Donald Trump’s transition team has been working on who should fill positions in his Cabinet — and it confirms many fears that White House conversations will lack any input from the two in three Americans who are neither male nor white.
We have an idea of whom Trump is considering because this process started long before the election, and both Politico and NBC News have reported on it. If we combine that information with lists of whom he’s surrounded himself with thus far, we have clues about who will have influence in his administration.
In short, it looks like Trump’s world will largely consist of white men — significantly more so than previous administrations.
Here’s a diagram of many of the names being discussed for Trump’s Cabinet-level positions, with women and people of color marked in bold.
Of the 47 names on this list we combed from a combination of sources, just two are people of color — Ben Carson and David Clarke.
Just eight are women — Sarah Palin, Pam Bondi, Victoria Lipnic, Jan Brewer, Mary Fallin, Cynthia Lummis, Carol Comer, and Leslie Rutledge. And several of them are being considered for the same four positions: attorney general, secretary of labor, secretary of interior, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
Traditionally, a large part of this process is figuring out who will best carry out the president’s agenda while also playing a bit of politics — making sure deserving people have their backs scratched and the proper demographics are represented.
This isn’t a final list, and it’s possible the candidate pool gets more diverse before all is said and done. But for now, Trump’s campaign officials are telling Politico that they’re worried about finding high-profile women to serve in his Cabinet. It’s not just about his comments on women but also the already smaller number of high-profile women in the Republican Party. (Try this exercise: Play with our vice presidential shortlist generator, which I made a few months ago, and reduce the list down to just women or people of color. The lists aren’t long.)
If this keeps up, Trump will negate much of the progress past administrations have made on diversifying the executive branch.
This is a departure from the Obama, Bush, and Clinton Cabinets
Of all the people who worked in the Barack Obama and Bill Clinton Cabinets, about a quarter were women and a quarter were nonwhite — and even then, Obama was criticized for not hiring a diverse enough Cabinet. Under George W. Bush, about a fifth of Cabinet members were women and a fifth were nonwhite. And among those three presidents, they hired several high-profile women and people of color, including Janet Reno, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Eric Holder, and, of course, Hillary Clinton.
At this rate, Trump’s Cabinet will probably not even be 10 percent women or nonwhite.
According to the Politico and NBC News reports, no woman is being considered for the top Cabinet positions, including chief of staff, secretary of state, secretary of Treasury, and secretary of defense.
One woman, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, is on the list for attorney general — but a Trump donation to Bondi led to allegations that it influenced her decisions not to join a lawsuit against Trump University. The timeline turned out to be less suspicious than originally thought, but this storyline might dampen her chances.
Trump hinted that he wanted Ben Carson as education secretary — but he’s also said he wants to dismantle the Department of Education. The other person of color on the reported list is Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, a candidate to run the Department of Homeland Security.
His advisers are also very white and very male
Another important thing is whom Trump is listening to. His small group of foreign policy advisers are all men, and all but one of them is white.
His larger group of economic advisers — a list he released in August — are all white men:
Trump’s political appointees could undo a lot of progress
Obama did make a lot of progress on increasing diversity among political appointees.
One analysis by law professor Anne Joseph O’Connell found that Obama had drastically increased the ratio of women and people of color in positions that require Senate confirmation.
More than a third of Obama’s appointees were women, and almost a third were people of color — big improvements from his predecessor, George W. Bush.
But it’s almost certainly we’ll see fewer women and people of color in Trump’s administration.
Why is this important?
On a generic level, it’s important to have leaders who more closely represent the demographics of this country. It helps the government better understand marginalized groups. In addition, gender and ethnic diversity among senior leaders correlates with higher productivity.
But perhaps more importantly, these hints at Trump’s Cabinet play into the exact fears of groups Trump marginalized during his campaign — and during his career as a businessman.
His behavior toward women showed he was often more concerned with a woman’s looks than her intellect. His proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country showed he was willing to discriminate against wide swaths of people who don’t look like him. And his rhetoric to people of color — often saying he was reaching out to “the African Americans” or “the Latinos” — showed that he wasn’t actually talking to them, but rather appeasing white supporters.
The fear is that Trump believes white men are inherently better leaders and that women and people of color shouldn’t have an equal voice in his administration. He could say he respects everyone’s voice, just like he said nobody respects women more than he does. But if the voices in the White House are almost exclusively white men, it’s going to be very difficult to believe him.