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The Duplicitousness and Detriment of a Conservative Democrat

And How It Costs An Indian American Woman

Neera Tanden was forced, during Women’s History Month, to withdraw her nomination as President Biden’s budget chief because of mean tweets. Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia opposed her nomination to lead the influential White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), citing her past statements on social media. Senator Manchin indicated he made his decision after reviewing Ms. Tanden’s Twitter comments criticizing lawmakers while she led the Center for American Progress. Neera Tanden is the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and the CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. She helped found the Center and she focuses on how both organizations can fulfill their missions to expand opportunity for all Americans.

This article could do a deep dive into all of Ms. Tanden’s accomplishments and qualifications. She holds a law degree from Yale Law School and is more than qualified. Before leading American Progress, Tanden was the organization’s chief operating officer. She previously served as senior adviser for health reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In that role, she developed policies around reform and worked with Congress and stakeholders on particular provisions of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement—the Affordable Care Act. Prior to that, Tanden was the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign, where she managed all domestic policy proposals. Tanden also served as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, where she directed all policy work and oversaw the debate preparation process for then-Sen. Clinton (D-NY). Before the 2008 presidential campaign, Tanden served as legislative director in Sen. Clinton’s office and deputy campaign manager and issues director for Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign.

The big take away from all of Tanden’s qualifications is they led to President Biden nominating her to lead the OMB, a cabinet position charged with managing one of the largest offices in the White House, overseeing the execution of the federal budget. Its director is charged with administering the president’s funding proposal to Congress and coordinating how money is properly allocated, lending enormous influence on domestic policy for all Americans. Tanden would have been the first Indian American in the role. “After my parents were divorced when I was young, my mother relied on public food and housing programs to get by,” Tanden said on Twitter when first nominated. “Now, I’m being nominated to help ensure those programs are secure, and ensure families like mine can live with dignity.” Alice M. Rivlin was the first woman to hold the position (October 17, 1994 – April 26, 1996 under former President Bill Clinton) and Franklin D. Raines was the only African American to hold the position (September 13, 1996 – May 21, 1998, also under former President Bill Clinton). Sylvia Mathews Burwell was the second woman to hold the position (April 24, 2013 – June 9, 2014 under former President Barack Obama) and Tanden would have been the third woman and the second nonwhite to hold the position.

Her impressive qualifications help to add insult and compounds Senator Manchin’s injury. He cited her negative comments about Republicans and her social media remarks have been scrutinized, largely on the right, since her nomination. The twist is Ms. Tanden’s Twitter comments were not one-sided, she freely and rightfully criticized injustices and wrongs, whether the target a Republican or a Democrat. Manchin has a history of breaking with his party and it is that history that should be challenged in the next primary voting booths in West Virginia. The press has indicated how he is now allegedly one of the most powerful movers and shakers in the nation’s capital but the Senator’s hypocrisy is astounding and he has been an enormous headache for President Joe Biden. Manchin helped to sink the much needed proposed $15 minimum wage and was not on board with the new plan on jobless benefits that would allow people to ensure their first $10,200 was tax free. By sinking a Biden cabinet nominee and opposing progressive policies in the administration’s national rescue plan, Manchin has made it easier for unscrupulous so-called moderates in the GOP to come out and join the fight to halt progress on numerous major fronts. All of the Senate hypocrites, Senators Manchin, Collins, and Kennedy included—had no problem backing Trump cabinet nominees who not only issued floods of nasty tweets, but were also blatantly unqualified to serve in their positions. What gives Manchin and other so-called Democratic senators like Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona so much potential clout to use against progressive programs is the 50-50 split in the Senate. It leaves no room for even one Democratic defection. Any defection can only be solved if a Republican can be found to replace the rogue Democrat.

The situation allows a handful of so-called “moderates” to outweigh the large progressive caucus in the Senate—a caucus that reflects the views of the overwhelming majority of the Democratic base. If only Democrats would stick together and flex their muscles, they could have real impact. The modern Democratic Party emphasizes social equality and equal opportunity. Platforms Manchin obviously does not support and his actions obscures the definition of a conservative Democrat. Manchin exemplifies voter disenfranchisement of his fellow Democrats in West Virginia. He is also making noise that he may oppose Biden’s nomination of Dr. Vivek Murphy to the post of Surgeon General. He opposed Dr. Murphy when President Barack Obama nominated him for that position in 2014 as well. Looking to explain why critics have pointed to the fact that Manchin has received hefty contributions from people tied to the pharmaceutical and for-profit hospital industries. He does not take contributions from those industries directly, but rather from individuals employed by them—“bundlers” who make it look like he gets his money from individuals rather than from corporations. Dr. Murphy is not the only leading person of color attacked by Manchin. He went after Vice President Kamala Harris last week, claiming that in an interview Harris did with a local West Virginia TV station she was attempting to put pressure on him to support the president’s COVID-19 rescue bill, a bill with the support of 76% of American people. Manchin is receiving pressure for his caving in to the right wing and it’s coming from his own constituents who have protested against his opposition to raising the minimum wage and those who recently joined the Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign against Manchin’s attacks on the wage hike.

Helen Ubiñas, journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, offered the phrase “Tweeting While Female” to the ever-growing double standards applied to women and she is spot on. The contrast is the total buy-in of 47.2% of fellow Americans who supported and voted in November 2020 for a rich, Caucasian man who built and fueled a presidential campaign, a presidency AND an insurrection with horrid, sexist, belittling, racist, non-presidential tweets. Manchin rarely criticized Trump for his tweets, including those that helped lead to the deadly insurrection on January 6 at the Capitol.

Tanden drew ire for condemning Republicans in striking terms. On Oct. 28, Tanden called President Trump a “puppet” of Russia. On Oct. 30, Tanden responded to a clip on Fox News by saying Trump supporters “need to see a landslide [election] to be shaken out of the cult.” Tanden in July accused Republicans of creating “death panels” in handling the coronavirus and of “telling seniors they’re expendable.” Comments this author more than agrees with as do many. Regardless of your feelings about Ms. Tanden’s tweets, the unfortunate fact is she felt forced to walk away from a job that should have been hers. Sadly, at her confirmation hearing in early February, Tanden felt propelled to apologize for her comments. Ms. Ubiñas submits while women and particularly minority women can make their voices heard more easily than in earlier times, it comes with the inequitable risk that they will be punished for daring to not be silent and it is the dare we should all respect and commend. Tanden has been praised for her passion and willingness to fight aggressively across a range of policy issues, including her pushback against Republican deficit concerns at a time when many economists believe further stimulus spending is necessary to propel the economy. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Republicans were being hypocritical, having brushed aside Trump’s frequent Twitter attacks only to now express alarm about things Tanden has said in the past and Senator John Cornyn (Tex.), a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said Tanden was Biden’s “worst nominee so far.” He went on to say “I think, in light of her combative and insulting comments about many members of the Senate, mainly on our side of the aisle, that it certainly creates a problematic path,” he said Monday. Just think if only former President Trump’s insulting tweets had created a problematic path, perhaps the January 6 insurrection would not have happened.

At the time of printing this article the White House had not yet named a new nominee for the OMB director role. Attention is now on Shalanda Young, an African American, overly qualified woman who is now a strong contender for the position, she is President Biden’s nominee for deputy director of the OMB and she is a former top Democratic aide on the House Appropriations Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn have all endorsed Ms. Young for the position AND she doesn’t have a Twitter account.

This article was written by Jewel F. Williams Johnson, a resident of the Town of Greenburgh, NY.


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