Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to receive the newsletter.
AN UGLY TURN FOR BIDEN AND DIVERSITY. The Democratic Party’s obsession with race and identity politics took a nasty turn Tuesday when Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, backed by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, declared that she would not vote to confirm any white nominees for any administration positions. The only exceptions, Duckworth said, would be for white nominees who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
As the story unfolded, Fox News Capitol Hill reporter Chad Pergram tweeted that Duckworth told a pool reporter, “I am a ‘no’ vote on the floor on all non-diversity nominees. You know, I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ. But anybody else, I’m not voting for.” Her message was clear, as Politico put it in its Playbook newsletter: “Duckworth vowed to reject any nominee who is white and straight.”
Duckworth said she was acting out of frustration with the lack of administration cabinet-level nominees who are Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, or AAPI. Duckworth raised the issue with the White House in a meeting Monday night. According to the New York Times, “During the meeting Monday night, Ms. Duckworth said that [White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer] O’Malley Dillon pointed out that Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was from India, and Katherine Tai, the top American trade envoy who is of Chinese descent, were Asian American.”
That was not enough for Duckworth. On Tuesday, she told reporters that she found the White House’s answer to her concerns “insulting.” She said the White House would not treat African-American concerns so lightly. “That is not something you would say to the Black Caucus — ‘Well, you have Kamala, we’re not going to put any more African-Americans in the cabinet because you have Kamala,” Duckworth told reporters.
Duckworth was born in Thailand in 1968, the daughter of an American father and a Thai mother. Her family moved to Hawaii when she was 16. She later joined the U.S. Army and became a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War. In 2004, she lost both legs and suffered serious injuries to one arm when an Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade brought down her helicopter. After recovery, she worked in various positions involving veterans’ affairs. She won a seat in the House from Illinois in 2012 and a seat in the Senate in 2016.
The AAPI diversity standoff ended late Tuesday when Duckworth backed down. She did so after the White House promised to appoint a “senior level Asian-American Pacific Islander liaison,” according to spokeswoman Jen Psaki, “who will ensure the community’s voice is further represented and heard.”
What made the Duckworth episode somewhat ironic is that President Biden has delivered on his promise to make his cabinet the “most diverse” in U.S. history. It is so diverse, in fact, that it does not precisely reflect the U.S. population. According to an analysis by National Public Radio, Biden’s cabinet is “nearly 55 percent non-white.” According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans who are “white alone, not Hispanic or Latino,” is 60 percent. So the Biden cabinet is more non-white than the country as a whole, just as, say, the Republican Party is more white than the country as a whole. In any event, it’s hard to accuse Biden of not paying attention to the Democratic Party’s diversity concerns. But Biden’s idea of diversity is apparently not Duckworth’s idea of diversity. Such controversies, sometimes pitting group against group, are sure to recur inside the president’s party.
Finally, and almost needless to say, it is impossible to imagine the furor that would arise in the press and political world if a U.S. senator vowed to vote against every nominee of color — voting only for nominees who were white and heterosexual — unless the White House satisfied a specific demand. But that is what things have come to in the Democratic Party today.
For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found. You can use this link to subscribe.