An Administration that Looks Like America
Why the makeup of the next White House communications team matters
Good Evening. In less than two months, 51 days to be exact, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
Yesterday the Biden-Harris transition announced that its White House communications team would be led entirely by women. To quote President-elect Joe Biden, “this is a big f*cking deal.” This marks the first time in history that every one of these roles has been filled by women.
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promised to build a team that “looks like America.” It started with a transition team on which 52% of all paid staff were women and 46% were people of color. Up to now Biden’s staffing and cabinet announcements have been well-timed and curated, emphasizing the diverse roster recruited to the Biden Administration. This is a trend I expect to continue. The Biden-Harris Administration has clearly made inclusion a priority, and they want to communicate that to the nation.
Now before one of you decides to be that guy and email me grumbling about “diversity for diversity’s sake” or something similar, let me stop you right now. Because the other thing both of these announcements, and the rumor mill around future staffing and appointment decisions, shows is that the Biden-Harris team has a deep bench of talent to choose from. There are more than enough qualified candidates in the pipeline to build an Administration that is both inclusive and highly qualified to take up the monumental task of running America.
As someone who’s done a lot of time in Democratic politics, Biden’s communications team announcement is deeply gratifying. For years I’ve worked on or consulted for campaigns where the majority of volunteers and donors (especially small-dollar donors) were women but the majority of senior staff and consultant leadership were men. For those candidates who won their election, it was those same men who often took senior positions on their staff or became part of their inner circle. I’m steeped enough in Democratic campaign culture to know that you don’t build a team like this unless you’re intentional about it, starting with who advises you and holds senior positions on your campaign.
The White House senior communications team will be the public face of the Biden-Harris Administration. We’ll see these women, Black women, Queer women, on TV, radio, and in print. Young women who are interested in working in politics or running for office themselves will see members of this team in action on a daily basis. This team will inspire the next generation of Democratic women, and expand what’s possible in their imaginations.
I know that not every Biden staffing decision or appointment will make me happy. Just the rumor mill has a way of stressing me out. (Rahm? Really?!?!) President-elect Biden won the election with a broad coalition of voters, and he’s going to make some decisions and appointments to appease centrists, etc. that seem designed to piss progressives off. Presidential transitions (much like life transitions) can be an emotional roller coaster with highs and lows.
But the White House Communications Shop is one of the highs. And I’m going to enjoy it.
Driving the Conversation
Senator-elect Mark Kelly will be sworn in on Wednesday at noon when he becomes Sen. Mark Kelly, dropping Sen. Mitch McConnell's majority by one vote, 52-48. That's one vote closer to President-elect Joe Biden being able to repair the damage done to the federal judiciary by McConnell and Trump, and highlight how absolutely essential it is that Democrats win the two Senate seats in Georgia. Because without them, the McConnell blockade will be back.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised to host a gathering of the world’s democracies next year, hoping to show that a post-Donald Trump America will be committed to democracy abroad and at home.
Biden’s pledge, though, has left many foreign officials pondering a thorny question: Will their country be invited?
However cleareyed Trump’s aides may have been about his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, many of them nonetheless indulged their boss and encouraged him to keep fighting with legal appeals. They were “happy to scratch his itch,” this adviser said. “If he thinks he won, it’s like, ‘Shh . . . we won’t tell him.’ ”
Even as they celebrated President Donald Trump’s defeat, some Democrats felt as if they were going back to the future. Ten years ago a well-timed red wave handed Republicans control of the redistricting process in key battleground states. Aided by a flood of last-minute spending, they flipped 22 state legislative chambers, gained nearly 700 seats, and used that power to inflate their strength in Washington, DC, and in state capitals for the next decade. With scientific precision, conservative lawyers crunched and manipulated data to construct a durable Republican wall that made it nearly impossible for Democrats to take back power even when they won more votes statewide by considerable margins. Those maps, and the legislative majorities they protected, cemented minority rule and turned competitive states into conservative policy labs where progressive ideas—Medicaid expansion, climate action, voting rights—went to die. Democrats still held the White House—but that was where their influence ended.
Biden Hires and Appointments
Janet Yellen is nominated to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its 231-year history, and the first person to have served as Treasury Secretary, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Chair of the Federal Reserve. She has previously been confirmed by the Senate on four separate occasions.
Neera Tanden, whose career has focused on pursuing policies designed to support working families, foster broad-based economic growth, and curb rampant inequality, is nominated to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. If confirmed, Tanden would be the first woman of color and first South Asian American to lead the OMB.
Wally Adeyemo, a veteran of the Executive Branch and expert on macro-economic policy and consumer protection with deep national security experience, is nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, having previously served as Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, Deputy National Security Advisor, and the first Chief of Staff of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If confirmed, Adeyemo would be the first African American Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.
Cecilia Rouse, a leading labor economist and the Dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, is nominated to serve as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, having previously been confirmed by the Senate as a member of the CEA in 2009. If confirmed, she will become the first African American and just the fourth woman to lead the CEA in the 74 years of its existence.
Jared Bernstein, who previously served as Chief Economist to President-elect Biden in the first years of the Obama-Biden Administration, will serve as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Heather Boushey, a distinguished economist focused on economic inequality and the President, CEO, and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth will serve as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Senior White House communications staff
Ashley Etienne, Communications Director for the Vice President
Symone Sanders, Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson for the Vice President
COVID-19 advisory board members
Jane Hopkins, RNMH
Jill Jim, PhD, MPH, MPA
David Michaels, PhD, MPH
Your Moment of Leslie Jones
Thanks for reading today. If you enjoy American Interregnum, be sure to forward the newsletter to a friend or colleague who might find it interesting.
Today’s “moment of” comes from Leslie Jones. This is the moment Jones learned that Biden’s senior communications team would be comprised entirely of women. Enjoy!
American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the Presidential transition period from November 3rd, 2020 to January 21st, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Got questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.