In case you missed it, Joe Biden has been elected the 46th president of the United States.
News of his victory was met with manifold reactions. The current president and his most fervent supporters have refused to accept the results of the election, while Biden supporters are elated, taking to the streets in celebrations of joy.
But between these two extreme reactions lies another: a deep well of skepticism and concern about a Biden presidency.
Biden has been a solidly moderate Democrat for most of his career, and the tension between progressives and moderates has been a big talking point throughout this election. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, speaking for many Republicans who voted for Biden, argued on CNN that Democrats should be appealing to the center-right, while U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and her progressive peers think the national party should focus more on progressivism.
In the coming weeks, the American public will be looking at the people Biden chooses for his Cabinet to gauge which side of this split he favors. Although several advisers close to the transition told The New York Times that Biden is not likely to announce his Cabinet picks until Thanksgiving, Biden has begun appointing people to his transition team.
On Wednesday, Biden named Ron Klain as his chief of staff, a pick that even the more liberal Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-M.A., noted as “encouraging” and “superb,” respectively. Klain has decades of experience in Washington; he worked closely with Biden and the Obama administration on the 2008 economic crisis and the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Biden’s next high-profile pick, however, was not so universally praised.
Cecilia Muñoz, whom Biden appointed to his transition team just a day later, was President Barack Obama’s top immigration adviser. While she has decades of experience as an immigration rights activist, her public-facing role in the Obama administration was largely to defend the administration against progressive accusations that Obama was not doing enough to help immigrant families.
Her appointment to Biden’s transition team was criticized by immigration reform advocates. Pablo Manríquez, a former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, compared Muñoz to current White House aide Stephen Miller and described her as having “spent years of her public service dedicated to the smooth execution of mass deportation policy at the West Wing level.”
The appointments of Klain and Muñoz are emblematic of the concern many progressives had about Biden’s candidacy: that he would repeat the policies of the Obama administration, in ways both good and bad. While it will be refreshing to have a president who has assembled a team of scientists to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic instead of holding maskless rallies every other day, and one who wants to build upon the Affordable Care Act rather than dismantle it, we still have a long way to go.
While now is certainly the time for progressive unity, we still have an obligation to hold our elected officials accountable, regardless of political party. A return to the pre-Trump status quo might feel good for a moment, but there is still work to be done before we truly achieve equality and justice for all.
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