Joe Biden and Kamala Harris walking
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris walking

As Don­ald Trump con­tin­ues to deny the fact that he is com­ing to the end of his time in the White House, Joe Biden is rapid­ly putting togeth­er a team to replace the four year long real­i­ty TV show that has been the Trump presidency.

Over the past week, the Biden tran­si­tion team has been appoint­ing staffers and mulling over can­di­dates for a pres­i­den­tial cab­i­net that will, in the words of the Pres­i­­­dent-elect, “look like Amer­i­ca”.

Biden seems set to meet that pledge.

Of the ten offi­cial appoint­ments he has so far made to offices in the West Wing, half are women and about a third are peo­ple of col­or – com­pare that to Don­ald Trump’s over­whelm­ing­ly white and male cab­i­net.

Many of the appointees come from “Biden­world,” the tight cir­cle of friends, advi­sors and loy­al­ists that have sur­round­ed the Pres­i­­­dent-elect for decades.

Every mem­ber of the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion who has so far been named has worked under Biden, either dur­ing his time as Vice Pres­i­dent or in his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign (or both). While spec­u­la­tion has swirled about nom­i­nees for cab­i­net posi­tions, Biden has so far focused on fill­ing the offices of the White House.

This is a sim­ple polit­i­cal cal­cu­lus: the Sen­ate (which has the pow­er to con­firm or deny major cab­i­net appoint­ments) could be hos­tile to the incom­ing admin­is­tra­tion, depend­ing on what hap­pens in the Geor­gia runoffs, so Biden wants to assem­ble his West Wing team to strate­gize before launch­ing into gru­el­ing con­fir­ma­tion bat­tles in the upper cham­ber of Congress.

Biden will for­mal­ly intro­duce sev­er­al Cab­i­net picks on Tues­day. His cam­paign released a list of nom­i­nees today for impor­tant Cab­i­net and diplo­mat­ic or nation­al secu­ri­ty posi­tions, which con­sists of the following:

  • Antony Blinken, Sec­re­tary of State
  • Ale­jan­dro May­orkas, Sec­re­tary of Home­land Security
  • Avril Haines, Direc­tor of Nation­al Intelligence
  • Lin­da Thomas-Green­field, U.S. Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations
  • Jake Sul­li­van, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advisor
  • John Ker­ry, Spe­cial Pres­i­den­tial Envoy for Climate

Biden has not only promised diver­si­ty, but has also indi­cat­ed that his will be a “cli­mate admin­is­tra­tion.” The Biden team plan to tack­le cli­mate change “straight out of the box,” in the words of Sen­a­tor Tom Udall of New Mex­i­co. Udall and oth­er insid­ers have told reporters that cli­mate pol­i­cy will not only be the focus of a few key agen­cies, but rather “a whole gov­ern­ment approach,” and that the key ques­tion for each Cab­i­net appointee will be “is this per­son climate-ambitious?”

As a result of this focus, many of the most like­ly can­di­dates for Cab­i­net posi­tions have encour­ag­ing records on climate.

While all of these poten­tial picks are sources of encour­age­ment to pro­gres­sives, cli­mate activists have sound­ed a note of caution.

Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern for activists is the appoint­ment of Cedric Rich­mond to over­see the new administration’s pub­lic outreach.

Rich­mond, a con­gress­man from Louisiana, is one of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s largest recip­i­ents of fos­sil fuel mon­ey, and fre­quent­ly votes against his Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­leagues when it helps the inter­ests of oil and gas com­pa­nies – despite rep­re­sent­ing one of the most bad­­­ly-pol­­­lut­ed areas of the coun­try.

The Sun­rise Movement’s exec­u­tive direc­tor Varshi­ni Prakash (who is a mem­ber of Biden’s pol­i­cy task­force) described Richmond’s appoint­ment as a “betray­al.”

Of equal or greater con­cern is the pos­si­ble renom­i­na­tion of Ernest Moniz to the role of Ener­gy Sec­re­tary, a job he held from 2013 to 2017. Moniz has exten­sive ties to the ener­gy indus­try, and cur­rent­ly serves on the board of a com­pa­ny that spent the Oba­ma years fil­ing law­suits against emis­sions regulations.

Pro­gres­sives should applaud Pres­i­­­dent-elect Biden’s deter­mi­na­tion to make cli­mate change the focus of his admin­is­tra­tion; it is, after all, the great­est threat fac­ing human­i­ty. At the same time, though, we must be on our guard, and chal­lenge any back­slid­ing on cli­mate action and cli­mate jus­tice by Biden’s team.

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