As the final election results are confirmed with the recent vote of the Electoral College, President-Elect Biden has begun to pick his cabinet, filling in several important roles such as State and Treasury. But while his administration has already filled in several roles, Biden needs to include progressives in his cabinet in order to unite the Democratic Party.
The 2020 democratic primaries were a packed event. It had everything from governors, senators, former vice presidents, and even a billionaire funding his own campaign. Despite the packed crowd, two forerunners quickly emerged early on, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Sanders, a democratic socialist running on a progressive platform, represented the left-wing of the party, while Biden, who served as a vice president under President Obama represented the establishment and moderates of the party. Although Biden won the nomination (and eventually the general election), the primaries showed the deep divide in the party, with almost every battleground state being a toss-up. Furthermore, now President-Elect Biden had to give several concessions to the progressives in his own party to get their votes, such as moving to the left on taxes, immigration, and the climate.
It’s clear that President-Elect Biden needs a progressive cabinet in order to appease the progressive left of the party but so far he isn’t doing that. Although he has done well in filling in important roles like state and treasury with the experienced Antony Blinken and Janet Yellen respectively, his administration is also filling up with moderates and special interest groups. In fact, The Wall Street Journal found that there are more than 40 K street lobbyists in his transition team, which is even more concerning after Biden announced that he is nominating former Mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg, for Secretary of Transportation. Buttigieg is famous for his 2020 presidential campaign (which was funded by 56 different billionaires) where he pandered to black voters by chugging alcohol in the streets of the Bronx before conceding the election and backing Biden.
Another mistake that Biden has already gone through with is picking retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin III as his Defense Secretary. Although Austin may seem like a perfect choice at first glance (he’s previously served as Commanding General of US Forces in Iraq, and Commander of the United States Central Command) his nomination has been met with criticism by senators on both sides of the aisle. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed concern about the Pentagon (which is typically run by a civilian) being run by a former general. In fact, Austin’s Senate approval would require an additional waiver approved by both houses of Congress, along with regular Senate approval in order to bypass the 7 year waiting period required for a former member of the military to serve as secretary of defense. Furthermore, progressives within the Democratic Party have expressed concerns about Austin having served on the Board of Directors of weapons manufacturer Raytheon, which made a fortune by selling missiles to the military during the war on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Instead of choosing people the left hates like Rahm Emanuel and Gen.Austin, Biden could do the exact opposite and choose the left’s standard-bearer instead. Biden’s former opponent Bernie Sanders has expressed interest in serving as Labor Secretary and selecting him could be the unifying force the party needs. Sanders based his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns on fighting for the working class and has even said that he would accept the role if President-Elect Biden offered it to him.
It’s clear that if President-Elect Biden wants to unite the already fractured Democratic party he needs to embrace the left instead of turning them away, and the easiest way to do that is by putting progressives in his cabinet.