If you want to know how homogeneous President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for Cabinet are, imagine playing the hardest game of Guess Who you’ve ever played in your life.
With the exception of Ben Carson, Linda McMahon, Elaine Chao, Betsy DeVos, and Nikki Haley, Trump’s picks so far are male, white, old, and extremely wealthy. Trump clearly mostly trusts one kind of person: people who remind him of himself.
Put simply, the team Trump has created is setting out to be one of the least diverse Cabinets in recent history. This doesn’t just risk omitting the perspective of many different identities; it also reverses the progress the country has made when it comes to the representation of women and people of color in government. That has trickle-down effects for the hiring of the staff inside those agencies and limits whose ideas are heard.
Diversity, or lack thereof, impacts both policy and civil society. For instance, one study from the Annual Review of Political Science in 2014 found that having minorities serve in government not only helps make their issues a priority but also galvanizes political participation of that minority group. Women also make more effective policymakers. But despite the long list of advantages, Trump doesn’t seem concerned with diversity.
To make matters worse, Trump’s male Cabinet picks have worryingly narrow-minded views about the marginalized people who aren’t represented in the Cabinet. For instance, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions once proclaimed in 2006 that immigrants from the Dominican Republic don’t contribute skills to the American economy. “Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming here because they have a provable skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society,” he said. Ben Carson, who is poised to become housing and urban development secretary, argued just last year that Muslims shouldn’t be president and tied abortion to slavery.
When it comes to women’s issues, the men in Trump’s Cabinet all seem to agree that women should have fewer reproductive rights, not more. Most if not all of them support defunding Planned Parenthood and restrictions to abortion and birth control access.
Trump’s controversial pick for health and human services secretary, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, has been described as a “dream for those with a nostalgia for the time before Roe v. Wade.” He sponsored draconian “personhood” bills that could potentially ban most forms of birth control twice, in 2005 and 2007, and drew controversy in 2012 for arguing that no woman has ever faced financial barriers to contraception access.
No wonder the demand for IUDs has risen by 900 percent since the election. Women are afraid to go back to a time where birth control wasn’t accessible or available.
Given that Trump handed the phone to his daughter Ivanka when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi brought up women in a phone call after the election, it’s not shocking to see him make female voices an afterthought in his administration. Meanwhile, it’s still unclear how Ivanka would balance the issues that concern half the population and continue to attend meetings with foreign leaders that benefit her family’s company (although her official role is “settling her children into their new homes”) — hey, maybe women can have it all.
But maybe the voices of female politicians don’t matter. After all, Trump believes men have it worse than women (and according to new data, his supporters agree). So perhaps women should celebrate the fact that Trump is finally giving a voice to white men in politics.