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Biden picks a Goldilocks Cabinet, neither too left or right

By Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — During the presidential campaign, Democrats expressed persistent anxiety that Joe Biden's coalition would collapse as soon as it ousted President Donald Trump from the White House — it felt too ideologically conflicted, too polarized, too tenuous to hold.

But Biden's initial Cabinet selections and other senior appointments have won a broad embrace that suggests his aptitude for navigating such a fragile political landscape was underrated. The president-elect has displayed unforeseen skills at appeasing disparate factions in a fractious party and a divided nation.

The progressive left is feeling heard. The Democrats' center-left is feeling reassured. And anti-Trump Republicans don't seem to be suffering buyer's remorse.

While Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said Tuesday he was glad Biden was "resisting the far left," those same left-leaning activists were breathing sighs of relief.

They were pleased that Biden is poised to nominate one of their favorites, Janet Yellen, to run the U.S. Treasury. The stock market also signaled approval, soaring to a record high.

"The Biden team is doing a good job of not alienating anyone," said Rebecca Katz, a progressive strategist. "It is no small task. While there are no real lefties in this Cabinet, there are people who have shown a willingness to listen. That is not nothing."


The plaudits are followed with the usual caveats: Biden still has a lot of vacancies to fill, and a misstep on any one of them could quickly unravel the goodwill.

But as he publicly introduced his proposed foreign policy and national security leadership team Tuesday on a stage in Wilmington, Delaware, there was something for most — within his own party, at least — to like.

"While this team has unmatched experience and accomplishments, they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking or unchanged habits," Biden said. "We are going to have the first woman lead the intelligence community, the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and a groundbreaking diplomat at the United Nations."

That diplomat, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told of growing up as a Black girl in segregated Louisiana, the eldest of eight children. She was the first in her family to graduate high school. Her father couldn't read or write.


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