Latinos want their piece of pie, as Biden continues gender-race test for Cabinet choices

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Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden is coming under increasing pressure from various ethnic groups to add more members of their communities to his government, as critics accuse him of playing “identity politics” with his choices.

In a letter to Biden Friday night that was first reported by Politico, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus acknowledged the former vice president’s choice of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head up the Department of Health and Human Services.

And while both of them have Latino ethnicity, the caucus said it was important to add a Hispanic woman to the mix.

“In our view, it is essential that the next Cabinet reflects the diverse communities, especially Latino communities, which have been driving America’s businesses and economic growth for years,” said the letter. “In addition, it is a top priority that a Latina be nominated to serve in a top Cabinet position.”

Signed by a dozen members of the caucus, the letter said Biden hadn’t named anyone yet to lead the Small Business Administration or the Education Department.

The signatories pointed out to Biden their prior backing of Lily Eskelsen Garcia for the Department of Education, but they also said the caucus had given its “enthusiastic endorsement” of Miguel Cardona for that post as well.

The caucus said that it backed Stacie Olivares to be the administrator of the SBA.

Biden has indeed sought to diversify his Cabinet but is attempting to select nominees that both Democrats and Republicans can support. He has chosen the first Native American Cabinet secretary, the first female national intelligence director, the first Hispanic Homeland Security secretary, and is adding an openly gay member to his team as well, after President Donald Trump appointed Richard Grenell, the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level position, earlier this year.

However, there are still demographic and ethnic groups vying for positions within a potential Biden administration, including the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Fox News reported.

The group asked Biden in November to consider having at least 7 percent of his cabinet be Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), since they comprise “seven percent of the population and [are] the fastest-growing racial group in the nation.”

But as he moves to diversify, many are criticizing his choices as being overly dependent on skin color and ethnicity rather than actually being qualified for the position to which they’ve been nominated.

For instance, Becerra, California’s AG, has no health care experience though Biden selected him for HHS. Some speculate he was selected by the former vice president because of his efforts to preserve and defend the Affordable Care Act, Fox News added.

“Identity politics seems to be sticking around. Important election results seemed to refute the notion that Americans vote for their ethnic or racial identity. Hispanic voters trended significantly toward the supposedly anti-Hispanic Donald Trump, and Californians, while voting 63% for Joe Biden, rejected racial quotas and preferences in a referendum by an even larger margin than in the 1990s,” political columnist Michael Barone wrote in a column published Friday.

“But Joe Biden…seemed to be playing identity politics with his major appointments,” he added.

Notes W. James Antle III at the Washington Examiner, “Biden’s pick for secretary of veterans affairs isn’t a veteran. His choice for secretary of agriculture isn’t black, as some civil rights activists and African American farmers groups had hoped. His intention to appoint the first black secretary of defense came at the expense of nominating the first woman to this post.”

He added: “Republicans say the dust-ups suggest the Biden administration will be mired in identity politics.”

Jon Dougherty

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