NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

The Biden-Harris administration takes shape with the announcement of key appointees

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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