Bill Clinton’s time building his cabinet in the 1990s, after acknowledging his lack of diversity in making his selections, was spent looking to incorporate more diversity into his picks. He began to build a council that would “look like America,” and was representative of the great diversity that our country is able to boast about. Here we are, however, over 20 years later, with the same amount of diversity that was present when Ronald Reagan was in office. Both men placed 17 white men in major secretary positions, compared to President Obama, who appointed only eight men in this same demographic. This comparison is also stark in the number of minorities present, with Trump appointing only five people of minority backgrounds compared to President Obama with 14. In more ways than one, Donald Trump has been turning back the clock on process and his cabinet, which is supposed to act in the best interests of the many facets of America, is following suit.
The central idea behind the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” is that it is about “the story of America then, told by America now,” as an interview in The Atlantic with creator Lin Manuel Miranda shows. “Hamilton”’s significance comes from its showcasing of performers of all different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders playing famous historical figures. In a way, this tagline can be accurately applied to a president’s cabinet. The people surrounding the president are supposed to advise him or her on the best courses of action to take to preserve ideals of “America then” in ways to benefit and improve “America now.” In fact, this is one of the reasons “Hamilton” is such a hit, not just in the musical theater community but for a wide range of music lovers. Representation matters to people and if something as objectively trivial as a musical matters to so many people because they get to see themselves reflected in something inspiring, how is it any different with the highest office in the country?
Throughout the entirety of the presidential campaign and even long before it, representation has become something of a burden for those who’ve always had it. Even for Clinton during his campaign, his choice of certain department heads over others were criticized, specifically in one article from The New York Times, where others saw him playing a numbers game to fill diversity quotas. This was extremely far from the truth, as diversity was a part of his campaign promise that he was trying to fulfill. It’s very easy to try and “remove” these biases in theory, to see people purely for their capabilities rather than what gender they are or what color their skin is. The reality, however, is that because of the society we live in, people with these differences are going to have different perspectives in how they handle different situations. Physical diversity may not matter to people when constructing policy, but differing opinions are crucial to good decision making. It makes sure that not just one voice is prioritized over another and it allows pure democracy to do its job. Those voicing these opinions bring with them their own personal experiences that connect them to the people they serve and understand the needs of these people. If conservatives are so adamant about the founding fathers and how they wanted democracy to work, then they should be all for this differing of opinion — of making sure the diversity of individuals we’ve acquired in our country are not forever represented by the same old white men that have always been making decisions for all of us.
With Trump in office and the assembly of his cabinet well under way, it is becoming more important every day to realize that diversity is what makes America great. Not walls that function as isolationist tactics, not fear-mongering about a religion that shares its roots with Christianity, and not disrespecting every person with a differing opinion from yourself. America has been blessed with a beautiful array of ideas and beliefs and values, and the clashes they encounter with each other are to be expected. But why these clashes can’t be viewed respectfully and seen as positive discourse is baffling in and of itself. If Trump is to be taken seriously, he’d rather put an end to not just diversity in his cabinet and his decision making, but in America itself. Trump’s cabinet should “look like America;” America is beautiful and complicated, and if that notion is too much for him, he shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place.