President Joe Biden is incredibly proud of his staff’s sexual and racial diversity. You don’t even have to ask. He’ll tell you that his choices were tailor-made to “look like the country,” meeting he demands of his party’s identity-focused base. Yet, as we’ve seen time and time again, staffing based on immutable characteristics instead of earned qualifications can only end poorly.
Party activists oftentimes stubbornly adhere to a radical worldview, a position much easier to hold when not implementing plans. They expect whomever they support to be just as rigid.
But when any appointee takes on a job for an administration, he or she meets the undeniable reality that ideological obedience isn’t always practical. That’s especially true when trying to please more than just the party base ahead of a crucial midterm election. Equally true? Many mainstream politicians aren’t nearly as woke as their virtue-signaling buzzwords suggest.
The moment a bureaucrat veers away from the positions he or she is “supposed” to hold, activists quickly forget the excitement of a diversity hire. In all their rage at administration officials not pursuing exactly what they demand, activists seldom realize that maybe they shouldn’t have judged the book by its cover.
You needn’t look outside of Seattle to see the chaos and disappointment that comes from blindly embracing tribalism. Activists once celebrated many Seattle “firsts” as they earned leadership posts. Years later, the same activists ran those “firsts” out of town for not being leftist enough. Indeed, if there’s a lesson here, it’s that Seattle’s trouble could soon become Biden’s.
Today’s Leftists Always Want More
Seattle’s first black, female police chief Carmen Best somehow shocked the activist community for being too supportive of law enforcement. Mitzi Johanknecht, King County’s first lesbian sheriff, wouldn’t blindly back radical police reforms. Activists weren’t pleased.
Seattle’s first lesbian and American Indian school Superintendent Denise Juneau didn’t super-serve non-white people the way activists demanded. And it wasn’t enough that Seattle’s first lesbian Mayor Jenny Durkan gave radicals space for an illegal (and ultimately deadly) occupation. When she didn’t give in to every whim of the increasingly radical Black Lives Matter and Antifa movements, she became their enemy.
It’s not so much that these leaders were bad at their jobs; that’s obviously subjective. It’s that they didn’t meet the expectations of a leftist movement that assumed these leaders could effectively hold positions based exclusively on their identities. They all mostly delivered what they said they would, or at least tried. But when all you see is identity, you pay little attention to anything else.
Identity politics is an innately pernicious concept promoted by America’s leftists. Meant to eradicate perceived institutional or systemic bias, it does the opposite, creating a system where one gains an unearned advantage due to membership in a marginalized community. It’s institutionalized tokenism.
The concept has evolved into the practice of electing, appointing, or hiring a variety of people that “look like the country.” In other words, whether it’s Biden’s cabinet, the local police force, or the boards of corporations, it must represent a menagerie of different demographics.
It’s no longer about one’s qualifications based on skills or ideas; instead, you’re the right choice merely because of the group you belong to. It renders us into marks on a checklist meant to satisfy the demands of groups promoting the most superficial aspects of diversity.
This is in no way, shape, or form a good way to pick leaders. Indeed, the events in Seattle over the last several months show you the limitations of this condescending ideological view.
The Demands of Radicals
As a black woman, Best was supposed to understand the strained relationships between black Americans and law enforcement. No doubt, she did. Johanknecht, as a lesbian in a field dominated by straight men, is supposed to fight for marginalized communities. She fights for everyone.
Both fell short of expectations because neither reformed their agencies to meet the demands of radicals. The anti-police movement claimed to Best that they had the right to “peacefully protest” by throwing rocks, bottles, and explosives at police officers. Johanknecht was supposed to usher in a new era of police reforms, handing overly broad investigative powers to an oversight committee that views police as the enemy.
After dealing with a recalcitrant mob enabled by a vindictive Seattle City Council, Best retired. The radical defund movement was too much for any reasonable person to handle. She told the city, “I’m done.”
The defund movement also claimed Johanknecht, albeit in a different way. The majority-Democrat King County Council quickly pushed through charter amendments that Seattle voters overwhelmingly supported last November. It took away the entire county’s ability to vote for sheriff, transferring the power to an appointment. Soon, she will be out of a job.
The same scripts played out with Durkan and Juneau. Durkan bent over backward to satisfy the ravenous demands of an increasingly out-of-control activist community, even giving them an autonomous zone known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. Still, it wasn’t enough.
The pride of electing its first lesbian mayor wore off when she wouldn’t defund the police by 50 percent. After facing a recall election (tossed by the court before signature gathering), Durkan saw the writing on the wall. Facing a tough road to re-election, she announced she would not seek a second term.
The city’s latest victim has been Juneau. Facing scorn from area activists for not doing enough to help black students succeed and a school board sending overt messages they wouldn’t extend her contract, the city’s “historic” school leader announced she’s out at the end of her contract.
When these women came to power, Seattleites lauded their identities. They tweeted their delight in electing a lesbian mayor and posted Facebook updates to declare Seattle a progressive city with an American Indian superintendent — along with an acknowledgment that we live on stolen Duwamish land, of course.
Regression in the Name of Tolerance
Too often, leftists view all minorities monolithically. As they think all of one identity group necessarily hold the same values, ideas, experiences, and lack of privilege, so they think all such people categorized by race and sexuality will naturally pursue policies and programs that satisfy leftist ideologues. How utterly demeaning.
Activists sprinted further away from what was supposed to be a societal ideal: judging people on their character and skills, not on their race, sex, or sexuality. We’ve regressed in the name of tolerance.
Press most Seattleites on why they celebrated any of the women at the time, and they won’t tell you much about policy positions or specific values those leaders held. You’d get a lot of assumptions based on expectations and a lot of people let down. When you focus on the least interesting part about someone (his identity), at the expense of the most interesting (his beliefs and actions), you set yourself up for disappointment.
Biden promised us “the most diverse Cabinet representative of all … Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, across the board.” Most of us would have been happy with forward-thinking, unifying thinkers, with an assumption that it would generate a diverse staff on its own. But Biden talks about his team as if he asked to see headshots over resumes. Ultimately, that’s a surefire way to upset just about everyone.