So far, the former vice president’s Cabinet and Cabinet-rank nominees include Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris — the first woman to ever hold the position — as well as a Black woman, a Latino immigrant, a Jewish American and other picks from underrepresented groups in American leadership. And the list of potential candidates for the remaining positions appears more diverse than any in history.
“When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a Cabinet that looks like America — that reflects the very best of our nation,” Harris said Tuesday during an announcement of some Cabinet nominees. “That is what we have done.”
The president-elect is setting a tone for his presidency that prioritizes diversity and familiarity with Washington — a glaring pivot from Trump’s approach to governing.
Biden appealed to voters by assuring them that he would lead a team that was not just sensitive to and aware of the challenges that many people of color, immigrants, refugees, Muslims, women and LGBT Americans faced under Trump’s leadership, but a team that had individuals from these respective groups influencing policy. From his earliest days campaigning, Biden promised Americans with these desires that he heard their concerns.
In the earliest days of the Trump administration, the president was criticized for the lack of diversity in his Cabinet. His initial Cabinet was the first in more than 20 years not to have a Latino at the top level of government. It wasn’t until weeks after Trump was inaugurated that he nominated a Hispanic American — Alex Acosta — to his Cabinet as labor secretary.
After that, Trump repeatedly made headlines for having one of the “whitest” White Houses in recent memory. Recent announcements from Biden, including his plan to bring Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) on board, show that Americans should not have similar concerns under his presidency.
Multiple Republicans have criticized Biden’s picks, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) implying that they do not “support American greatness” and that they will oversee “America’s decline.”
And Trump himself, who still hasn’t conceded to Biden, said on Thanksgiving Day that Biden should not be announcing people to replace Trump officials this early.
“I think it’s not right he’s trying to pick a Cabinet,” Trump told reporters.
The diverse picks haven’t met with overwhelming approval from the left flank of Biden’s party in particular. There has been some protest among a few figures on the left — including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — about potential White House staffers who they think don’t represent the values of the Democratic Party’s base.
Ocasio-Cortez has argued that White House veteran Rahm Emanuel’s handling of the murder of Laquan McDonald, a Black 17-year-old killed by Chicago police, makes him ill-equipped to work in an administration that has pledged to take police violence against Black Americans seriously. As mayor of Chicago, Emanuel fought to keep the video of McDonald’s shooting death from becoming public. Videos of police killing Black Americans have played an influential role in shaping public perception and policy related to police violence.
Ocasio-Cortez and Omar have also protested the possible addition of Bruce Reed, Biden’s former chief of staff, to the White House staff, arguing that his past support for cutting Medicare and Social Security suggests that he is insensitive to the challenges facing low-income Americans.
This pushback from both the left and the right is not surprising. With Biden running as a centrist, criticism from conservatives and liberals alike was a frequent theme throughout the 2020 campaign and is likely to be a constant part of the Biden administration.
So far, Biden is on track to help shatter more glass ceilings with staff and Cabinet appointments as he seeks to put forward an agenda during the first 100 days that moves the country in a direction away from that of his predecessor. His doing so could help add credence to the belief that representation is an essential ingredient for making policies that benefit the diversity of America.