On Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden is about to host a soiree of types, “thanking chief of staff Ron Klain for his tireless work” and “officially welcom[ing] Jeff Zients back to the White House in this role.”
The chief of workers handover from Klain to Zients, who principally latest served because the administration’s COVID czar, has lengthy been anticipated. Chiefs of workers not often final greater than two years and the rumor mill (and reports) have positioned Zients because the front-runner for practically a 12 months.
The lengthy lead-up, nonetheless, has not assuaged progressive Democrats’ wariness concerning the change, which is about to happen after Biden delivers the State of the Union tackle subsequent week.
Many on the left seen Klain as their gateway to affect within the administration and as key to the emphasis Biden has positioned on antitrust, local weather change and skepticism towards Wall Road. Zients, a former administration advisor who made his identify as Mr. Repair-It in Democratic circles by repairing the HealthCare.gov catastrophe below President Barack Obama, doesn’t have the identical observe report of working with progressives, and his previous as a private equity CEO worries them.
“Democrats did better in 2022 because President Biden was not afraid to fight for American families,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) advised HuffPost. “He needs a team around him that supports him in keeping up that push.”
Warren stated Klain did a “terrific job,” however she averted straight praising Zients. “Jeff is the president’s pick,” Warren stated. “Jeff will help the president in every way he can.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), by comparability, stated he had bonded with Zients over their shared previous working for the Bain & Co. consulting group.
“I have a great deal of respect for his mind and his capacity, and hopefully he’ll do a fine job,” Romney stated.
On the similar time, most of Washington’s main progressives (and admittedly, its main reasonable Democrats) don’t anticipate a major ideological shift from the administration.
“This isn’t like when Bill Clinton hired Dick Morris,” one progressive advised HuffPost, referencing the political operative who directed the then president’s “triangulation” technique as he ran for reelection in 1996.
What has troubled progressives essentially the most about Zients’ ascension is that they didn’t also have a horse within the race. Though some on the left had hoped Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, a former Boston mayor with shut ties to unions, may make a late cost for the place, most of the main contenders — Zients, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell — firmly belonged to the occasion’s business-friendly centrist wing.
The shortage of other candidates has meant progressives can do little greater than gnash their enamel as Zients prepares to take excessive gig.
For a wing of the occasion obsessive about the concept “personnel is policy” and identified to boast of its success in stacking the administration with progressive thinkers, its lack of a task in selecting the president’s chief of workers is telling. The failure signifies that the progressive motion might must construct extra infrastructure to assist like-minded staffers and operatives and get them prepared for top-tier administration jobs.
“There needs to be a lot more focus within the progressive movement on developing the people who can step into these roles,” stated Max Berger, a former staffer for Warren’s presidential marketing campaign and the Justice Democrats group. “Part of that has to be developing the places where people can work in between administrations to gain experience and develop a career path. There is no equivalent to the Center for American Progress or Heritage [Foundation] on the left,” he added, referring to the liberal and conservative suppose tanks.
The unusual factor? Progressives might look again and discover Zients performed a task in constructing a significant expertise pipeline. He co-chaired Biden’s presidential transition, serving to put in place most of the progressives now scattered all through the administration. Heather Boushey, a member of Biden’s Council of Financial Advisers and a dyed-in-the-wool financial progressive, wrote on Twitter that it was Zients who recruited her to the job.
“His leadership in the Transition set the scene for so many now working to deliver on … [President Biden’s] vision to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out,” Boushey tweeted Friday.
Roosevelt Institute CEO Felicia Wong, who served on the advisory board for the transition, stated it was clear then that Zients valued enter from throughout the occasion’s ideological spectrum.
“I am confident that Jeff will continue the practice that Klain started of reaching out to all parts of the Democratic coalition, including progressives,” Wong stated. “Based on his track record as someone who cares a lot about execution and attention to detail, I think he’s the right person to lead the White House in delivering on the promise of economic transformation the administration has been building toward.”
Wong and others famous that it might merely be a matter of time and expertise: Progressive allies like Shopper Monetary Safety Bureau Director Rohit Chopra, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo and Nationwide Financial Council Deputy Director Bharat Ramamurti may very well be able to fill high-ranking jobs in a second Biden time period or the following Democratic administration. (Within the short-term, progressives are rooting for Ramamurti to exchange his boss, Nationwide Financial Council Director Brian Deese, when the latter leaves the administration.)
Nonetheless, different progressives insisted expertise pipelines weren’t a significant situation, as an alternative pointing to the issue of getting a progressive candidate into Biden’s comparatively small internal circle. (One progressive lamented that 82-year-old former Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Delaware Democrat who co-chaired the transition with Zients and served as Biden’s senatorial chief of workers for years, wasn’t a few a long time youthful, as he’s a a favorite of the left.)
If Zients, who earned a repute as a business-friendly deficit hawk through the Obama administration, does find yourself clashing with progressives, he wouldn’t be the primary chief of workers to do battle with a rising ideological faction inside their very own occasion.
Motion conservatives famously loathed and mistrusted James Baker III, the institution Washington hand President Ronald Reagan chosen as his first chief of workers. Then, motion conservatives nonetheless discovered affect within the administration, as a result of they have been just too highly effective to disregard.
“The conservative movement, at a certain point, made it so you had to care about what they had to say if you were a Republican,” Berger stated as he assessed progressives’ rising energy. “I’d like to think that we’re getting to a similar point. No one who is running a Democratic White House can afford to ignore the left without it being a massive pain in the ass.”
After all, motion conservatives then had a bonus that progressives wouldn’t have now: Reagan himself was a motion conservative. This truth led a Biden ally to make a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for a way progressives may get extra of their very own in prime jobs.
“Maybe they should try being more electorally successful,” they joked.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.