US president-elect Joe Biden is facing some severe challenges and criticism on his mission to create an all-inclusive cabinet that ‘looks like America’. The Democrat leader had pledged to nominate an unprecedented diverse cabinet and bring in representation from all the sections of the society. He is trying hard to fulfil the promise and return rewards to his loyalists who stuck by him through the long race leading him to the White House as the leader of the country.
Till now Biden has nominated General Lloyd J Austin making him the first Black secretary of defence, he chose Cuban immigrant Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the department of homeland security, Janet Yellen as the first female treasury secretary, and Xavier Becerra, the son of Mexican immigrants, as the secretary of health and human services. His nomination of Taiwanese Katherine Tai for US trade representative was particularly lauded by progressive groups. Besides them, there is his star woman of colour vice president-elect Kamala Harris, who recorded many firsts in the history of American politics.
However, there have been undertones of disappointments as many communities still feel left behind in the run for cabinet roles. LGBTQ advocates are upset as there has been no representation from the community until now in the cabinet and until Tai’s nomination, Asian groups too were looking for themselves in the senior-level jobs.
Recently, Biden nominated Marcia Fudge, a renowned Black congresswoman for housing and urban development, for which he received a lot of flak. Biden also received criticism as he nominated Obama’s administration alum Tom Vilsack for the agriculture department instead of Fudge who has been a long-time member of the House Agriculture Committee advocating to protect the food-stamp program. Fudge was lobbied by many for not only her experience but also to fight food insecurity and racial inequality.
Audio of a private meeting leaked to The Intercept had NAACP president Derrick Johnson telling Biden, “Vilsack could have a disastrous effect on voters in the state of Georgia,” reported AP.
The challenge to decide on an attorney general with Black leaders wanting someone from a background in civil rights has also heated the atmosphere. Activists also feel that there are likely fewer chances of leaders like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders landing the major roles as the transition team fears poaching from Democrats’ ranks in the Senate.
AP reported Norman Solomon, national director of the progressive activist group RootsAction saying, “I think there are some red flags or, in this case, some discouraging blue flags.” He also said that there could be attempts to block the nomination of Indian American Neera Tanden for the office of management and budget due to her past antagonism towards Sanders, as reported by AP.
His earliest choices of four white men for the critical roles of chief of staff, secretary of state, national security adviser and his top political adviser also raised some questions as it gave an impression that the president-elect still wants to go for same old aides and not bring in some fresh perspective.
His nominees need to win confirmation in the divided Senate that could be driven by Republicans depending on who wins in the runoff races in Georgia next month.
Moreover, experts say Biden also needs a team not only diverse but also highly efficient as they have to bring the country up from economic turmoil, fight a pandemic, stop racial injustices and create many jobs in a country that saw a historic level of unemployment this year while being energy efficient as the country intends to go back to the Paris climate treaty.