Obama famously assembled a “Team of Rivals” when he swept into office in 2008. His cabinet consolidated the ideological flanks of his party while extending an olive branch to Republicans by leaving Bush-appointee Bob Gates in office at the Department of Defense.
The 2010 Republican sweep of Congress quickly incinerated that olive branch.
This should be a lesson to the Biden transition team: there is no advantage to including Republicans in powerful executive branch positions. Not only do they not return the favor, but it means accepting the rank corruption and revolving door that the GOP knows so well. It also shows just plain bad judgment — remember (nearly) lifelong Republican James Comey violating Justice Department rules on pre-election political intrusion because he thought Anthony Weiner’s laptop was relevant to Secretary Clinton?
Take for instance, Charlie Dent, a “Never-Trump Republican” and 13-year Congressman who retired in 2018 and endorsed Biden in August. He voted with Trump 93% of the time on key issues such as corporate tax cuts and Wall St. deregulation. Dent, unsurprisingly, supports the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. His policy record alone should make him anathema to the Biden administration, yet he is reportedly in consideration for the Biden cabinet.
This is despite the fact that Dent left his district without a Congressmen when he retired early so that he would finish his mandatory one year lobbying ban just ahead of his Republican colleagues and beat them to the most lucrative lobbying gigs. With the notorious DLA Piper since 2018, he sold his experience chairing the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs to B Braun Medical, a major medical device manufacturer who seeks to lobby the “Department of Veterans Affairs specifications for certain medical devices.” Dent has leveraged his experience in Congress for many different powerful private interests including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Raytheon, and the Lebanese banking industry.
Dent is not alone in his proclivity to sell himself to the highest bidder. John Kasich, the former union-busting governor of Ohio and another Never-Trump Republican supposedly in the running for the Biden cabinet, leveraged his political connections for Lehman Brothers. He worked right until the music stopped in 2008 and the investment bank was left holding the bag that brought the global financial system down with it.
Until that point, however, Kasich was happy making hundreds of thousands of dollars to “arrang[e] introductory meetings between officials at Lehman Brothers and managers at the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System” which eventually “lost between $220 million and $480 million on Lehman assets” in 2008. And he was more than willing to take “bankers to California to meet Sheryl Sandberg, then a Google executive” to win Lehman a role “in Google’s 2004 public stock offering.”
Biden should also be wary of the impropriety of considering Republican Congressmen like Fred Upton for the administration, especially since Biden made $200,000 giving a speech in which he included support for Upton’s reelection. Upton’s terrible environmental record and attempt to weaken the Clean Air Act after receiving over $1 million from fossil fuel companies should shut that door on its own.
Just as the Biden administration should not accept former Republican lobbyists and their allies in Congress, it should not invite their clients or patrons into the administration either. This means that the CEOs of failing tech companies like Meg Whitman (who was also deeply involved in Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign) should be disqualified from the running.
If the Biden administration truly wants to govern on a bipartisan platform, it does not need to include GOP has-beens who represent the dying breaths of a party now fully committed to Trump. Instead, it should embrace the overwhelmingly popular anti-tech monopoly movement. If Biden chooses to bring lobbyists and tech CEOs into its inner-circle, however, he will cede the battleground of economic populism to Trump and Trumpists like Josh Hawley. They are already keenly taking advantage of antitrust sentiments as the Department of Justice files suit against Google.