So, it seems that the Democrats involved in the transition are having a little family squabble. Fine, I can live with that, in fact it’s healthy. This isn’t like the GOP, with the old dogs lobbing ad bombs at the Trombies. This is more like a family argument over the Thanksgiving table.
Apparently, a couple of the more established, legacy civil rights groups, like The National Urban League, and the NAACP, are feeling a little left out, because nobody form the Biden transition team has contacted them in regards to suggestions for cabinet positions, or policy proposals. They’re not whining, and they’re not asking for, like, veto power over nominees, but considering their track record, and the importance of their constituency, they would like a little input in the process. And I don’t disagree. They should have a seat at the table.
The Congressional Black Caucus, on the other hand, is flexing its muscles a bit more. While they have no beef with any of the nominees so far, they feel that with the contribution of black voters in the election, and Biden’s admission of the fact, they want to see an African American in one of the last two marquee cabinet posts, which means either Secretary of Defense, or Attorney General. Again, I have no problem with that either.
For some reason, the center of the angst seems to be around Attorney General. Which is one of the reasons I wanted to see Biden pick Susan Rice for his VP, that would have left Kamala Harris an odds on favorite for Attorney General. But we live in the world we inhabit.
Actually, if the CBC wants one out of two, there’s an almost absurdly easy fix to Biden’s dilemma. One of the front runners for the Secretary of Defense job is none other than Jeh Johnson. As the former Director of Homeland Security, his experience is there. He can read the intelligence, knows where the levers are, and could hit the ground running. He would also give the CBC their marquee appointment, which would open up the AG spot for whomever Biden chooses.
Except perhaps not. Whether Biden ends up with a 48-62, 49-51, or a 50-50 Senate. Biden is going to have a hard time getting anything truly earth shattering done in the first 100 days, especially while the concentrate on getting the coronavirus under control, and fine tune the vaccine rollout and distribution. As a result, having the image of hard and concrete change quickly will be critical.
One of the things that put Biden over the top so comfortably, especially in critical swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia, was an outpouring of young African American voters. Led by grassroots organizers, they filed in and out of the polls to vote for change in restoring some kind of balance to racial equality and police abuse in this country. And nothing would help to reassure these young, motivated voters that Biden was serious in his promise more than appointing a charismatic, highly qualified African American Attorney General to get in there and start making this right.
Next question, who? Frankly, I have no idea. One of the front runners out there right now seems to be former Democratic Governor Deval Patrick. my only knowledge of Patrick goes back to his days as a sock puppet board member representing non union employees during United’s employee ownership debacle. But from everything I’ve seen of him, he’s a quiet, measured, soft spoken man of a certain age, and I don’t know how inspirational he would be to these young voters.
Who else? I have a suggestion. How about Maya Wiley, the former tough-as-nails US Attorney from New York City, and then chief counsel to the Mayor of New York? She’s energetic, charismatic, knows her way around the federal court and Justice Department systems, and I just have the feeling she would make a more compelling figure. But there have to be plenty of more qualified candidates out there to take the load. At the moment, she’s running against Bill DeBlasio for New York Mayor, but if Biden tapped her on the shoulder, I find it hard to believe that she would decline.
There is one name floating around out there for the post that I strongly disagree with, though not for the reason you think. There are some who are saying that Biden should tap outgoing Alabama Senator Doug Jones for the job. To my mind, this would be a terrible mistake.
I have no doubt that Jones would be perfectly acceptable to the majority of the black community. As a long time US Attorney in Alabama, Jones tirelessly fought for civil rights justice, earning scorn, abuse, and threats. He spent more than a decade tracking down and convicting the Klansmen who threw that bomb into the church, killing those innocent little girls singing in the choir. His bona fides are impeccable.
And to my mind, this would be a tragic mistake. Not because Jones is an any way unqualified, but making him Attorney General would strip him of the ability to use his greatest strength and skillset. Doug Jones is a civil rights prosecution litigator to his toes. And he would barely be involved with the day to day running of the DOJ.
Pick someone else for Attorney General, and then immediately slot Jones in as the head of the Civil Rights Division. Trump, Sessions, and Barr have absolutely decimated that division. Morale has to be lower than dogshit. The Axis of Evil pretty much stripped the division of all authority, and left them with little or nothing to do. The first morning that Doug Jones walks through the door, every employee in the division will immediately think of Mississippi Burning. With a career civil rights warrior like Jones, fully supported and backed by the President and Attorney General, Jones could revitalize and reenergize that department on day one. And think of this. Properly motivated, energized, and authorized, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ is one of the few government departments that can start showing, real, concrete results almost from day one. Balm on the open sores of the black community.
These picks are always tricky, and for the most part, you only get to do that once with popular fanfare. But because Biden’s mandate, while broad, will also be narrow, giving the image of positive forward momentum is critical. What do you think?
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