At the heels of Neera Tanden’s controversial nomination for Joe Biden’s cabinet, there’s another contender for the President-elect’s new administration that’s rubbing leftists the wrong way: Rahm Emanuel, former Mayor of Chicago, has been heavily rumored to be Biden’s nominee for the Department of Transportation (DOT). Biden has allegedly also been considering him for a less-visible role as a trade representative. But in response to Biden floating Emanuel at all, progressives have expressed anger and concern.
Jamaal Bowman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other leaders in the progressive party have openly voiced their criticism of giving Emanuel a spot on Biden's team. “Someone like Rahm Emanuel would be a pretty divisive pick,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with The New York Times earlier this month. While the former mayor might boast plenty of governmental experience and, looking at his résumé alone, one might assume he’s cut out for the job, he’s widely reviled — and for good reason.
Emanuel's tenure as mayor was littered with missteps, for which he has been condemned over the course of several years now. Apart from his problematic stances on policing — which is successor, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, has criticized widely — Emanuel was responsible for closing half of the city's mental health clinics in 2012 during his first year in office. Most of the clinics, according to reports at the time, were on Chicago's South Side.
Additionally, Emanuel has publicly spoken out against Medicare For All — calling it a pipe dream — and actively tried to stop President Barack Obama from pushing forward with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) when he was Chief of Staff. Recently, transport unions have spoken out against him, calling him bad for workers, and saying that Emanuel having a place in this administration would be a “betrayal.”
But perhaps most notably, Emanuel received public backlash for his handling of Laquan McDonald’s murder by police. As mayor, Emanuel actively worked to stop the video of the officer — who fired 16 shots into McDonald, a 17-year-old Black teenager — from coming out publicly. “The thing about covering up the murder of Laquan McDonald is that it disqualifies you from holding any type of public office. Forever,” Cori Bush tweeted last week.
In the wake of this year’s ongoing Black Lives Matter protests calling for the abolition of police and justice for murdered Black people, Biden hiring Emanuel would send a devastating message to racial justice advocates. And, given the politician's history with education, housing, and environmental issues during his time as mayor, it's no surprise that Emanuel's name is causing controversy.
Biden’s transition team has not yet commented on the potential nominee pick, though rumors have continued to persist. And people are increasingly concerned about who takes the DOT position, given how key infrastructure spending will be in the coming years. Yet we’re all going to have to wait it out to see who Biden actually chooses, considering that decisions on Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development won’t happen until after picks for the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.
With a little under two months until his inauguration, there’s plenty of time for more nominees, more potential picks to be revealed, and more ire to go around for them. But it also means there’s time for people to make their pleas and convince Biden to go another direction.