Updated 11-23 to reflect the latest announcements from the Biden transition team
Top aides to president-elect Joe Biden announced Sunday that the first round of cabinet picks will be announced on Tuesday, and some early media reports were confirmed Monday. All indications suggest these nominations will be aimed at reassuring Wall Street that no major pro-worker reforms are on the table, and making it clear that the Biden administration is fully committed to aggressively using the military might of the U.S. war machine to dominate the globe.
Donald Trump’s farce that he is the true winner of the election is becoming more and more outlandish by the day. His legal team’s arguments are being ridiculed in court, and any long-shot hopes that he can reverse the outcome are being dashed as key states officially certify their results. Trump seems determined to keep up the charade as long as possible in order to both maximize the amount of money he can scam out of his supporters and fortify his position as a dominating force in the Republican Party even when out of office. But the electoral college will convene on December 14 and put an end to the illusion.
Biden is wasting no time preparing to put in place his thoroughly anti-worker, militarist government. It is customary for Democratic Party presidents to sprinkle into their cabinet a handful of leaders associated with the “progressive” wing. These figures generally function as a fig leaf to provide left cover to the administration’s thoroughly reactionary policies. Biden has been a loyal servant to the big banks and corporations throughout his nearly half a century as part of the political elite, and as President there is no reason to think we will change course.
Antony Blinken has secured the position of Secretary of State. Blinken was Deputy Secretary of State during Barack Obama’s presidency; and when Obama, Biden and Gates where hesitant, Blinken was among the camp of fierce advocates of the bombing war on Libya. He also advocated military strikes against the Syrian government. Earlier in Blinken’s career, when he was a top aide to then-Senator Joe Biden, he advocated the colonial-style partition of Iraq along sectarian lines.
On other issues of importance to U.S. empire, Blinken may advocate tactical shifts. In September, Blinken said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that “Trying to fully decouple, as some have suggested, from China …. is unrealistic and ultimately counter-productive” and has also remarked that Biden supported, “putting ourselves in a position of strength from which to engage China.” Comments like these seem to signal his preference for an approach weighted less heavily towards tariffs and sanctions and focusing more on cultivating a pro-US faction within the Chinese establishment while fortifying the United States’ economic and diplomatic upper hand on the geopolitical front. Blinken was also a supporter of the Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from, and has admitted that “The hard reality is it’s, if not impossible, highly unlikely that we will achieve, in any near term, the complete denuclearization of North Korea.”
Jake Sullivan’s appointment as National Security Advisor is also an indication that the Biden administration may seek to reduce tensions with Iran, which almost exploded until all-out war earlier this year. Sullivan was reportedly part of the team that took part in secret meetings with Iranian officials in Oman in 2013 to initiate negotiations that lead to the JCPOA nuclear deal. However, it is worth remembering that the JCPOA was conceptualized by the foreign policy establishment as a tactical retreat that would allow U.S. imperialism to focus its might elsewhere, particularly on China.
Michele Flournoy, the frontrunner to be named Secretary of Defense, recently wrote an article where she emphasized how important it was that the U.S. military be able to credibly threaten to sink all Chinese vessels in the South China Sea in 72 hours.
In terms of domestic policy, the Biden team has so far announced that Representative Cedric Richmond will lead the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond is notorious for his close ties to the oil and gas industry to the detriment of his own constituents — Richmond’s district includes seven of the 10 most air-polluted census tracts in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Alejandro Mayorkas will be nominated to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas, whose father was a factory owner in Cuba before leaving for the United States following the country’s revolution, served under President Obama as head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. He was part of the immigration team that helped Obama earn the nickname “Deporter in Chief” for carrying out an eye-popping number of deportations that spread terror in immigrant communities.
Desperately-needed reforms under an administration so thoroughly imperialist and reactionary can only be secured through determined, militant struggle. The only way to win Medicare for all, the cancellation of student debt, criminal charges for killer cops, dramatic action on climate change and much more is to demand it, and back up those demands with a fighting movement of the working class.