It would compound the effect, he continued, if “occasionally you bring them together on a stage where you can see the full diversity of the administration in every sense on display.”
In fact, although Biden’s primary-campaign events were often sleepy, arguably his most compelling appearances came in the 48 hours before Super Tuesday, when he appeared in Dallas with Buttigieg and Klobuchar, and then in Detroit with Whitmer, Harris, and Booker. Ceding more of the spotlight to those rising figures didn’t so much marginalize as energize Biden. The events cast him in a role that seemed very natural: the unifying conductor of a broad transformation, not the solitary visionary who will transform the nation by his singular force of will.
There’s something of a legal question about whether a nominee can name a Cabinet before he’s elected. The 1925 Federal Corrupt Practices Act, as adjusted during the Watergate era, imposes penalties on anyone who “promises or pledges the appointment … of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy.” But many legal scholars think that final “procuring support” clause offers an escape hatch: A nominee can say he’s promising to appoint people who already support him, not trading jobs for votes. Identifying potential appointees as the members of a team, rather than promising them a specific job, would further diminish the risk of crossing that statute.
Naming a potential Cabinet this summer could offer Biden two other advantages, the idea’s supporters believe. One is that it would send a clear message that he’s ready to start working immediately to confront an extremely precarious economic and public-health landscape. It would also starkly contrast his potential administration with a Trump government dominated in almost all key positions by white men.
Apart from his decision to support gay marriage before Obama did, Biden over his nearly five decades in Washington has rarely taken big risks. And there are understandable reasons why every earlier nominee who considered identifying a Cabinet ultimately decided not to do so. But against those traditional calculations is the powerful prospect of a final night at the Democratic convention when Biden could stand at the center of a stage (whether in person or virtually) with Warren, Harris, Klobuchar, Abrams, Buttigieg, Booker, Castro, McRaven, Rice, Garcetti, Bottoms, Yang, Gates, or others and declare that “not just me, but all of us” are coming to reset the nation’s direction.
“I think our understanding of what’s risky in this moment has to change. The most risky thing is status-quo, business-as-usual politics when Trump is in the White House and our economy and health are being ravaged by the pandemic,” Allison said. “The risk is to pretend, to whistle in the dark, to say, ‘We’ve done this so many cycles; we know how to do this.’ No, you don’t. If there is anything that this time is calling for, it’s to go boldly and resolutely toward knitting together the coalition to win and be prepared to govern and help bring this country back to some kind of normalcy.”
In other words: Avengers, assemble?