If we see, as is being predicted and is apparently happening now, that President Elect Obama chooses a Cabinet consisting entirely of "re-treads" and those who are firmly entrenched in what is known as "the Center", and even some from "The Right"... What does that mean for us, the American People? What sort of changes can we expect, and why does it matter?
Firstly, there is the very simple and obvious fact that having Progressives in the administration would bring the widest possible differing viewpoint. This is what the President -Elect said he wanted to do (as of course all formers in this position have claimed to want, at first). This is important beyond measure: With a dissenting viewpoint in the mix, a "slam-dunk" proposition is often held up for debate that would otherwise not have happened.... Allowing unforeseen factors to then be brought out into the open (the ridiculous misconceptions of the Bush people on the probable outcomes of the invasion of Iraq being a prime example of this going horribly wrong).
As a hypothetical, let us consider the present situation in Iraq: If the Obama Cabinet unanimously takes the line that a phased withdrawal over 3 years time is the proper course to take... And if the problems and inherent morality down-sides of doing so will be glossed over... Those additional deaths, of both our brave service people and the civilians of Iraq; will be sacrificed for the "Greater Good"... With no one in the inner halls of power speaking on their behalf for immediate withdrawal. We could see the gross failure of "Shock and Awe" mentality all over again.
Another example of failure to view an issue from all angles would be regarding the usurped power of the Executive done during the present Bush administration. Once settled in, and faced with daunting tasks regarding getting a myriad of new legislation passed, there will be pressure for the new administration to keep most of this "new" Executive power for themselves... Self-justified to be done in the name of "Good"... Meanwhile, someone with the Progressive ideals for the sanctity of our Constitution would speak strongly against this: They would argue that these super-Constitutional powers must be returned to their rightful places immediately (the Legislative, Judiciary, and States Rights branches); in order to protect us in the future from the excesses of other possible administrations (such as a Palin one...). This argument may never be fully or seriously heard in the White House otherwise: Swept under the rug in the name of, again, "The Greater Good".
When considering what to do with our badly flawed health care system... A Progressive in the Cabinet would be of prime importance for bringing out the advantages of Single-Payer Not-For-Profit insurance. They would point out that private insurance, in any form, would still be the biggest barrier for increased national health and retaining it in the solution would only be a band-aid of very limited value to the Public. We need someone with no ties to the private insurance industry in there to champion the peoples' needs, not those of the large corporations. This is very hard to find in Washington.... The octopus-like reach of the insurance lobby has touched the palms of nearly everyone.... Except the true Progressives.
A second, less obvious reason for having a few Progressives in the Cabinet is the power of resignation..... And of speaking out publicly when there is no other way to get important information out to the people. Should it turn out that there are badly-crafted, even perhaps secretly manipulated policies being considered seriously; this is the important safety valve. Imagine what would have happened if Secretary Colin Powell had resigned a year or so earlier; then made his misgivings public: We would likely not have had the debacle of Iraq. We would not have had the same level of control of the mainstream media, and the Bush second term would have been a pipe dream. These are important considerations. Any administration, even a so-called "Liberal" one (using this term is still very debatable in the Obama case), can make mistakes of historic proportions... Or can be manipulated to do certain things that go against their campaign promises. In some ways, having the possibility of some of the Cabinet resigning and going public over the way important issues are being handled will act as a tempering factor....
Keeping the administration more "honest" and prone to not cut corners... Like the Bush admin has done so often for the last 8 years. In the Bush reign, there was so little dissent that there was essentially a monolithic opinion in the Cabinet. This has attractions for "getting things done". But it has very bad inherent dangers as well, as we have seen over and over. President Obama needs people by him who would resign if they felt things were being handled in an illegal, immoral, or highly dangerous way. The way to achieve this is to insure a wide range of opinions... Which does not only include adding Conservatives to the mix (Which is already being done); while the Progressives are now standing on the side-lines and watching with growing concern for our future... With the sinking feeling that this has all happened before.
Many would argue that it is too early to discount the "progressive leanings" of the Cabinet officials already chosen or who are being publicly considered. But this is a specious argument: All we can go on are these people's record; what they have done in the past... Trying to deduce their future opinions from any viewpoint other than this, is simply wishful thinking. And none yet named have been remotely "Progressive". Promoting former Board Members of Walmart to the highest positions available in the new administration certainly does not help to give the correct impression from the Progressive point of view. But don't get the wrong idea: All views are important, and should be "tolerated"... Progressives are only asking that the President Elect remember the "ALL" part!
There have been hardly 1 or 2 Progressives total in a Presidential Cabinet during the period most of us have lived on this Earth (since the Kennedy / Johnson administrations). This misrepresentation is not indicative of the national mosaic: There is no doubt that true Progressives have been seriously under-represented in Cabinet positions. All the former administrations since Johnson have not been highly regarded for their successes... And the middle class has not prospered but indeed has often suffered this entire time, losing ground in both buying power and access to proper basic and higher education.... Slowly losing the ability to move upward.... To the point that now a young "Barak Obama" would not have nearly the same opportunities for higher education or upward mobility that the President Elect had as a youth.
So in light of all this former failure, perhaps another method is in order now? One that would help insure that the Obama administration is a success for ALL Americans, that it be representative of our actual makeup, that it listen to all opinions... And not just of those who's briefs support the wealthy and large corporations? This is the way to create real "change"... And not just the faÃ§ade of change. This is the method of insuring an honest and non-usurping administration. And this is also how to restore confidence in our government; and the means by which our country can finally be healed. Doing so can insure re-election; and the continued Democratic majorities in Congress. In 2008, the People have spoken, and they have said: "Move to the Left!" Ignore them at your peril.
We need to urge President Elect Obama to include Progressives in his administration at a high level, in meaningful Cabinet positions. Write, call, or email him; perhaps at this site: http://www.change.gov/. Let him know that including Conservatives into the mix is fine; as long he does not forget who a large bulk of his supporters were... And that an administration without strong and meaningful Progressive representation is a recipe for continued failure.