Biden makes history with cabinet picks

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President-elect Joe Biden’s thanksgiving address. (Youtube screenshot.)

While outgoing President Trump’s legal team continued attempts to overturn election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris moved forward with appointments to their new administration.

In an historic move, Biden and Harris have appointed all women to their White House senior communications team. They have also named other women to key posts in which a woman has never served, notably Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury and Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

Yellen, a world-renowned economist, was previously the first woman to head the Federal Reserve. Haines was Deputy National Security Advisor in the Obama administration.

Biden and Harris also named Neera Tanden as Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers — two posts never held by a woman of color before.

Tanden is the daughter of Indian immigrants and head of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. Since her appointment was announced, Tanden has become a lightning rod for Republican outrage. Tanden has been a vocal critic of Trump and the GOP throughout the Trump presidency and has been accused of “mean tweets” directed at Republican members of Congress.

In an interview with the New York Times on Dec. 2, Biden was asked if Tanden’s “nasty tweets should be disqualifying.”

“That disqualifies almost every Republican senator and 90 percent of the administration,” Biden said. “But by the way, she’s smart as hell. Yeah, I think they’re going to pick a couple of people just to fight [over] no matter what.”

Among Biden-Harris’s history-making appointments are two lesbians of color, Karine Jean-Pierre and Pili Tobar. Jean-Pierre, the first Black person and first out lesbian to hold a chief of staff role for a vice-presidential nominee, will be principal Deputy Press Secretary for the Biden administration. Tobar, a veteran of the immigration reform group America’s Voice, will be Deputy White House Communications Director.

Barbara Simon, head of GLAAD’s news and campaigns department, said in a statement that “including queer women of color in the history-making, all-female communications team shows a commitment to a White House where all are welcome at the table.”

Simon added, “We expect them to continue fighting for more voices to be heard, especially women, immigrants and queer people of color who’ve too often been left out of conversations and decisions about our lives. We look forward to seeing them lead the way.”

The other women on the communications team include Jen Psaki as the new White House press secretary and deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield as the new communications director. Ashley Etienne, a former Biden campaign adviser who has worked for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will serve as communications director for Harris. Senior campaign adviser Symone Sanders will be Harris’ chief spokeswoman and former federal prosecutor Elizabeth Alexander will become First Lady Jill Biden’s communications director.

Psaki was White House Communications Director from 2015 to 2017 in the Obama administration and was a spokesperson for the Department of State and held various press and communications roles in the Obama White House. Sanders was also press secretary for the Bernie Sanders (no relation) presidential campaign in 2016.

In a statement on Nov. 30. Biden said., “I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”

In another statement, Harris described the women as “experienced, talented, and barrier-shattering.”

Another LGBTQ appointment is Carlos Elizondo, who will be the new White House Social Secretary. Elizondo will be in charge of the White House Social Office and oversee all aspects of official social events in the President’s official residence.

Elizondo previously served for both terms of the Obama-Biden administration as Special Assistant to the President as well as Social Secretary to the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden. Elizondo also served in both the White House and the Office of the U.S. Chief of Protocol.

During a press conference to present the new economic team on Dec. 1, Harris said, “When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a Cabinet that looks like America, that reflects the very best of our nation. That is what we have done.”

Harris also said, “These public servants are some of America’s most brilliant economic minds. I have full faith this is the team we need to deliver immediate economic relief to the American people, to get our economy back on track, and to make sure it works for working people.”

As PGN has reported, LGBTQ poverty has risen exponentially under the Trump administration.

Addressing that disparity is essential.

Biden also appointed the first Latinx to head of the Department of Homeland Security. Alejandro Mayorkas was born in Cuba and raised in Los Angeles when his family immigrated to the U.S. He was Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a prominent House progressive and immigrant herself tweeted, “This is a very strong, smart choice. Mayorkas knows personally what it is to be an immigrant, like me and tens of millions across our country. He will help us pass humane immigration reform and restore humanity to DHS.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be the third woman of color to be UN Ambassador, following Susan Rice and Nikki Haley. In a Nov. 24 press briefing introducing her and other top Biden Cabinet choices, Thomas-Greenfield said, “America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”

Other LGBTQ people expected to join the Biden-Harris administration are former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who serves on the Biden-Harris transition team, Jamal Brown, who was national press secretary during the general election, Reggie Brown who served as LGBTQ engagement director, and Olivia Raisner who was traveling digital director.

In another first, three people of color have been tapped for senior leadership roles for the Biden-Harris Presidential Inaugural Committee. Dr. Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer. Maju Varghese will serve as Executive Director following her role as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Advisor on the Biden-Harris campaign. Erin Wilson, who served as the Biden-Harris campaign’s National Political Director, is now Deputy Executive Director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Evangelical preacher, Trump ally and top Facebook influencer Franklin Graham asserted that the Biden-Harris choices are indicative that “LGBTQ activists within the Democratic Party are pushing their godless, secular agenda with a potential Biden administration.”

In a Dec. 1 Facebook post, the evangelical added, “If you don’t conform to their ideology, agree with their sinful beliefs, teach what they say is right, they want to close you down. They will pressure and bully politicians to get their way. It is extremely dangerous if they are permitted to proceed unchecked.”

Biden was succinct going forward, noting, “At the outset, I wanted this campaign to represent and look like America. We’ve done that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like and act like.”