Joe Biden

A new poll shows that 68 percent of Americans say they want lawmakers to reject any corporate-linked Biden nominations. So why is he picking them? 

Although mostly considered the not-Trump candidate, Biden’s presidential campaign nonetheless offered a glimmer of hope for Americans – investment in infrastructure, debt cancelation, modestly helping Americans during pandemic, etc.

None of these modestly progressive policies, however, will make it far without Democrats winning Georgia’s two Senate seats. But his brief time as president-elect is showing he might turn back on these campaign promises even if Dems win those two Senate seats in January.

Biden has sewed concern by naming former Clinton and Obama staffers to his economic team. Most notably Neera Tanden, who worked with Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been leading the Center for American Progress, which was founded by top Clinton aides and has a $60 million combined annual budget with 320 staff members funded by a range of donors from Wall Street to the United Arab Emirates (who they’ve stopped accepting money from as of last year).

While Tanden has caused a stir in the media, she is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Biden’s neoliberal anti-progressive picks.

Biden recently announced a series of picks from the defense contractor WestExec Advisors, their website claims they bring “the situation room to the boardroom,” acting as a bridge between government and private defense contractors. Tony Blinken is Biden’s pick for secretary of state (who founded WestExec Advisors) along with Avril Haines (also a part of WestExec) as the director of national intelligence. Biden is considering WestExec cofounder Michèle Flournoy as secretary of defense.

Two corporate lawyers, Sally Yates and Karen Dunn, are being vetted for attorney general and the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust department.

So far, Biden’s cabinet picks appear to show the president-elect drawing a line in the sand. Telling voters his administration is returning to the “status quo” which Trump launched a symbolic (not actual) populist assault against.    

However, a new survey by Data for Progress found 60 percent of participants believe Biden appointing corporate picks for his administration would be “out of step with his campaign promises.” The survey also found 68 percent of participants believe Senators should reject corporate-tied nominees.

It’s not only corporate ties raising questions, but also those who have served in public office. Biden’s reported interest in appointing former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has been met with major backlash by lawmakers, with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman joining Congressman-elect Mondaire Jones in speaking out against the potential pick.

The former Chicago Mayor and his administration notoriously tried to suppress the footage of teen Laquan McDonald being shot and killed by police. Emanuel has, in the meantime, worked as asenior adviserat an investment banking firm consulting corporations on mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring plans.

Biden’s reported interest in former chief of staff Bruce Reed from the Obama administration has also triggered outcry with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. They initiated a petition, saying, “If the Biden administration is serious about protecting Medicare and Social Security, they must not appoint one of the biggest champions of cuts to lead their budget agency,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

Many of his early picks with strong corporate ties served in public office before cashing in via the private sector, once again highlighting the revolving door between Wall Street and the White House.

Biden’s early actions as president-elect have led to more progressives speaking out. Sen. Bernie Sanders saying it would be “enormously insulting if Biden put together a ‘team of rivals’ – and there’s some discussion that that’s what he intends to do – and which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats –  but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate.”

In a recent interview with DemocracyNow, author and historian Barbara Ransby said what concerns her “is the presentation of this as a cabinet of firsts. Jake Sullivan is the youngest. Avril Haines is the first woman in the position she’s appointed to, etc. … But it is woefully insufficient. We are in a deep and disturbing set of crises, and we need people who are going to act to curb the greed of billionaires and provide relief to working people, but we also need people who are going to speak out and stand up against racism and the resurgence of white nationalism. I’m not confident that Biden is heading in that direction, which is why we need to continue to build a movement.”

It would appear, as of now, that Biden has replaced the progressive politics he promised in his campaign with progressive aesthetics (an administration that looks diverse), while the substantive issues remain in the hands of those making their rounds through the revolving door between Wall Street and the White House.

Twenty-something Taylor Dorrell is a Columbus-based progressive essayist and photographer