5 People Joe Biden Shouldn't Even Think About Appointing To His Cabinet
Nominating these figures would undermine Biden’s progressive agenda and damage his credibility with Black America.
December 18, 2020 at 3:24 am
Since winning the 2020 presidential election, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have been assembling a cabinet and team of senior officials who are bringing professionalism back to the White House. It's also becoming one of the most diverse administrations in U.S. history. Given the continued and decisive support that Biden and Harris received from Black America, which proved crucial at each step along the way to their eventual victory, the incoming administration has signaled that it is serious about Black representation and addressing issues that impact our community.
Therefore, it is disturbing that some of the names being discussed for outstanding roles within the administration are people whose histories and track records would undermine the confidence Black people have in the new administration and the ability of the Biden-Harris team to finally address longstanding issues that disproportionately affect us.
Here are five people reportedly under consideration who simply should not be:
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel, who served as the first White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama before leaving to run for Mayor of Chicago, has a long history with Biden, Obama’s VP. Though Emanuel ultimately did not get the nomination for Secretary of Transportation for which he was rumored to be under consideration – that position has gone instead to former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg – Emanuel is reportedly still being considered for a position, such as a “high-profile ambassadorship.”
If Biden is serious about the importance of having Black people in his administration, he should stay far away from Emanuel, whose tenure as Mayor of Chicago has earned him continued opposition from the residents of that city and from Black people more generally. During his time as mayor, the city of Chicago fought as hard as it could to cover up the details of the killing of LaQuan McDonald, the 17-year old Black teenager who was killed by police officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. Emanuel’s government attempted to suppress video footage of the shooting, managing to keep it under wraps until after Emanuel won his reelection campaign.
Soon after, however, a judge ordered the release of the video, which clearly showed that Van Dyke and numerous other officers had lied about being attacked by McDonald, who was actually walking away when Officer Van Dyke shot him 16 times. The video outraged Chicagoans and led to Van Dyke’s immediate firing and indictment on murder charges, for which he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to prison. Emanuel, who many suspect of suppressing the video in order to help his reelection campaign, refused to resign but was forced to give up on running for a third term as mayor.
As Blavity previously reported, Emanuel was protested against during his time as mayor for several other issues as well, such as pumping money into the Chicago Police Department while shutting down public schools in the city. The move, which disproportionately impacted majority-Black schools, prompted student-led protests and the #RahmHatesUS hashtag from Black Chicago students. He was also criticized for pro-gentrification policies pushed thousands of Black people out of the city and for the high murder rate in the city throughout his time in office.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Like Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was also rumored to be in the running for Secretary of Transportation, and like Emanuel, Garcetti’s possible nomination has drawn considerable protests from Black people in the city he runs. Among other issues, Garcetti has been hammered by his policies towards homelessness in L.A., which rose significantly under his leadership. The mayor has been further criticized for anti-homeless policies such as criminalizing sleeping in cars and seizing or destroying properties of homeless people.
In particular, the L.A. branch of Black Lives Matter (BLMLA) has spent three weeks protesting outside Garcetti’s residence, demanding that Biden not appoint the mayor to a position. BLMLA spokesperson Tabatha Jones Jolivet, argued that the mayor "has failed the people of Los Angeles in an unending number of ways — from criminalizing folks for being houseless, to refusing to stand up for people who are killed by his police force.”
BLMLA has claimed credit for Garcetti being passed over for both Secretary of Transportation and for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, which went to Rep. Marcia Fudge. Nevertheless, Garcetti’s closeness to Biden – the L.A. mayor was chosen as one of the chairs of Biden’s inaugural committee – has kept open the possibility that he may still be chosen for a spot. BLMLA and many other Black activists and voters find this prospect completely unacceptable. On Thursday, Garcetti announced that he had turned down an unspecified appointment within the Biden administration, an apparent victory for those who opposed him taking a role within Biden’s team.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
In recent days, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has emerged as a possible contender for the post of Attorney General, a spot that has produced much speculation as Biden seems to be undecided on who to nominate for this role. Many feel that it would be important to appoint a Black person, or at the least, someone with a strong record of civil rights work and progressive reform given the continuing issues concerning criminal justice reform.
Though Cuomo does not have a history of blatantly anti-Black policies or actions that have dogged Emanuel and Garcetti, the New York governor has a mixed record when it comes to policies that impact Black people, and he has been accused in the past of ignoring the Black community in his state. For instance, Cuomo issued an executive order that restored voting rights for parolees in New York but also reinstated cash bail requirements that keep many Black people locked over an inability to pay. This summer, Governor Cuomo signed into law criminal justice reform legislation for New York state but also called on Black Lives Matter demonstrators to stop protesting after passing the legislation.
Additionally, Cuomo has enacted questionable COVID-19 policies that have led to New York having the highest COVID-19 death toll in the nation, and Black New Yorkers have been disproportionately killed throughout the pandemic. On top of that, a former advisor to Cuomo has recently alleged that she endured years of sexual harassment from the governor.
Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell
Michael Morell, a career intelligence officer who has temporarily led the Central Intelligence Agency on two occasions, has been rumored to be one of Biden’s top choices to officially head the CIA. Among the notable moments in Morell’s career as an intelligence officer, he was the official who gave then-President George W. Bush his morning intelligence briefing on the morning of September 11, 2001, just minutes before news of the terrorist attack broke.
That day led to the U.S. War on Terror, which has included a number of questionable and morally dubious tactics, and Morell has come under fire for defending some of America’s most controversial policies. Most notably in his 2015 memoir, The Great War of Our Time, Morell strongly defended America’s use of torture and drone strikes against potential terrorists. These policies have been used at various points against targets in or from the Middle East and parts of Africa, and have thus been seen as violence against Black and Brown people in addition to being generally immoral in the eyes of rights advocates. Morell’s critics fear that his appointment could bring back support for “enhanced interrogation” techniques and support the continued use of drone strikes, which often kill large numbers of civilians, in countries such as Yemen and Somalia.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Though Sen. Bernie Sanders has often focused on class issues over race and sometimes struggled to appeal to Black voters, his inclusion on this list is not a criticism of his overall record with the Black community. On the contrary, from marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to proposing criminal justice reform to hanging out with Cardi B, Sen. Sanders has been on the correct side of history, and would likely do a great job as Secretary of Labor, a position for which he has lobbied.
However, appointing Sanders would have two potential shortcomings. Firstly, it would open up his senate seat. Should Sanders leave his seat representing Vermont, the state’s Republican Governor, Phil Scott, has promised to appoint someone with similar views to those of Sanders' to temporarily fill his seat before a special election was held for a permanent replacement. This could risk a Republican taking Sanders’ place, or even if a Democrat took his place, they would likely lack the clout and passion that Sanders has. Secondly, removing Sanders from the Senate would take away his power to promote a progressive agenda through the Congress and serve as a critical voice outside of the administration.
If Biden truly wants to honor his indebtedness to Black Americans and achieve a progressive and transformative agenda, he should value allies like Sen. Sanders who can keep the administration honest, and the incoming president should stay away from politicians who have enacted and supported egregious policies detrimental to Black people and others in the U.S. or around the world.