By Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams
Progressives responded with incredulous indignation Wednesday after President-elect Joe Biden said he is considering tapping Republicans for his Cabinet, while claiming that there is a “significant” progressive presence in his nascent administration.
Biden’s remarks came during a Tuesday interview with NBC News, the president-elect’s first since winning the election, in which he acknowledged he is considering Republicans—even people who supported President Donald Trump—for positions in his administration.
“We still have a lot more appointments to make,” said Biden. “I want this country to be united.”
When asked if he has spoken with progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) about possible Cabinet nominations, Biden then said that “we already have significant representation of progressives in our administration, but nothing is off the table.”
Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement led progressive groups and people who pushed back on Biden’s claim, noting that while the organizations are “encouraged” by some of the new appointments, “we do not agree that progressives already have significant representation in the administration as it stands.”
The two groups suggested some potential Cabinet appointments that would lend credence to the president-elect’s “significant representation” claim, including Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) for interior secretary; either Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) or Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for housing and urban development secretary; and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) or former Detroit Health Commissioner Dr. Abdul El-Sayed for health and human services secretary.
While we have been encouraged by some of Joe Biden’s appointments and are largely relieved by who he has not chosen, we do not agree that progressives already have significant representation in the administration as it stands. https://t.co/X3GS4K5TfL pic.twitter.com/xjVK8NEVkL
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) November 25, 2020
Other observers, many with red roses on their Twitter profiles indicating their support for democratic socialism, were less diplomatic about their disdain for Biden’s choices so far:
Joe Biden claims to NBC’s Lester Holt that “we already have significant representation among progressives in our administration.” pic.twitter.com/lggejhiw8Y
— Alex Morash (@AlexMorash) November 24, 2020
Aligning with Biden’s comments, The Daily Beast on Tuesday published an article by Hana Trudo entitled “Progessives Can’t Find Anyone in Biden’s Cabinet to Be Mad About—Yet” that left legions of lefties scratching their heads. Many progressive Twitter users showed Trudo just how “mad” they actually are:
— Movement for a People’s Party (@PeoplesParty_US) November 25, 2020
Literally back to back on the writer’s timeline. pic.twitter.com/B19fAc1Go0
— Ruairi Robinson (@RuairiRobinson) November 25, 2020
Outside the 280 character limit stricture of Twitter, leading progressive voices offered more incisive critiques of Biden’s selections. Panning the president-elect’s hiring of oil and gas industry favorite Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and former Big Pharma lobbyist Steve Ricchetti, Justice Democrats’ Waleed Shahid said on Democracy Now! last week that “progressives are upset” and “deserve adequate representation if Joe Biden wants to be a unity president.”
Biden announced Tuesday that he tapped fossil fuel ally Cedric Richmond and former pharmaceutical lobbyist Steve Ricchetti for senior White House roles. “Progressives are upset,” says @_waleedshahid. “We deserve adequate representation if Joe Biden wants to be a unity president.” pic.twitter.com/DeCg0V9949
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) November 19, 2020
On climate change, Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash called Biden’s fossil fuel-friendly picks and prospects a “betrayal” and “an affront to the young people who made [the president elect’s] victory possible.”
On the related issue of toxic chemicals, consumer and environmental acivist Erin Brockovich lamented Biden’s inclusion of DuPont consultant W. Michael McCabe on his transition team: “Dear Joe Biden,” she wrote in an op-ed. “Are you kidding me?”
On the issue of economic inequality and supporting middle- and working-class Americans, progressive advocacy groups including Demand Progress and the Revolving Door Project have implored Biden to avoid appointing a “corporate Cabinet” and to pick people who will serve human need, not plutocrats’ greed.
An astounding 68 percent of Americans say they want lawmakers to reject corporate executives and lobbyists if they are nominated for Joe Biden’s cabinet posts, according to a new survey. https://t.co/QNnlBnakCW
— Jacobin (@jacobinmag) November 25, 2020
One thing to understand about Biden’s cabinet picks is that you don’t really have to understand them as individuals. They all come from the same institutions, have the same corporate backing and believe in the same ideology: ruthless capitalism and American exceptionalism.
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) November 23, 2020
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) have warned against the appointment of former Biden Chief of Staff Bruce Reed to head the Office of Management and Budget.
“We are extremely concerned by the reports that Reed is a frontrunner to head [OMB]… given his history of antipathy towards economic security programs that working people rely on,” the three Squad members said as part of a petition.
On the issue of U.S. militarism, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, also appearing on Democracy Now!, ripped Biden’s consideration for defense secretary of leading military-industrial complex player Michèle Flournoy—who supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and helped persuade the Obama-Biden administration to wage war on Libya in 2011—warning that she “represents the epitome of what is worst about the Washington blob.”
“The foreseeable dangers of picking Flournoy to run the Pentagon are compounded by Biden’s selection of Antony Blinken to be secretary of state.”
Echoing Benjamin’s sentiments, author and activist Norman Solomon wrote for Common Dreams Monday that “the foreseeable dangers of picking Flournoy to run the Pentagon are compounded by Biden’s selection of Antony Blinken to be secretary of state.”
The possibility of Flournoy’s selection, wrote Solomon, “should be understood as a scenario for the president-elect to stick his middle fingers in the eyes of Americans who are fed up with endless war and ongoing militarism.”
CodePink and other peace groups and activists also expressed alarm and outrage over Biden’s tapping of Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, citing her role in drone strike policy during Barack Obama’s presidency and covering up torture perpetrated by members of the George W. Bush administration.
It wasn’t all anger and angst, however; Benjamin took time out for a literal song and dance to show her contempt for the prospect of a Defense Secretrary Flournoy, singing to salsa strains, “We don’t care about your gender, we care about your plans/If you are a warhawk in heels we will not be your fans.”