Biden Will Run a Very Un-Waspy Government

Richard Nixon’s all-white-male Cabinet. Photo: Wally McNamee/Corbis via Getty Images

When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated and soon thereafter Chuck Schumer was poised to become Senate majority leader, it dawned on many observers that another brick in the edifice of Wasp domination of American leadership had been removed. With Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell being replaced by Harris and Schumer, you have a Catholic president, a Black and South Asian vice-president, a Catholic Speaker of the House in Nancy Pelosi, and a Jewish Senate majority leader.

The decline and fall of Wasp hegemony in government has been underway for a good while. Until Neil Gorsuch (an Episcopalian, though he was raised Catholic) succeeded the late Antonin Scalia in 2017, the Supreme Court had been a coalition of Catholics and Jews after David Souter’s retirement in 2009. But Biden’s proposed Cabinet is a major leap into the “looks like America” diversity that Democratic presidents always like to pledge.

For starters, Biden’s appointees include ten women and 11 men — by far the closest to gender parity anyone has achieved. (Obama had eight women, Trump just four.) Team Biden is decidedly less white than its predecessors, with five Black members, four Latinos, an Asian American, and a Native American.

Most notably, white Protestants are rare in Biden’s, with seven Catholics and six Jews included. Ultimately the vast and storied history of Wasp executive leadership is carried on by the not-exactly-typical Transportation secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg (whose name is not exactly Anglo-Saxon), and Director of National Intelligence nominee William Burns, about whom I could find no evidence of religious affiliation at all.

There have been numerous complaints about the ideological balance within Team Biden (most progressives think it tilts too much to the center), and/or his tendency to rely on Obama retreads. But however they ultimately behave towards the citadels of privilege most Democrats say they want to attack, the Biden Cabinet as a group would definitely stand out at your average old-school country club like rainbow sprinkles on a vanilla ice-cream cone.

Biden Will Run a Very Un-Waspy Government