Diversity in the Cabinet

| | Comments (0)

Since President George W. Bush has, by some measures, had the most diverse cabinet in U.S. history, I thought it would be interesting to compare President-elect Obama's picks for the cabinet to see how they compare just on this one measure. I'm not talking ideological diversity here. I intend to reflect on that at some point. I'm simply talking about the standard kinds of diversity usually intended when people use the word, and the only ones I've ever heard people discuss with the cabinet are race/ethnicity and sex/gender. I'll go position by position. I'm only including full appointments with Senate confirmation, not acting secretaries. I'm also only counting cabinet secretaries, since the precise list of which other positions are in the cabinet varies with each president.

Madeleine Albright was the first woman to hold the position of Secretary of State, under President Clinton. Colin Powell replaced her and was the first black in the office. His replacement, Condoleeza Rice, was the first black woman. Obama chose not to go with a new first here, appointing Hillary Clinton, another woman.

As far as I can tell, there has never been anyone but a white man to hold the office of Secretary of the Treasury. That will not change under President Obama, at least not at the start of his term. Timothy Geithner certainly has a diversity of experience, but he's another white man. Diversity isn't the only consideration Obama should have factored in, but it's fair to say that he did miss an opportunity here to appoint the first person to this office who isn't a white man. If he appoints another person to this officer later, that might be a strong consideration.

The same goes for Secretary of Defense. The difference here is that Obama is just continuing the current occupant of that position in the interest of smoother transition in time of war.

Bill Clinton appointed Janet Reno as the first woman Attorney General. George W. Bush appointed Alberto Gonzales as the first Hispanic Attorney General. Obama has nominated Eric Holder to be the first black Attorney General. In his case, I have slightly more doubt that he'll be confirmed when compared with most of Obama's picks, because even if you ignore ideology there are excellent reasons not to confirm him given his leading role in Clinton's most unconscionable pardons (not just Marc Rich but a group of domestic terrorists who should never have been considered, never mind approved, for pardon) and his defense of pointing guns at small children by calling it respectful (in the Elian Gonzalez affair). Either is sufficient grounds to wonder if he's qualified to be the nation's chief law enforcement officer. But the Senate will probably roll over for Obama and confirm him anyway.

George W. Bush appointed the first woman Interior Secretary, Gale Norton. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I believe Obama's nomination of Ken Salazar would make him the first Hispanic Interior Secretary.

Mike Espy, Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture, was the first black person in that position. Ann Veneman, under George W. Bush, was the first woman to hold the office. Obama's nominee is a white man.

The first woman Commerce Secretary was Juanita Kreps, under President Carter. George H.W. Bush appointed Barbara Franklin. Bill Clinton appointed Norm Mineta as the first Asian American in the position, and George W. Bush has the first Hispanic in that office, Carlos Gutierrez. Obama had initially nominated another Hispanic, Bill Richardson, but Richardson has withdrawn under potential scandal.

Ronald Reagan appointed the first woman to Secretary of Labor, Ann McLoughlin. Elizabeth Dole and Ann Martin followed under George H.W. Bush. Alexis Herman, under Clinton, was the first black in the office (and also a woman). Elaine Chao, who has held the position for the entirety of George W. Bush's presidency, is the first Asian American in the office (and is also a woman). Bush's first nominee, Linda Chavez, withdrew in the face of ethical problems related to employing an illegal immigrant. She would have been the first Hispanic and was also a woman. Only one man, Robert Reich in Clinton's first term, has held this position since 1987. Obama isn't planning on breaking that trend. His nominee, Hilda Solis, will be the actual first Hispanic in the position, and she is also a woman.

The first woman Secretary of Health and Human Services was Patricia Harris, under Jimmy Carter. She was also the first person to hold the job at all. She was also black and thus the first black to hold the position. She was the first black woman to hold any cabinet position, actually. That sets a high standard in terms of diversity in this department. President Reagan had one woman in the job, Margaret Heckler. George H.W. Bush appointed a black man to this position, Louis Sullivan. Bill Clinton appointed another woman, the first Arab American in the office, Donna Shalala. Both of George W. Bush's picks have been white men, and so is Barack Obama's choice, Tom Daschle. So, surprisingly, the two most diverse-conscious cabinet-choosers have chosen white men in this position that started out with someone who was represented diversity in several respects.

The first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was Robert Weaver, appointed by President Johnson. He was the first black cabinet member in any position and thus the first in this one. Carla Hills, under Gerald Ford was the first woman, followed by Patricia Harris under Jimmy Carter. Samuel Pierce, under Reagan, was black. I can't tell if anyone between Weaver and Pierce was black, since Wilkipedia doesn't have pictures for all of them (although some of them were definitely not). I believe Henry Cisneros, under Clinton, was the first Hispanic in the job, and then Mel Martinez under George W. Bush would be the second. Alphonso Jackson, also under Bush, is black, but his successor is a white man, as is Obama's nominee, Shaun Donovan.

William Coleman, under Gerald Ford, was the first black Secretary of Transportation. Elizabeth Dole, a Reagan appointee, was the first woman in the job. Bill Clinton appointed Federico Peña as the first Hispanic in this office and later Rodney Slater, a black man. George W. Bush appointed Norm Mineta as the first Asian American to hold this position. A woman, Mary Peters, now holds this job. Obama's choice is a white man.

President Clinton appointed Hazel O'Leary as Energy Secretary. So far she's been the only woman and the only black in the job. Federico Peña also occupied this position under Clinton, followed by Bill Richardson, both Hispanic. Spencer Abraham then took over under Bush. He is Arab American. Steven Chu, who is Chinese American, is Obama's pick.

Shirley Hufstedler was the first Secretary of Education, under President Carter. Laura Cavasos had this position under Reagan and Bush. She was the first Hispanic member of the cabinet in any position. Rod Paige, under George W. Bush, is black, and his successor Margaret Spellings is another woman. Obama's choice is Arne Duncan, a white man.

Jesse Brown, under Clinton, was the first black to hold the office of Secretary of Veterans' Affairs. Togo West, his successor under Clinton, is also black. Eric Shinseki, Obama's nominee, would be the first Asian American in this office. No woman has ever held it.

The three Secretaries of Homeland Security so far have all been white men. Obama's choice is a woman, Janet Napolitano.


Now I want to look at a few numbers, and I'm going to focus on the period since the first presidential election I voted in, which was 1992. I want to look at the percentage of cabinet appointees who were of each group in the initial cabinet of Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and I'm going to look at the development in the subsequent appointments of Clinton and Bush. In line of succession order, Clinton's initial cabinet was:

white man
white man
white man
white woman
white man
white man
black man
white man
Arab American woman
Hispanic man
Hispanic man
black woman
white man
black man

I'm counting Hispanic as non-white. Yes, I'm fully aware of the complexity of that issue, but my point here is to look at underrepresented minority groups, not to capture exactness of race and ethnicity.

78.6% men
57.1% white
21.4% black
21.4% women
14.3% Hispanic
7.1% Arab American

Notice the bottom-heavy location of most of the women and all of the non-whites.

If you look at Clinton's whole cabinet over both terms, you get the following lineup:

white man, white woman
three white men
three white men
white woman
white man
black man, white man
black man, two white men, Asian American man
white man, black woman
Arab American woman
Hispanic man, white man
Hispanic man, black man
black woman, two Hispanic men
white man
two black men

The bottom-heavy nature remains, but it's less bottom-heavy overall than it was initially. But if you look at the actual numbers, it becomes clear that Clinton's cabinet overall got less diverse over the course of his whole presidency than his initial cabinet was.

82.8% men (more than initially)
55.17% white (fewer than initially)
17.2% black (fewer than initially)
17.2% women (fewer than initially)
13.8% Hispanic (fewer than initially)
3.4% Arab American (fewer than initially)
3.4% Asian American (more than initially)

Bush's initial cabinet:

black man
white man
white man
white man
white woman
white woman
white man
Asian American woman
white man
Hispanic man
Asian American man
Arab American man
black man
white man

78.6% men
57.1% white
21.4% women
14.3% black
14.3% Asian American
7.1% Arab American
7.1% Hispanic

The numbers are like Clinton's first cabinet, except he's traded a black and a Hispanic for two Asian Americans. But there's one noticeable difference. The center of gravity of non-whites and women seems a little higher, especially of women but also a little with race/ethnicity, in part because the top spot is now a black man, and only half of the top six are white men, whereas five of them were white men under Clinton. The top three under Clinton were all white. Bush now had a black man in the top cabinet secretary spot, which is a big deal given how the top of Clinton's initial cabinet looked.

The total for Bush's two terms is:

black man, black woman
three white men
two white men
white man, Hispanic man, white man
white woman, white man
white woman, two white men
white man, Hispanic man
initially Hispanic woman but withdrawn; Asian American woman
two white men
Hispanic man, black man, white man
Asian American man, white woman
Arab American man, white man
black man, white woman
three white men
three white men

82.9% men
54.3% white
17.1% women
11.4% black
8.6% Hispanic
5.7% Asian American
2.9% Arab American

Now some of the numbers have dropped off in terms of diversity. There are more men percentagewise than Bush's initial group and compared with Clinton. But there are fewer whites percentagewise than in any of the above lists. Both women and blacks drop from the above lists. Hispanics increase over Bush's initial list but not up to Clinton levels. Asian Americans decrease from Bush's initial list but are higher than Clinton's overall list. Arab Americans drop from the above lists.

But wait a minute. How are there fewer whites and fewer of almost all the groups except Asian Americans, which is only higher by one person? That's what happens when you play around with small numbers and change the cabinet by increasing it by one person. In other words, the overall Clinton cabinet and overall Bush cabinet are very similar in terms of percentages of these groups. When you compare actual positions, there's a slight increase in some of them toward more diversity of representation with a decreases in some, but it does seem to me to be a slightly higher center of gravity on the list for non-whites and women. A good deal of this perception comes from a black man and black woman as secretary of state instead of a white man and white woman under Clinton.

Now look at Obama's initial cabinet:

white woman
white man
white man
black man
Hispanic man
white man
initially Hispanic man but withdrawn; undetermined for now
Hispanic woman
white man
white man
white man
Asian American man
white man
Asian American man
white woman

78.6% men
64.2% white
21.4% women
14.3% Asian American
14.3% Hispanic
7.1% black

It's whiter, less black, and less Hispanic than Bush's initial cabinet. There are no Arab Americans. The other numbers are the same. The center of gravity of women seems lower. There is a woman at the top, but then you don't see any others until you get to the bottom half. But then in Bush's initial cabinet his highest women were positions five and six. It wasn't until his second term than he had a woman in the top spot. But with non-whites, it seems much more clear. In Bush's top half, only one was black, but he was at the top. In Obama's, only one is black (and, to be fair, one is empty). But the black one in the top half for Obama is spot #4. I think Obama's initial cabinet is more bottom-heavy for non-whites than Bush's initial one, especially given than Obama's is a whiter cabinet to begin with.


One qualification is that whoever Obama chooses for Commerce Secretary could sway these numbers. With small numbers like this, the percentages can change significantly. A woman in that position would make his cabinet 73.3% male. A man would make it 80% male. If his pick is white, it would be 66.7% white. If not, 60%. And so on. But I have the numbers I have, and they are the current state of Obama's cabinet choices. This point does illustrate that a change in one person changes the percentage numbers noticeably, so even several percentages points of difference doesn't mean all that much.

Another caveat is that this is very clearly not the only important issue in choosing a cabinet. But I think it would surprise a lot of people on the left to realize that Bush selected a more diverse cabinet on several measures than Obama has done. Those who have paid attention have realized this, and they're a bit upset at Obama for not choosing a cabinet with more women and non-whites, particularly more blacks. They don't like the idea of being outdone by a Republican or even not outdoing him by much, and the fact that it's the evil Bush and not just any old Republican leaves them steaming mad at their messianic hero for not achieving this piece of how they interpreted the infinitely-adaptable and in-itself-contentless hope that Obama radiated during the campaign.

One thing that's been clear to me all along about Bush's presidency is that he's always had a very high priority in getting better representation of underrepresented groups in high positions. He really wanted a woman or a minority for one of his Supreme Court picks, and it just turned out that the ones he thought were most reliably conservative wouldn't take the job or wouldn't pass Senate confirmation. That led him to listen to bad advice that led to Harriet Miers being chosen, which led to having to replace her with Sam Alito, a white man. His opposition to a certain kind of affirmative action is really just opposition to a significant lowering of standards, not to selecting from underrepresented groups when there are qualified candidates from those groups. That kind of affirmative action has always been a top goal of his, and I've rarely seen it even acknowledged by the left, who consistently portray him as opposed to anything of the sort and have tried to tag his administration with being mostly white men.

So I thought it was worth a reminder of this as the transition to Obama's slightly-whiter (at this point, anyway) and no less male cabinet is about to take effect. I've noted several times in the past that the current president has been better on this kind of issue than any previous president, and he rarely gets credited with it. So far it looks as if he's not going to lose that mantle to Obama, although that could certainly change even with the Commerce pick but certainly over the course of the administration if Obama selects replacements in a more diversity-conscious way. It would be nice if those in the information industry would recognize this fact about Bush a little bit more than they do, as the Bush Administration draws to a close. I do understand the focus on Obama's team, but part of what makes his team interesting (to me, anyway, but I think it should draw wider interest) is that he's chosen a group that's (at this point) no less male and even more white than Bush initially did.

Leave a comment

Contact

    The Parablemen are: , , and .

Archives

Archives

Books I'm Reading

Fiction I've Finished Recently

Non-Fiction I've Finished Recently

Books I've Been Referring To

I've Been Listening To

Games I've Been Playing

Other Stuff

    jolly_good_blogger

    thinking blogger
    thinking blogger

    Dr. Seuss Pro

    Search or read the Bible


    Example: John 1 or love one another (ESV)





  • Link Policy
Powered by Movable Type 5.04