Senator Bernie Sanders’ former national press secretary, Briahna Gray, called on President-elect Joe Biden not to appoint more progressive personalities to his cabinet – people she argued that many Americans hope will be chosen when they vote for the former vice president.
Grey pointed out Neera Tanden, who will nominate Biden on Sunday as the next director for the Office of Management and Budget.
This announcement met with widespread backlash from Biden supporters, who see in Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank, an obstacle to progressive change in the country.
Gray suggested that Biden’s cabinet election was a slap in the face for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, a group that the president-elect is supposed to unite alongside the party’s more moderate members.
“Neera Tanden in particular is someone who is notorious for being outspoken against Senator Sanders, who in turn represented the largest coalition of progressive voters in this country,” Gray told the nonprofit organization Democracy Now! on Wednesday, “perhaps most notorious for physically attacking Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager when he was an employee and editor at ThinkProgress, a vertically integrated media institution under the CAP.
Tanden, a loyalist of Hillary Clinton, “punched Sanders’ 2000 campaign manager Faiz Shakir “in the chest” when he was working at ThinkProgress, the New York Times reported.
Leaked e-mails have also shown that Tanden is in opposition to progressive Democrats like Sanders. WikiLeaks has published emails describing Think Progress staff as “crazy leftists” and advising against supporting a minimum wage of $15, which is a top priority for Sanders and his campaign.
“I personally know of no one in the Bernese world who is happy about this election,” Gray told Politico.
While Tanden would be the first colored woman and the first South Asian American in this position, Gray pointed out that Biden’s election focused primarily on the identity of individuals and away from their political beliefs.
“What you have seen in [Biden’s] recent selections is a strong emphasis on the identity of the individuals selected. There are many innovations in the group. Even people with less, shall we say, weakened relationships with traditional identity figures have gone so far as to talk about the struggles of their stepfather’s family, haven’t they? Gray said to Democracy Now!
“I think that’s very intentional, because in terms of content, several of these people have real problems, and none of them really represent progress in the mindset of most Americans, especially those who identified with Bernie Sanders,” she added.
Biden’s transition team has defended Tanden and her legislative experience to head the Office of Management and Budget.
In announcing the nomination, Biden referred to Tanden’s upbringing, saying, “She was raised by a single mother with food stamps, an immigrant from India who fought, worked hard and did everything she could to help her daughter realize her American dream.
“She understands the struggles that millions of Americans face. And she will be the first colored woman and the first South American to run the OMB,” said Biden.
While Gray and other former Bernie employees have loudly criticized her nomination, the current staff and Sanders himself have remained silent.
On the other hand, other progressive figures, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator , Senator Cory Booker and former governor candidate Stacey Abrams, have supported Biden’s election.
I agree with that. https://t.co/OUUYuX10ir
– Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) November 30, 2020
I know @neeratanden for over 2 decades. She is brilliant and laser focused on making our country a fairer place for all. I look forward to working with her as she does the important work of rebuilding our government. https://t.co/jVtSFGQYtG
– Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) November 30, 2020
Congratulations to my girlfriend @neeratanden on her nomination as OMB Director! I worked for the OMB in the graduate school where I evaluated scholarship holders of the Telecommunications & Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP). I am very proud of her and sad about @amprog. But most of all very proud of them.
– Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) November 29, 2020
The nomination of tandems is not possible without the disapproval of the right-wingers who have sworn to vote against their confirmation in the Senate.
On Monday, Senator John Cornyn described her as “radioactive” while Senator Lindsey Graham called her a “nutcase” when she appeared in Fox News’ Hannity. Senator Tom Cotton told Fox & Friends on Wednesday that Tanden “has no chance of being confirmed”.