Neera Tanden, president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, listens during the National Forum on Wages and Working People in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The forum provided an opportunity for thought leaders to share concrete plans to rebalance our economy and democracy. Photographer: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The 80 million-plus Americans who voted for President-elect Joe Biden are understandably desperate to see change in the Oval Office. Considering that the outgoing president has continued his deranged and dangerous attacks on American democracy into his lame-duck period, it feels like change can’t come soon enough. One area that people are paying particularly close attention to when it comes to the Biden-Harris White House is the cabinet appointments. And while the bar for those appointments is painfully low thanks to the Trump administration’s desecration of those posts (and the office of the president, in general), Biden’s cabinet appointments have been greeted with some pushback by progressives. But no one, to date, has received more condemnation than Neera Tanden, who Monday morning was officially selected to lead the Office of Management and Budget.
Tanden, 50, is a loathed figure for leftists, and for good reason. While she will be the first woman of color and the first South Asian-American to lead the Office of Management and Budget, as the person responsible for setting the administration’s spending and policy plans, her history of past GOP-like comments, sentiments, and actions are troubling, to say the least.
As the president and CEO of the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress, Tanden is known for having shut down ThinkProgress, a progressive publication that offered singular coverage on ongoing climate change. Tanden’s reason for doing so? Because its workers formed a union and the online media site “wasn’t profitable.” She also reportedly punched ThinkProgress’ Chief Editor, Faiz Shakir after he interviewed Hillary Clinton. Shakir’s crime? Asking Clinton a question about the Iraq War, which she had initially supported. “I didn’t slug him, I pushed him,” Tanden said in a follow-up interview, as reported by The New York Times. Okay. When Shakir ended up running Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, Shakir accused Tanden of “maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas” after then-active ThinkProgress ran a video criticizing Sanders for being a millionaire.
Further worrying progressives is the fact that Tanden has also publicly advocated for cuts to social security and other vital social safety nets, which she has often referred to as “entitlement programs.” When unemployment is at a record high and as many as 7 million Americans face the very real possibility of eviction in the midst of a looming and historic recession, the appointment of a “fiscal conservative” to the Office of Management and Budget could be devastating for the millions of Americans who are having to choose between paying their rent or eating a meal.
Tanden also revealed the name of an anonymous staffer at American Progress who came forward as a victim of sexual harassment during an all-hands meeting. The meeting followed an article published on BuzzFeed that reported a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against those who reported incidents at American Progress. In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, a CAP spokesperson claimed that Tanden “unintentionally said the complainant’s first name” in the meeting and “immediately and profusely apologized for it.” Still, the idea that Tanden will once again be in a position of power after having made a mistake like that is troubling, to say the least.
Over the weekend, when rumors of Tanden’s appointment first surfaced, and immediately after it was confirmed, plenty of progressives took to Twitter to express their utter disappointment in Biden’s choice. “Please don’t let neera tanden’s antagonistic twitter presence detract from her real life accomplishments, such as firing everyone at thinkprogress because they formed a union and outing a sexual harassment victim to her entire staff,” Kath Barbadoro tweeted. “Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic party is embodied in Neera Tanden,” tweeted Brianna Joy Gray, the former press secretary for Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.
Tanden will have to be confirmed by the Senate in order to secure her post, which could be an issue, as she has also angered many Republicans. Drew Brandewie, the communications director for Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted: “Neera Tanden, who has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators’ whose votes she’ll need, stands zero chance of being confirmed.” Disliking Tanden might be one of the few things progressives and conservatives actually agree on.
The possibility of a Tanden appointment is a reminder that the danger of President Trump wasn’t just the damage he personally caused during his four in office, but the way in which he surrounded himself by people who would do the dirty work for him. He also made people weary from his non-stop horrible actions, making it impossible to keep up with all that he was doing to destroy the country. Thankfully, the rightful — and swift — condemnation of Tanden’s appointment shows that the left is not going to disengage from the political sphere once Trump leaves office. The majority of the country demanded better from Trump, and it appears that plenty of us will demand the best of Biden, too.
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