Now that the presidential election has been 99 percent settled, the next contest on the political sports schedule is the lineup of President-Elect Biden’s Cabinet. So far, he is keeping his promise to emphasize diversity, which is good because there are a lot of constituencies that expect to be represented.
Of course, it wasn’t always like this. The Constitution doesn’t even mention a Cabinet. Rather, it is inferred in Article II, Section 2: “he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices.” That’s it.
Like many details of the office, we owe the Cabinet structure to President Washington. Our first chief executive organized the initial Cabinet to include himself, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox and Attorney General Edmund Randolph.
Today, of course, things have grown commensurate with the size of the executive branch of the federal government. The modern iteration includes the vice president and the heads of all 15 of the federal executive departments, plus anyone the president chooses to add. President Trump’s Cabinet also includes the White House Chief of Staff, Trade Representative, Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_the_United_States#Cabinet-level_officials).
One would think that would be enough. Yet some believe even more functions should be included. Suggestions have been made to add a position dedicated to gun reform, a secretary for racial justice, equity and advancement to address systemic racism in society, and perhaps a secretary for the arts.
Or we could draw inspiration from overseas. The United Arab Emirates has a minister of happiness to promote “social good and satisfaction.” The United Kingdom has established a minister of loneliness to combat social isolation, albeit with little success (https://www.nextavenue.org/uk-minister-of-loneliness/?). The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has combined six departments into the world’s first “cow cabinet” for the “conservation and welfare of cows.” Finally, North Korea has the position with the most honest name in the Propaganda and Agitation Department.
So how successful will President-Elect Biden be in satisfying his multiplicity of constituents? There certainly are some interesting role models in other parts of the world. So get out your programs and start keeping score.