EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Joe Biden’s choice of running mate will undoubtedly be both important and historic, given Biden’s commitment to choose a woman, and the many women of color in contention. But it’s not the only decision—or position—that matters, nor is it the only chance to make history. Biden’s choices of cabinet members and agency heads will provide another chance to reimagine the leadership we need moving forward.
These appointees run agencies that influence everything from health care costs to school safety to workplace protections. In that way, cabinet members’ influence on Americans’ daily lives might be as great, or even greater, than the vice president’s. For too long, presidents of both administrations have filled key cabinet and agency positions with men and women who boast K Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Wall Street connections and loyalties. Over the past four years, we’ve seen that tendency taken to the extreme, with devastating results.
Top Trump administration officials have overseen an unprecedented era of federal deregulation and destabilization. The Environmental Protection Agency, first under Scott Pruitt and then Andrew Wheeler, has rolled back regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and power plants. As secretary of the Education Department, Betsy DeVos has gutted key provisions allocating much-needed funding to high-poverty schools. Under the direction of five different commissioners (some in acting roles), the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory enforcement activity has declined drastically, threatening public health and safety. And in the midst of this pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services, led by Alex Azar, ordered hospitals to stop sharing daily coronavirus data with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.