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An Administration in Search of a Progressive

The Team Obama Should Have Picked

by RAMZI KYSIA

I feel cheated. I feel betrayed. And I’m not even a Democrat.

Our nation hasn’t yet finished counting all the election returns, but the outlines of a future Obama Administration are already clear: Clinton at State, Geithner at Treasury, Summers to head the National Economic Council, Holder at Justice, Emmanuel as Chief of Staff, General James Jones as the likely National Security Advisor, and Robert Gates likely to stay on at Defense.

There not a progressive among them. Not even one. If Obama was vague about his personal politics during the primaries and general election it was for a reason: he doesn’t have any.

I’m not sure what I honestly expected, but I know it wasn’t this. In the history of American politics we’ve had quite a few “conservative” administrations that didn’t do much of anything save look after the interests of the powerful. We’ve had corrupt administrations, and reactionary administrations. We’ve seen the appointment of so-called centrists, alongside people so far to the right (Al Haig, James Watt, Ellen Sauerbrey, John Bolton, among many others) that they make Attila the Hun look liberal. But we’ve seldom seen anyone who even mildly represents working-class America.

Obama is as close to a complete outsider as has ever been elected to the White House. His personal history and cultural narrative are unique and compelling. His rhetoric is uplifting. He has been elected by the largest margin of victory in twenty years. His party comfortably controls both houses of Congress. His campaign energized millions and created an incredible network of volunteers across the country who can now be called upon for continued political action. And, beyond these things, our nation now faces economic and foreign policy crises that have even our elites worried, and looking for fresh approaches.

With all these advantages, if Obama can’t find it in him to name even one person from the so-called “Democratic wing” of the Democratic Party, then it isn’t because he’s a coward, and it isn’t because he’s reaching out to conservatives – it’s because he doesn’t want to.

I’m a radical. I’m an anarchist and a pacifist, and I didn’t expect Obama to name bell hooks as Secretary of State, or make Amy Goodman his Communications Director, or install Michael Albert at Treasury. I’m not a fool. I expected him to reward his political supporters. Napolitano at DHS and Daschle at HHS are no surprise, and they may even do well in those positions. I hope so. I did expect Obama to name moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats to some positions as well. He should, if he intends to build a new movement in American politics. But not these people, and not just these people. With Henry Kissinger and Bill Kristol are endorsing Obama’s team – you know we’re in for trouble.

Our nation is lost, and the problem with the team Obama is putting together isn’t simply that they’ve generally supported (or at least acquiesced to) the Bush agenda for the last eight years – it’s that they have no vision, and they leave us with seemingly no direction home.

This election was an opportunity that is quickly being squandered. In the space of three weeks we’ve gone from change we can believe in to no change at all, and I for one feel as though I’ve been utterly betrayed.

Some of my friends have asked me what I really expected from Obama. I don’t know, but this is what I’d hoped for. President-elect Obama, if you should read this, pay attention because this is what I thought you were promising, and it’s why I’m so heartbroken today:

The Team Obama Should Have Picked

Secretary of State: Joseph Stiglitz

Deputy Secretary: Tony Hall

Secretary of the Treasury: Tom Campbell

Deputy Secretary: Gar Alperovitz

Secretary of Defense: Chuck Hagel

Deputy Secretary: Lawrence Korb

Attorney General: Gabrielle Kirk McDonald

Deputy Attorney General: Joel Rogers

Secretary of the Interior: Douglas LaFollette

Deputy Secretary: David Baron

Secretary of Agriculture: Dolores Huerta

Deputy Secretary: Jill Long Thompson

Secretary of Commerce: Roxanne Qualls

Deputy Secretary: Michael Shuman

Secretary of Labor: Maria Echaveste

Deputy Secretary: John Cavanaugh

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Daschle

Deputy Secretary: Sidney Wolfe

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Angela Glover Blackwell

Deputy Secretary: Elliott Sclar

Secretary of Transportation: Shelley Poticha

Deputy Secretary: Janette Sadik-Khan

Secretary of Energy: Claudine Schneider

Deputy Secretary: Amory Lovins

Secretary of Education: Angela Valenzuela

Deputy Secretary: Geoffrey Canada

Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Max Cleland

Deputy Secretary: Isiah Legget

Secretary of Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano

Deputy Secretary: Mary Schiavo

Chief of Staff: David Bonior

National Security Advisor: Dr. Anne Cahn

Ambassador, United Nations: Susan Rice

Chair, National Economic Council: Robert Reich

Director, Immigration and Naturalization Service: Bill Ong Hing

Director, Environmental Protection Agency: Robert Kennedy, Jr.

First Supreme Court Nomination: Mari Matsuda

RAMZI KYSIA is an Arab-American writer and activist. He’s currently working with the Free Gaza Movement to break the siege of the Gaza Strip.