Last week, President-elect Joe Biden selected the White House’s top aides. He announced some senior cabinet and national security posts this week. There is a lot of work left to be filled – namely the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General – but here we can learn about Biden, the Biden administration and how he will govern …
He’s back to normal wheel cutting – at least as far as Biden’s staff are concerned
As expected, Biden appoints very traditional people, like most other presidents – except, of course, Biden’s immediate predecessor. President Trump first elected the Chief of Staff (Reince Priebus) and the Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson), who have no previous experience in the federal government, and two White House advisers (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller), whose views were quite outside the elite GOP. mainstream. It is unlikely that President Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would have nominated one of these four for these positions.
In contrast, Biden’s staff find it difficult to bear people who have done similar work in the past and lined up for senior positions if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016. Biden’s election as secretary of state, Antony Blinken, for example, was deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Avril Haines, who will be Biden’s director of national intelligence, was deputy director of the CIA under Obama and then deputy national security adviser. Almost every person Biden had appointed to a very senior position was in one of the top positions in the Obama administration. That doesn’t necessarily mean Biden will end Obama’s third cycle (although that may eventually be true). Rather, Biden names the traditionally most skilled people for these jobs, as previous presidents have done. President George W. Bush’s First Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) and Secretary of State (Colin Powell) have held senior positions in previous GOP administrations. Obama’s first chief of staff (Rahm Emanuel) was chief assistant to President Bill Clinton, and Obama’s first attorney general (Eric Holder) was the deputy attorney general for the Clinton government.
Graeme Wood of the Atlantic nicely captured the ethos of Biden’s selections, Referring to Blinken and Jake Sullivan, who was appointed as a national security consultant as “boring pickers who, if you shook them awake and appointed them at any time in the middle of the night at the last decade, could have reported their new job and started dawn competently. “
Biden tries not to annoy his party’s left wing
Biden’s more liberal figures, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ran to the right when the Democrats were pre-elected. But he usually tried to court the left wing of his party – better than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and at least other leading Democrats. So Biden’s national teams, especially Ron Klain (Chief of Staff) and Janet Yellen (Treasury Secretary) are people who liked the more liberal wing of the party.
Don’t get me wrong: Biden puts together a center-left administration and chooses an institution that is unlikely to get the same roles in a Sanders or Warren administration. And Biden can still elect people to the top positions that the more liberal Democrats really hate, namely former domestic policy adviser Emanuel and Bill Clinton, Bruce Reed. But Biden seems to be trying find people who are at the heart of the Democratic Party, the intelligent instinct in a party that is quite broken at the elite level (e.g., the squad against the moderates of the house).
Biden also tries not to annoy Republicans too much
Biden may need a few GOP votes to bolster his cabinet recordings in the U.S. Senate, so he’s not even trying to oppose Republicans too much. According to the news, Susan Rice, who was Obama’s national security adviser, should be considered in connection with the State Department leadership. But some Senate Republicans have already indicated their opposition to it, making Blinken a safer choice. Democrats could control the Senate if they win the Georgian catwalk on January 5, but there’s a good chance the Democrats won’t win both races (or neither of them). So Biden seems to be keeping this possibility in mind – none of his constituents are known to be strongly opposed by Senate Republicans. (So the potential role of Republicans in the ratification process could push Biden’s election to the right, even if the Democratic Party’s progressive wing pushes it to the left.)
Overall, Biden is meeting its diversity commitments
The former vice president said he will choose a diverse cabinet during the campaign and follow: Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American, will be the first Latin person to serve as secretary of homeland security; Yellen will be the first woman to serve as treasury secretary. Indeed, there are many women in key positions – from White House Adviser (Dana Remus) to Director of Intelligence (Haines). Also remember that Kamala Harris, elected Vice President, will be the first woman, the first man of Black American and the first man of South Asian descent to hold this job.
Nevertheless, there is less diversity among the positions that provide the most power and access to Biden
In some senior positions, it is basically guaranteed that you talk to the President regularly (Chief of Staff, Adviser to the President) or that you have a lot of decision-making power, regardless of whether the President speaks to you regularly (National Security Adviser, Secretary of State). The Biden administration, at least based on selections to date, appears to be diverse, but it is conceivable that there is not much ideological or racial diversity in top-level decision-making.
Women, as I noted earlier, will he will almost certainly be in top decision-making roles. But the women elected so far tend to share Biden’s more centric policy. So far, there is no obvious team / Warren / Sanders liberal in any of the leading jobs. And while Biden’s selection is racially different overall, it’s easy to imagine that many key decisions will be made by a predominantly white group.
This may change again and is only based on your previous recordings. Biden is far from filling his team. So Biden can choose more liberal figures for domestic and economic policy positions and nominate colored people for powerful positions like the Attorney General or the Secretary of Defense.
So where does all this leave us?
Overall, it looks like Biden is trying to accomplish his unspoken but obvious goal of making the U.S. government boring again. His selections so far are really boringly normal.
This is likely to be a very good thing in terms of respect for democratic norms and values. But the nature of the issues Biden will face as president may not allow him to hold a boring presidency.
Biden is a centrist, founding personality. He has been present in Washington for a long time. And he surrounds himself with similar people, many of whom have a long history with Bidendel himself. The advantage of such people is that they understand how the government works. The downside is that Biden’s team may not be particularly prepared for the treatment new the problems facing the nation, particularly the outbreak of the coronavirus, the increasingly anti-democratic tendencies of the Republican Party, a country increasingly aware of its persistent racial divisions, and other issues that were not as pressing as in 2009 or 1993.
So Biden creates a normal team – but the big question is whether the normal will work in these extremely abnormal times.