By Phoebe Weinstein
New York City, New York
President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks aren’t particularly surprising. There are firsts––the first woman in this position, the first Black man in this one––but the President-elect is true to his position in the center-left. Perhaps in a bid to cool the disgruntled passions of the far-right after a much-disputed, heated election, Biden may be hoping to compromise as much as possible.
There are some interesting highlights of the recent appointees: Lloyd Austin, chosen as the new Defense Secretary, would be the first Black person to lead the Pentagon. A four-star general, Austin has not completed the seven years retirement from service required by Capitol Hill. His employment will require a Congressional waiver of this rule, as did President Donald Trump’s appointment of Jim Mattis; this will be the second retired general in the Defense Secretary position in a row.
Janet Yellen, the appointee for the position of Treasury Secretary, was the head of the Federal Reserve under the Obama administration. She is widely respected for her work during the 2008 financial crisis and is known for her pro-labor attitude and generally more progressive opinions regarding employment and the issue of inflation. She would be the first female Treasury Secretary, alongside Avril Haines, the first woman with the position of Director of National Intelligence, and Neera Tanden, the first woman of color to lead the Office of Management and Budget.
Alejandro Mayorkas has been appointed the Secretary of Homeland Security and would be the first Latino secretary in the department. He is a staunch supporter of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and worked in its implementation under the Obama administration as the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Other Biden appointees––John Kerry as Special Climate Envoy, Linda Thomas Greenfield as U.N. Ambassador and Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State––are prominent figures well-versed in their fields and often somewhat associated with the Obama administration. Xavier Becerra, the appointee for Health and Human Services Secretary, seems most likely of the four to stir the pot with right-wing Americans as a strong legal enemy of the Trump administration and supporter of Obamacare.
Overall, Biden’s Cabinet appointees are underwhelming. Even the gender and racial identity firsts––who are extremely respectable in their own right––are perhaps underwhelming for some amidst the mass of white faces promising to dominate the Biden administration. The popular slogan #SettleForBiden didn’t end with the election of our president. For the next four years, we will be #Settling for Biden’s appointments as well; that means the era of centrism and compromise.