So far, President-elect Joe Biden’s picks for positions in his cabinet are a breath of fresh air. Despite the rumors flying around before and after the election of household names to major positions, like Elizabeth Warren as Secretary of the Treasury or Bernie Sanders as the Secretary of Labor, Biden has not given in to the growing perception of American politics as entertainment. Thank goodness.
Where Biden and his team have excelled in these selections is in the areas of expertise and experience. Unlike his predecessor, the president-elect has not brought people into positions based solely on their relationship to him or their willingness to do his bidding unquestioned.
Biden’s highest-profile pick so far has been the selection of Antony Blinken as Secretary of State. Blinken is a career diplomat who has served as Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy Secretary of State. Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a distinguished economist and has served as both the chair and vice-chair of the Federal Reserve in her career. Neither Blinken and Yellen are necessarily big-ticket, recognized names to the average American, but it is refreshing to see people in offices who are competent and experienced.
Among Biden’s other picks are Alejandro Mayorkas for Director of Homeland Security and Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence. Mayorkas arrived in the U.S. as a Cuban refugee when he was a child, and will be the first Latino and immigrant to serve in this role. After years of major ethics and legitimacy issues at the DHS, Mayorkas will bring a sense of stability to the department. Haines has served on the National Security Council as well as in the position of Deputy Director of the CIA, and will be the first woman to head U.S. intelligence. The intelligence departments are another facet of the government that have faced serious criticism during the Trump administration, with unqualified leaders and questions of political involvement rampant over the last four years.
Yet another exciting aspect of the incoming administration comes not from the Cabinet, but from Biden’s pick for his communications and economics teams. Both of these teams will be almost entirely staffed by women, including several women of color. Neera Tanden, whose parents immigrated from India, has been picked as the head of the Office of Management and Budget, and Cecilia Rouse, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey will serve on the Council of Economic Advisors. Rouse will be the first African-American woman to head the council.
Biden’s communications team will be led by Kate Bedingfield, who has worked for the President-elect for years, including on his campaign, and women will staff all seven positions on the communications team for the first time in history.
Ron Klain, Biden’s pick for Chief of Staff, said that “President-elect Biden has a history of advocating on behalf of women in the U.S. and around the world, and today’s announcement is a continuation of that work … they embody Joe Biden’s commitment to a diverse administration where the voices of all Americans are represented.”
In short, Joe Biden’s picks for his Cabinet and White House staff are things to get excited about. They represent a sharp departure from the way Donald Trump operated the U.S. government. Competency, diversity and qualification reign supreme in the incoming administration, a welcome relief from what we have lived through under Trump’s leadership.