Liberal Column

Cabinet picks reflect Trump’s hypocrisy

/ The Daily Orange

As a political outsider, President-Elect Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of what he sees as rampant corruption in Washington, D.C. But Trump’s first cabinet appointments call into question how serious he is about that mission.

Corruption within the United States’ political system is no secret. Eight central New York developers were recently indicted on charges of bribery and bid-rigging. Two of the men brought up on charges, Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi Jr., have been accused of bribing a former aide to New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as a lobbyist with ties to the Cuomo administration. The indictment alleges that the men purchased political support for three projects in the area, including a nanotechnology hub in DeWitt.

Corruption is a very real issue in Albany, and an issue many believe permeates Washington, D.C., as well. Trump ran on a firm anti-establishment platform that promised to combat corruption on a national scale, but so far, his efforts leave much to be desired. Trump’s cabinet appointees do not inspire confidence that his administration will take the proper measures to diminish corrupt politics in the capital.

Trump seems to believe the source of corruption in Washington, D.C. is lobbyists who represent companies and special interest groups. Vice President-Elect Mike Pence has placed a moratorium on lobbyists working on the transition team, though this has led to many lobbyists simply terminating their clients.

A number of Trump’s cabinet picks have caused an uproar of controversy. Most notably, Trump named Steve Bannon, founder and executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, to be his chief strategist. Breitbart, an alt-right news agency, thrives off horrifically offensive headlines including “The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: Women should log off,” “Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage” and “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.”

Bannon’s appointment is somewhat terrifying because he has given a voice to some of the most discriminatory narratives out there. The alt-right essentially operates under the premise that creating equal rights for people of color, women and the LGBTQ community has marginalized the white man — an incorrect notion that minimizes the reality of discrimination in our country.

Like Trump, newly minted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is a political outsider and has frequently voiced his Islamophobic views. Flynn, who has ties to Breitbart, has argued that a fear of Muslims is “rational.” It’s clear that Trump is rewarding early loyalty to his campaign with high-profile appointments.

Presidents will typically select party members that represent a broad range of the political spectrum. By restricting his cabinet to far-right appointees, Trump is sacrificing diverse viewpoints and leaving his administration vulnerable to groupthink. Christian Grose, an associate professor of political science at the University of Southern California, has discerned this as well.

“Modern presidents have typically chosen cabinet members across a wide ideological spectrum,” Grose said in an email. “Republicans tend to pick a mix of conservatives and center-right cabinet members, while Democrats tend to pick a mix of liberals and center-left cabinet members.”

While noting that Trump’s cabinet has yet to be filled out completely, Grose said his appointees could potentially make decisions that affect our nation for years to come.

“At this point, it is quite conservative,” said Grose of Trump’s cabinet. “And it will matter.”

One concrete example of this is prospective Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump. He was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 due to racist comments he made. Sessions became only the second nominee in the past 50 years to be rejected by the senate judiciary committee.

Sessions has also opposed some forms of legal immigration in the past, and would likely look to impose radical immigration reform.

“This could mean significant attempts to curb immigration, which may be popular among a section of the GOP base that supported Trump — but is quite unpopular among Chamber of Commerce Republicans and many independents and Democrats,” Grose said.

Trump’s appointments will do little to quell the fears of millions who remain fearful of his presidency, and unless the president-elect can add some diversity to his cabinet, it seems plausible that the extent of Trump’s power will be fortified by his administration.

So while the central New York bribery case is a localized instance of corruption, indecency in politics is a legitimate issue, regardless of the scale. But Trump’s efforts to minimize corruption may have only added to the problem.

Ryan Dunn is a freshman history major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at rarozenb@syr.edu.

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