It would be hard to find anyone in politics who has tried harder than Joe Biden to surround themselves with appointees who are either not white, not male, or not heterosexual. Biden’s journey down diversity lane began in earnest when he announced he would select a “black woman” to be his vice presidential running mate. True to his word, Biden selected Kamala Harris, the Democratic senator from California who is not only a black woman, but also part Asian. Score!
The real reason Biden chose Harris was to tap into her connections to the trillions in wealth to be found in California. Whether it’s the aristocracy of old San Francisco (Getty, Pelosi, Brown, and so many others), or the newly minted billionaires of Silicon Valley (Zuckerberg comes immediately to mind), or the liberal moguls nestled in the Hollywood hills, Harris has every one of them on speed dial.
Good choice, Joe. Harris checks three diversity boxes, and she taps all the money on the Left Coast.
As we will see, when it comes to cabinet picks and White House staff, Biden has done a great job making choices that “look like America,” and as of December 23, he’s almost done. In the cabinet, only three vacancies remain, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor. In the White House, only two high profile jobs remain vacant, the CIA Director and the Small Business Administrator. So how has he done so far?
To get an idea of what Biden is shooting for, the following chart shows the ethic makeup of America. Drawn from 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data, it is sorted not only by ethnicity, but also by age group.
The first thing to note about this demographic snapshot of the U.S. is the arbitrary nature of the categories. In 2019, seventeen percent of newlyweds in the United States were so-called “mixed race” unions, but how are the children of these marriages classified? As it turns out, in marriages where one of the spouses is white, the U.S. Census bureau classifies their offspring as identifying with the race of the nonwhite parent. Depending on just how militant one feels about skin color and “whiteness,” the impact of this choice by the Census Bureau may serve to understate the percentages of whites in all age categories. Similarly, “Hispanic” applies to anyone with a Spanish surname, despite the fact that a significant percentage of American Hispanics are as white as “whites.”
Also arbitrary is the definition of “Asians.” This category includes people from places as dissimilar as Saudi Arabia and Japan, and everywhere in between. With that in mind, and in the interests of full disclosure, to eliminate one column and simplify the chart, the Census Bureau category “Hawaiian / Pacific Islander” was consolidated with Asians, since “Hawaiian / Pacific Islanders” only constitute one-half of one percent of the U.S. population.
What Diversity Parameters Is Biden Shooting For?
When adhering to diversity mandates, “proportional representation” is everything. But proportional to what? After all, when searching for people to fill top positions in the Federal Government, most of the people evaluated are between the ages of 40 and 65. Sure, there are wunderkinds under 40 who make it, and there are plenty of Americans over 65 who can still do the job, but most candidates will fall in the 40-65 age group. The two shaded sections on the above chart show both distributions – the top shaded section shows the distribution by sex and ethnicity for Americans between ages 40 and 65, the bottom shaded section shows the same breakdown for Americans of all ages.
As it turns out, there isn’t a lot of difference. Whites – very narrowly defined – are now down to 60 percent of the total U.S. population, while they constitute 64 percent of the Americans aged 40-65. Hispanics, because overall America’s 62 million Hispanics are younger than Whites, are 16 percent of Americans between 40 and 65 but are 19 percent of the total U.S. population. Blacks, Asians, and Native Americans do not show significant differences between the percentages for their groups in the 40-65 age category vs. in the general population.
So how did Joe Biden do? The next chart shows his cabinet picks and White House staff appointments so far, categorized by sex and ethnicity. When viewing this chart, two things jump right out. On just cabinet appointments, men outnumber women two-to-one, despite being divided more or less 50/50 in the general population. With apologies to Jordan Peterson, James Damore, and many others who might identify reasons other than sexism for this disparity, Biden is off his game. More women! But then again, if you total all of Biden’s key appointments, taking into account the fact that only 6 of his 17 White House staff appointments are men, the total male-to-female ratio of Biden’s key appointees is actually 15 to 14 in favor of women.
Also obvious at first glance is the fact that whites are underrepresented. At the least, 60 percent of the appointees ought to be white in order to be proportionally represented, but in both the cabinet and White House staff selections, whites represent only 50 percent of the picks. Then again, we might refer to the above chart that shows that among Americans under 40, whites (narrowly defined) only constitute 53 percent of that younger age group, and assume Joe Biden is taking into account America’s future. Heck, if Joe Biden looks ahead far enough, he might find it appropriate to not allow any whites onto his cabinet or White House staff.
What else is worth observing as we descend into the rathole of proportional inclusion or else? It appears the case, especially with respect to cabinet positions, that Hispanics and Blacks are overrepresented vs. their share of the U.S. population, and Asians, like whites, are underrepresented. But in general, and according to the terms the progressives have set before us, it seems fair to say that Joe Biden has done a commendable job of achieving “diversity” in his appointments. Or are they?
Biden’s Picks Not Good Enough for Progressives
If you just run the numbers, Biden is doing a pretty good job, but you would not necessarily get that impression from reading the many press reports on Biden’s effort to ensure “diversity.” And there are no shortage of press reports on this matter, because who cares if these appointees can do their jobs, as long as they’re “diverse?”
A typical report comes courtesy of the BBC, in a recent article entitled “Biden cabinet: Does this new team better reflect America?” The author helpfully include montages of thumbnail portraits, each one representing recent U.S. presidential administrations, including Clinton 1993, Bush 2001, Obama 2009, Trump 2016, and Biden 2021. The graphic artist has helpfully used greyscale to identify the white males, just in case you don’t get the point. And the author, Ritu Prasad, after quoting several still unhappy progressive liberals on Biden’s choices, makes sure to end on a note of displeasure, writing “So is this first cabinet diverse enough? It’s progress – but for many of the supporters who delivered Mr Biden the presidency, he’s not there just yet.”
Prasad is not alone. As reported in the Washington Post, “Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus met virtually with some of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team Monday to express their growing concern that there will be insufficient Asian American representation in top-tier spots in Biden’s administration.”
And as reported in Politico, “The faces of the economic team President-elect Joe Biden unveiled publicly Tuesday included an African American woman, a man born in Nigeria, an Indian American woman and just one white man. The response from Asian American, Black and Latino Democrats: It’s not enough.”
Scouring news sources for information about the Biden appointees, the focus is overwhelmingly on diversity, with considerations as to competence almost as an obligatory but decidedly secondary afterthought. There’s nothing wrong with being conscious of diversity, but the priorities are flipped. Competence should matter more. When it doesn’t, and it doesn’t, God help us. Which leads to the rest of the story when it comes to diversity: you can’t just be “diverse,” you have to be the right kind of diverse.
That attitude is on display in a recent article in Business Insider entitled “The diversity of Biden’s cabinet will be just for show if it ends up promoting bad policies.” The author, Manny Fidel, elaborates, writing “Just because Biden’s cabinet is diverse, doesn’t mean people of color should get excited for officials who may push policies that hurt their communities.” But where does this leave the diversity warriors? Which factor predominates? Color and gender? Or political ideology? All we can know for sure is that competence, that old fashioned, oppressive notion, is the third priority, after identity and ideology.
Apparently, in the world of progressives, both matter. This means two things, both of them bad. First, if you’re a white male, it doesn’t matter if you’ll do all the things the progressives want you to do, you still need to go to the back of the line. Second, if you’re not a white male, and your sincere commitment to the welfare of your community does not embrace the progressive agenda, don’t even bother to get in line – you will not be part of the team.
This is the nonsensical agenda that Joe Biden, a man well past his prime, is dealing with as he picks his team, and he’s going to deal with this agenda as long as he’s president. At least conservatives are allowed to be colorblind. Not so with the progressives. Or as Biden famously summed it up, “if you don’t vote for Joe Biden, you ain’t black!”
This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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