So here come the fights between left and center about Joe Biden’s cabinet picks. Some of these fights will be worth having. Rahm Emanuel for transportation secretary? Seriously? After all the controversies that took place during his mayoralty, and all his denunciations of “libtards” when he worked for Obama? I suppose he can’t do much harm at the Department of Transportation, but: why? There must be a dozen people who are better suited to the job and wouldn’t needlessly provoke progressives’ ire.
Also: Deval Patrick at the Justice Department? Again, why? Patrick showily floated himself as a moderate, anti-Elizabeth Warren Massachusetts presidential contender last year before deciding not to run. Sally Yates and Doug Jones are both obviously superior, baggage-free choices (baggage-free from a Democratic point of view, that is; how Republicans may feel about them is a different matter). It’s one thing to choose people the base isn’t crazy about, because that’s life; you win some, you lose some. But it’s entirely another to go out of your way to antagonize the base, which choosing Emanuel and Patrick would do. If Patrick’s plus column includes his race, he’s hardly the only qualified Black contender.
But for my money, if you’re a liberal who cares first and foremost about economic policy, there are three big positions to watch: head of the National Economic Council (NEC); chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA); and head of the antitrust division in the Justice Department. Who Biden chooses for these three posts—and his reported pick for CEA is promising—will tell us a lot about how aggressive he’s going to be on matters like reducing inequality, promoting public investment, and breaking up monopoly power that define an administration’s core economic philosophy.