Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Don’t Be Fooled: The Most Diverse Cabinet in History Is Pure Demagogy

Biden boasts that his new cabinet “looks like America.” However, whether the cabinet “looks like” the working class has nothing to do with their interests and politics. Make no mistake: these politicians will always put the capitalists above the workers.

Facebook Twitter Share
Photo Collage: LA Times

Liberals are celebrating what is shaping up to be the most diverse cabinet ever. The new president wants to use the “diversity card” to hide the fact that his cabinet will govern for the super-rich, by applying the neoliberal recipe in times of pandemic and economic crisis and by maintaining the racist character of the U.S. state.

The stimulus bill recently approved by Congress to alleviate the coronavirus crisis and its economic consequences is a taste of what the Biden administration will be like, even though it was passed under Trump. Congress has approved only $600 in direct payments and $300 extra in weekly unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, the super-rich continue to accumulate billions in profits from the pandemic. In short, with demagogy and rhetoric, Biden is preparing to impose austerity, protect police departments, and continue governing for his big campaign donors.

So far, Biden has nominated many women and people of color to cabinet-level positions, several of whom will be “firsts” for their offices if appointed. Among them are Alejandro Mayorkas, who will be the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security; Pete Buttigieg, who will be the first openly gay member of the cabinet; and Debra Haaland, who will be the first Native American member of the cabinet. The new cabinet also includes Lloyd Austin, who helped “spearhead the invasion of Iraq”; Janet Yellen, who was one of the architects of the pro–Wall Street bailouts put forward by the Obama administration after the 2008 recession; Neera Tanden, a right-wing Democrat who has famously criticized Bernie Sanders and the Squad. And of course there’s Kamala Harris, who will be the first vice president who is Black, the first vice president who is South Asian, and the first vice president who is a woman.

Of the first 18 cabinet-level appointments Biden has made, two-thirds were part of the Obama-Biden administration or closely tied to it. Biden boasts that his new cabinet “looks like America.” But whether the cabinet “looks like” the working class has nothing to do with their interests and politics. Make no mistake: these politicians will always put the bourgeoise above the workers. As President-elect Biden has assembled his cabinet choices, he is returning to a pre-Trump status quo, not ushering in a progressive transformation.

It is precisely the Obama legacy that Biden says he wants to restore, and it is precisely the Obama legacy that the Black Lives Matter movement has been challenging since 2014. The idea that electing officials of color or oppressed minorities to top positions in government will change the lives of millions of oppressed Black people, Brown people, and working people in the U.S. — this has failed to produce any results. Liberals are playing with the worn-out representational lean-in strategy that the Democratic Party has sold to the oppressed for decades.

According to this strategy, access to public office under the umbrella of the Democratic Party would be a step forward in fighting oppression and winning reforms for the oppressed. That was Barack Obama’s discourse when he won the presidency as the first Black president, but his words were negated by the emergence of the first chapter of the BLM movement in 2014. Seven years later, police departments across the country are still killing Black people as an everyday practice of these racist institutions. The representational lean-in strategy was also employed by Hillary Clinton and her attempt to break the glass ceiling for women. Clinton’s victory would not have meant much for the vast majority of working-class and oppressed women in the U.S., who are treated as pawns in election strategies. For women of color, trans women, and the working class, Clinton’s breaking of the glass ceiling would have left them cleaning up the glass.

For its part, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party strategy of pushing the party to the left, represented by Sanders, is only giving Biden space to try to impose the capitalist stability that Wall Street misses so much. To win the election with greater legitimacy among some sectors that are discontented with the Dems, Biden, a strong representative of the establishment and finance, required the support of Sanders and the Squad. In this equation, unfortunately, the message was that it is unnecessary to fight in the streets against racism or for Medicare for All, nor to break with the Dems, but to continue trusting that we can push to the left the same capitalist politicians who for 30 years have defended the neoliberal project and the racist institutions to the teeth.

The left outside the Democratic Party, like the DSA, made the grave mistake of going after the lesser evil instead of deepening discontent with the Democrats to build a truly socialist organization made up of Black, Brown, and working people who are truly organic to the working class, not only because of their origin or race but because of their class interests and program. It is impossible to defend the interests of the working class by joining or supporting one of the parties that governs for our bosses and oppressors. Race or gender can unite us with some of these politicians, but class divides us, and so we need real revolutionary politicians of the oppressed.

The most recent demonstration that the Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements was the case of the BLM movement. What in May was a massive movement in the streets became by November a movement for passively voting, exactly as the Democratic Party wanted. This is not to say that the movement regressed only because of confidence in the lesser evil, but the Democrats made great efforts to bring the nationally expressed anger to the ballot box.

It would, however, be a mistake to focus solely on the Democratic Party’s current position of co-optation and declare that the Biden government will actually be able to impose stability. There remains a latent anger at systemic racism embodied above all in the police departments and against the super-rich and Wall Street who have benefited from the pandemic.

Biden’s decision to form a racially diverse cabinet is a response, from the capitalists’ point of view, to the force that the BLM movement once gained on the street. But precisely because of the movement’s strength in 2020, Biden’s government will be weak, and will have to govern between the pressures of the mass movement fed up with social inequality and racism on one side and its commitments to Wall Street on the other. But the “most diverse cabinet in history” is nothing but pure demagogy. It has rigorously chosen to hide behind the disguise of “representation of oppressed minorities,” a program just as racist and anti-worker as that of its Democratic predecessors.

Facebook Twitter Share

Jimena Vergara

Jimena is an author of the collection "Mexico en Llamas" and lives and works in New York City.

Olivia Wood

Olivia is a writer and editor at Left Voice and lecturer in English at the City University of New York (CUNY).

United States

No More Aaron Bushnells

Aaron Bushnell was a victim of the U.S. military and a world where it's normal for people to burn. He should inspire a massive movement for a world without despair.

Samuel Karlin

March 3, 2024
Aaron Bushnell, who self-immolated in protest of the genocide in Palestine.

Aaron Bushnell’s Cry of Despair in the Face of Genocide

The media and international community was profoundly affected by the self-immolation of U.S. soldier Aaron Bushnell in protest against the genocide in Gaza. His death and desperate act of protest starkly shows the cruelty and brutality of U.S. Imperialism and Zionism.

Enzo Tresso

February 28, 2024

The U.S. is Putting Journalism on Trial: Interview with Kevin Gosztola

Left Voice spoke with journalist Kevin Gosztola about the political nature behind the trial of Julian Assange, the threat that extradition poses to international press freedom, and how the Biden administration has advanced other attacks on press freedom.

Samuel Karlin

February 28, 2024
Three activists stand together while one activist holds up an "uncommitted" sign with the word "vote" written on it many times. In the left side of the picture another activist holds a sign that says "abandon Genocide Joe"

Don’t Vote Uncommitted — Commit to Breaking with the Democrats

Tapping into deep anger with President Biden, the left wing of the Democratic Party is urging Michigan voters to vote “uncommitted” in the primary election. But this strategy funnels progressives’ energy back into the Democratic party when we need political independence from the parties supporting the genocide in Gaza.

Brian H. Silverstein

February 27, 2024


Black UAW workers, a black-and-white image, holding signs that say "UAW ON STRIKE."

To Achieve Black Liberation, Class Independence Is Key

A united, working-class party fighting oppression is our only hope for Black liberation.

Tristan Taylor

February 29, 2024
A banner reads "Real Wages Or We Strike" at a rally for CUNY, which is experiencing cuts from Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul.

CUNY Faculty and Staff Have Gone One Year Without a Contract — It’s Time to Strike

CUNY workers have been without a new contract for a full year and the university has yet to make any economic offers. It's time to take action.

Olivia Wood

February 29, 2024
Florida governor Ron DeSantis stands at a podium that reds "Higher Education Reform"

U.S. Higher Education Is Being Gutted, but We Can Fight Back

Across the United States, higher education is being gutted through program eliminations and budget cuts. We must prepare to fight these attacks with everything we have.

Olivia Wood

February 28, 2024

Berlinale: Filmmakers Say What the Rest of the World is Saying

At the Berlinale film festival, Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers called for equality and peace. German politicians want to ban such hateful talk.

Nathaniel Flakin

February 28, 2024