Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Joe Biden's Unsolvable Identity Politics Problem

Great piece from Michael Barone, at the Washington Examiner, "Biden: Identity politics and no apologies":

Even as the Supreme Court rejected the last pro-Trump lawsuit and the Electoral College confirmed his 306-232 majority, Biden seemed to be playing identity politics with his major appointments. “Identity-based groups,” the New York Times is reporting, “continue to lobby Mr. Biden to ensure racial and gender diversity at all levels in his administration.”

He’s facing demands for two cabinet posts for Hispanic women, for a black attorney general, and for a Native American interior secretary. He’s facing criticism for placing “people of color” in posts for which they have no apparent expertise — Xavier Becerra at Health and Human Services, for example, and Susan Rice at the Domestic Policy Council [and she's a fucking foreign policy "expert"!]. 

Every incoming president faces vexing choices and scornful criticism, but it’s an especially vexing problem for Democrats. Their party, since its creation in 1832, has been an often unwieldy coalition of out-groups with grievances and self-appointed advocates. Their urban political bosses developed the art of balancing party tickets (with Southern Democrats, decades and decades ago).

The plaints and pleas of identity group advocates can sometimes seem disconnected from reality. How many Hispanic-surnamed women out there are determined to renounce the Democratic party unless Biden appoints to his cabinet not just one but two Latinas? (At least the Times isn’t using the university-spawned and unpronounceable adjective "Latinx.") Will black voters really feel betrayed if this Democratic president doesn’t appoint a black attorney general as the last Democratic president did?

At this point in our history, it seems apparent that the public will not only accept but approve of appointees of any ethnic or racial description, depending on their performance and policies. And one suspects that among the public, if not in the press, most people care more about policy than ethnicity, more about competence than ticket-balancing...


Mary H said...

Both Susan Rice and Xavier Becerra have extensive experience that they can bring to their positions. The doctors’ groups wished Biden appointed a doctor for the Dept. of Heath and Human services but America would need someone who can navigate the bureaucracy as well. From the New York Times: “Dr. Ada D. Stewart, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, one of the groups that sent the letter, described Mr. Becerra as “a good choice” and “an experienced legislator and executive” — even as she conceded that her group would “prefer, of course, to have a physician in this position.”
“We’ve already seen his commitment to health and equity, and those things can’t be overlooked,” she said.”

Biden knows Rice well, and she was on the short list for his VP slot. And her position at the Domestic Policy Council won’t have to be confirmed by the Senate. From Politico: “A person familiar with Biden’s thinking said he chose Rice for the role because of her deep experience in crisis management and interagency processes. The person said Biden does not see foreign, economic and diplomatic realms as separate and discrete and her deep knowledge of how the federal government works will be an asset to implementing his domestic policy agenda.”

Race/ethnicity had nothing to do with either choices.