Get to Know Biden’s Cabinet So Far
By: Dima Kiwan
In classic 2020 fashion, this year’s presidential election was arguably the single most chaotic in history. Interestingly enough, the real chaos and concern came after Election Day, rather than the usual high-speed horse race of the campaigns. Unless you live under a rock, I assume you have heard plenty about Trump’s refusal to concede and his attempts at shattering American democracy, so let us look onward for a change. Millions of mail-in ballots and dozens of laughable lawsuits later, President-elect Joe Biden has finally begun his transition process, even announcing many of his Cabinet picks just this last week. Before we discuss what this practically means for the future of the free world, let’s meet the team (so far), shall we?
Avril Haines: Director of National Intelligence
Haines will be the first ever woman selected for this position of overseeing the 17 agencies that constitute U.S. intelligence, and in stark contrast to Trump’s many picks for the spot, she’s undeniably qualified. She has years of experience in the intelligence and espionage landscape under her belt, having worked as a top CIA official in the Obama administration. She spent time as deputy director of the CIA as well as a deputy national security advisor, both roles for which she was also the first woman to fill. Notably, she spearheaded the decision to expand American refugee admissions as the Syrian civil war resulted in a huge influx of migrants displaced by the conflict, justifying that such a decision was an effective response to the anti-Western rhetoric of Islamic extremists.
Janet Yellen: Treasury Secretary
Likewise to Haines, Yellen would be the first woman in her position if successfully confirmed. At 74, Yellen is easily one of the most powerful people on the global stage, having led the United States Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018 and played a crucial role in the country’s economic recovery after the infamous global financial crisis of 2008, which originated in the U.S. housing market and devastated the entire world. In fact, while serving as President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, she was one of the first policymakers to actually forecast the 2008 crisis, through her knowledge of the American housing market’s deep-rooted problems. She is also a well-known and respected skeptic of the accuracy of economic forecasts and models in general, which is clearly an asset if America has any hope of recovering from its worst recession yet caused by the pandemic and arguably exacerbated by the previous administration.
Alejandro Mayorkas: Homeland Security Secretary
Mayorkas, a 60-year-old Jewish Cuban American refugee, will be the first immigrant and Latino to fill his position in leading the very agency at the center of Trump’s intense border crackdown of the last four years. Equally qualified, he was head of Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama, during which he played a key role in developing DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, which of course went to flames when Trump took office.
Antony Blinken: Secretary of State
Blinken, the highest-level pick so far, can be characterized mainly by his close professional history with Biden himself. For one, when Biden chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee decades ago, Blinken served as the committee’s staff director. Under Obama’s administration, Blinken also worked as deputy secretary of state and a national security advisor. That being said, Blinken famously disagreed with Biden by supporting American military action in Libya and Syria, though both men clearly differ from Trump with their shared focus on helping refugees and international cooperation.
John Kerry: Climate Envoy
Another familiar face with long-time Biden ties, Kerry was Secretary of State (Blinken’s new role) under the Obamas. Kerry, who critically helped Biden win Iowa in the Democratic primaries, will take on the new administration’s highly anticipated climate portfolio. His selection reflects Biden’s goal to reposition climate change as an important issue for America after Trump evidently believed otherwise, as Kerry will have a seat on the National Security Council and thus the opportunity to actively participate in foreign policy decisions and deliberations. For a relatively disappointing cabinet for progressives, this new administration’s climate focus will be critical for approval across the spectrum of the Democratic party.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield: Ambassador the UN
Put simply, Biden choosing Thomas-Greenfield for this position is a major deal. Having a highly qualified African-American woman represent the most powerful country in the world before the international stage embodies this new administration’s directional vision. Note that Biden has elevated this position to cabinet-level, signaling that he expects Thomas-Greenfield to participate in internal deliberations in addition to her key external role. If confirmed, Thomas-Greenfield will definitely outrank her predecessors Nikki Haley and Kelly Craft in terms of foreign policy experience. Notably, she is a 35-year veteran of the U.S. foreign service who has served on four different continents. That’s right, continents.
Jake Sullivan: National Security Adviser
Sullivan might not appear as impressive as the other picks from first glance, though, at 43 years-old, he will be the youngest person to fill this position since Eisenhower’s administration. In addition to serving as Biden’s national security adviser under Obama, Sullivan also has close ties to Hillary Clinton, working as her chief of staff while she was Secretary of State.
What does this all mean?
While Biden’s cabinet picks so far have their fair share of history-making “firsts”, this group is far from radical. Common themes emerging from these picks include competence, experience, and most of all, stability. This is obviously a stark contrast from the many officials in and out of Trump’s cabinet in these last four years, but Biden’s criteria is also different than what many progressive or strong moderate Democrats may have expected or hoped for. Many of these choices are loyal and trusted long-time Biden allies, and this team is not looking particularly bold in respect to ideology.
Notably, many young progressives might have hoped that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would become key players in the new administration, allowing their revolution to maintain momentum despite the candidates’ losses in the primaries. However, it’s not looking like Biden is interested in creating excessive debate, opposition or chaos during this transition process. Indeed, many others might argue that America has been through enough with the pandemic and Trump’s painfully unnecessary and unsubstantiated lawsuits. Especially considering many of these picks need to be questioned and confirmed, it is reasonable that Biden wants to avoid triggering Republicans with controversial picks.
That being said, some Republicans remain under Trump’s spell, coming up with creative criticisms to Biden’s cabinet picks now that their classic radical left argument isn’t holding up so well. In a rather rogue tweet on Tuesday, Marco Rubio claimed that “Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline”, and that he has “no interest in returning to the “normal” that left us dependent to China.” It is fascinating how easily Trump-era Republicans switch between upholding and challenging the status quo, criticizing their opponents either for causing anarchy or taming the revolution – it really depends on the day.
Nonetheless, Biden remains hopeful that he will be able to cooperate with these Republicans, and his cabinet reflects his first attempt at fostering such a relationship. His picks manage to simultaneously make history and stabilize the ship left in flames by Donald Trump, leading Americans and politicians from both sides of the aisle to feel optimistic about this new team. While these choices definitely mirror Obama-era America in many ways, I think that the priority is getting the country back on its feet, and this is the way Biden knows how. In line with his rhetoric, the President-elect wants to unify, stabilize and heal this hurting country. Like him, his choices represent experience and establishment, and as the country grows increasingly tired of the perpetual destruction and misery, establishment is beginning to sound much better than it did four years ago. As long as the most vulnerable communities are suffocating, the revolution can wait.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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