Here is a modest proposal for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris: tell us this fall, before the election, how you will restructure the Executive Branch so that it works for people instead of entrenched moneyed interests. Announce the creation of four or five new Cabinet-level strategy positions to attack these problems: pandemic, unemployment, racism, climate change.
We all know Hillary Clinton failed to see how much pain and resentment was out there and thus under-emphasized her program to build a better America. We can’t make that mistake again, and Biden-Harris are off to a good start. Let’s take these problems one at a time. We don’t need more bureaucracy, but we do need better thinkers, strategists, coordinators, and communicators. You, Mr. Biden, wisely cited the four big issues we face in your fine convention speech.
Number One is the pandemic. Nothing else will improve if we are straitjacketed by COVID. You need a Head of Virus Response (VR) or VR Strategy in addition to a Secretary of HHS. It might be either a prominent public health expert or a doctor. These names come to mind, but they are only examples: former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a smart physician and policy expert like Atul Gawande, or a public health dean like Ellen MacKenzie at Johns Hopkins or Cheryl Healton at NYU.
This non-partisan individual must be everybody’s mom or dad: trusted, wise, and loving but also firm.
You also need a Head of Job Creation (or JC Strategy). This person must be creative, politically astute, and experienced working with business, maybe a former governor or innovative small business person. I’m thinking of people like Andew Yang, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Gov. Gina Raimondo, or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
A crucial element of this work will be to promote a higher minimum wage and close the huge gap between income haves and income have-nots.
Next you need a Racial Justice (RJ) strategist. The problem here is in the white community, not communities of color. You should look for someone who can bridge the divide and speak persuasively to all races and creeds. Assuming the Obamas aren’t available, what about Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Stacey Abrams or even Elizabeth Warren.
This individual will have to be fluent in systemic racism, policing, issues surrounding reparations and pay equity, mass incarceration, housing discrimination, and immigration reform. No small job. And it must be someone absolutely committed to the idea that black lives matter. Your attorney general will be pretty busy. He or she will need hip boots to clear the swamp at the DOJ.
Lastly (almost) is the global environment. You should consider a Head of Climate Action or CA Strategist in addition to a head of the EPA. This must be someone committed to short and long-term strategies, who understands the climate-change impact on marginalized people, who embodies a sense of urgency, who can reach out to business leaders, and who can rebuild America’s climate leadership on the global stage. Maybe someone like Pete Buttigieg, Rachel Kyte (the new dean of the Fletcher School), or Rhianna Gunn-Wright.
So, those are the four strategy positions. Creating them will show exactly where your priorities lie. They should coordinate with and support existing departments of the federal government. Those members of the Cabinet will also have their hands full disinfecting the federal departments and removing all traces of corrupt practices.
Sure, Joe, you’ll need to referee to avoid political infighting. That’s your job.
There’s one more strategy role you should consider: Head of Democracy Reform or a DR Strategist. When he goes, Hurricane Donald will leave behind a wide path of destruction in our institutions. You need someone focused on cleaning up, for example, getting rid of the Electoral College, bolstering voting rights, supporting a corps of independent inspectors general, shoring up campaign finance laws, nullifying the horrific Citizens United Supreme Court decision, making the case for an end to the filibuster, and dislodging the unofficial Justice Dept. policy declaring a President cannot be charged with a crime. In short, you need someone who can help you reinstate integrity and the rule of law.
All of these will be on your shoulders, Joe. It’s a lot. Resist the temptation to place Kamala Harris in any of these roles. She must be your full partner and help you manage the crises that will undoubtedly arise in both domestic and foreign affairs.
Joe, you want to “build back better.” I don’t think you have a choice. You must build back better. Reinstating the status quo ante dooms us. I’m certain you know this.
You are all about “possibilities.” To truly make the re-election of Hurricane Trump an impossibility, tell us how you will light the path to possibility. Give us the outlines of a plan. Promise us we will move forward with team of experienced, committed, and honorable public servants to erase the pandemic, reinvigorate the economy, heal our self-inflicted racial wounds, and give our kids a fighting chance to live on a sustainable planet.