes Magazine reported last year.  

We have to stop projecting our situation onto others and judging them and start thinking about what we can do to prevent this from being the case. With or without a natural disaster or government shutdown, those on the fringe have no easy way out. 

Cardi B understands that.

But for the life of me, I can’t understand why conservative firebrand Tomi Lauren decided to come for Cardi, after her response to the government shutdown went viral.  Tomi tried to position people getting paid for their work as an endorsement of Democrats. I actually know a lot of Republicans and they tell me that, like most people they love getting paid for their work! It all backfired for Tomi since the twitter beef exposed just how much more Cardi knows about policy, fairness, taxes and the system than Tomi.

If one thing comes from this shutdown it’s the realization that far too many people in America can have full-time jobs and still not get ahead or be in a position to save for emergencies.  

Once the government eventually reopens, let’s not forget this lesson and do something about it.  Let’s also ensure that anyone running for President can speak to this issue directly and has ideas to address the working and middle class.  Most of the candidates should support a fair and livable minimum wage, paid family leave and predictable schedules and protection for workers.

And let’s also not forget that truth can come from anyone. 

Thanks, Cardi B. Clearly it’s time for me to add your voice to my political playlist.


Che Watkins served most recently as the President and CEO of The Center for Working Families in Atlanta, Georgia and has focused her work on improving communities of color and systems change. She is a proud Spelman College grad, Democratic Super Voter and political strategist. Follow @chewatkins.