Master of Puppets

Sam Lundry, Columnist, Politics Editor

President-elect Donald Trump campaigned extensively on a promise to return America’s lost and forgotten working class to economic prosperity. Frequent calls to “drain the swamp” of government corruption and dishonesty in favor of a system that truly represents the wishes of the American people have become ubiquitous as Trump’s transition team begins releasing his cabinet selections. This campaign promise may turn into one of the most impressive uses of the bait-and-switch tactic ever seen in contemporary American politics.

The Donald’s victory was cemented when the real-estate mogul swept the rust belt states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, convincing millions that he would overhaul the government bureaucracy, send lobbyists and industry hacks packing, and stop the behind-the-scenes brokering that he claimed has lead to the selling out of the American worker.

Working-class voters turned out in record numbers for Trump, erasing any lead Hillary Clinton had in statewide polls. You’d think Trump, upon winning the election to the highest public office, would make some sort of attempt to appease those voters who drank the Kool-Aid. You’d think, perhaps, that our next commander-in-chief would appoint competent, selfless, and experienced public servants to his newly-formed administration who would work towards fulfilling his rust belt promises. You’d think those things would happen.

Trump’s flurry of cabinet announcements began with a familiar name and face for Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. While Sessions has long been a staunch conservative voice in D.C., his shaky-at-best record on civil rights has prevented him from being much more than just that, a voice. In 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to the federal bench. Later that year, Sessions became only the second nominee in 48 years to not be voted out of the Senate Judiciary committee for Senate approval. The committee relied on under-oath testimony from many former colleagues at the Department of Justice and from lawyers who had worked with Sessions, who accused him of calling the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and “Communist-inspired,” a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race,” and of thinking that the Klu Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot,” as reported by multiple sources.

Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Education, and who will control public education policy for millions of America’s students, has never attended a public school. Billionaire Betsy DeVos is wife to Dick DeVos, heir of the multilevel marketing company Amway. DeVos is a billionaire who has campaigned heavily for school choice and voucher programs. DeVos has a record of supporting anti-gay efforts, largely motivated by her Christianity. DeVos has zero experience in public education and, as mentioned earlier, has never attended a public school.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who exudes enthusiasm and passion, has been nominated to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson, being a neurosurgeon, has never had any experience in community development or urban housing, nor has he ever held any government position at any level. Carson was originally offered a job as Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, something that he is only marginally more qualified for, but declined due to his lack of experience and because he didn’t want to accept a position that would “cripple the presidency.” Naturally, Trump then nominated Carson for HUD Secretary. While Carson did grow up in poverty, he never lived in public housing despite claiming that he had throughout his presidential campaign.

There are few things more essential to a president’s success than his cabinet. Trump, throughout his campaign, promised to change politics in America, to change the face of Washington. Nominating cabinet secretaries so egregiously unqualified represents Trump’s lack of commitment to this promise.

Trump’s administration is already rife with representatives of big business, big banks, big oil, and a host of unqualified outsiders with little to no political or public service experience. Billionaire Wilbur Ross and millionaire Steven Mnuchin, both Wall Street investors, will lead the departments of Commerce and the Treasury, respectively. Gary Cohn, the current president and COO of Goldman Sachs, will lead Trump’s National Economic Council. Steven Bannon, editor-in-chief of the alt-right and hate-fueled Breitbart News, is Trump’s Chief Strategist. Andrew Pudzer, CEO of the parent company that controls Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., will be Trump’s Labor Secretary. Pudzer is a staunch critic of worker protections and the minimum wage.

We knew Donald Trump would be an unconventional president. We knew millions of Americans voted for an outsider with zero political experience. We justified these things. We allowed this to happen, and we will suffer the consequences. Being disengaged and ill-informed are the new American virtues.

UPDATE: President-elect Trump announced Tuesday that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson will be his nominee for Secretary of State. One can only hope his close ties to Vladimir Putin and big oil interests won’t influence his foreign policy. As is tradition, America’s new chief diplomat has no experience in diplomacy or public service of any kind. So it goes.