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President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly considering appointing former presidential rival Pete Buttigieg as the next U.S. Ambassador to China.
Buttigieg, who turns 39 in January, earned praise from Biden on the campaign trial, and ultimately ended up dropping out of the race and endorsing Biden before the crucial Super Tuesday primary, which set the stage for Biden to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
The former South Bend mayor has had his name floated as a potential Biden cabinet nominee, particularly since appearing as a surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign during various media appearances. But according to Axios, the incoming administration has struggled to find a position for him, instead choosing to nominate women and people of color to high-level posts to better reflect the diversity of the coalition that elected Biden.
Buttigieg had reportedly expressed interest in the job as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, which went to longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield instead. Other possibilities for Buttigieg included being named as Secretary of Transportation or Commerce, but the former mayor and meber of Biden’s transition team has indicated he’s more interested in working in the realm of foreign policy or national security, and shoring up his credentials in those areas.
If Biden were to name Buttigieg to the ambassadorship, it would immediately allow the young politician to gain some foreign policy experience that would likely come in handy if he were to pursue a future run for the presidency.
But some supporters of the former mayor say he would be better served in a Cabinet role that would allow him to build his relationship with Black voters, who constitute a significant percentage of Democratic primary voters.
There’s also the question of experience. Typically, given the crucial nature of the United States’ relationship with China, the ambassadorship has typically been awarded to experienced politicians or foreign policy veterans, as a symbol of respect towards the nation’s top trading partner, which simultaneously serves as its chief geopolitical rival.
Lastly, there’s also a question of whether a Republican-run Senate would confirm Buttigieg to any position that could potentially bolster his domestic or foreign policy credentials for a future run, and whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would seek to block him from serving in any Senate-confirmable position.
Nonetheless, some advocates have expressed anxiety that there has not yet been a prominent LGBTQ appointment to a Cabinet-level position. The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocates for LGBTQ representation in government office, has previously called on Biden to nominate an LGBTQ Cabinet member, as well as LGBTQ women ambassadors and LGBTQ ambassadors of color; the first transgender ambassador; and an openly LGBTQ U.S. Supreme Court Justice, when the occasion arises. The organization has also called for “equitable representation” of LGBTQ people among presidential appointees.
“The challenges facing the new administration are enormous — from tackling the pandemic to reviving the economy to ensuring our relationships around the globe are restored,” Dr. Claire Lucas, the chair of the LGBTQ Victory Institute Board of Directors, said, following Biden’s victory in the presidential election last month. “Fortunately, there are LGBTQ people qualified and ready to lead in confronting all those challenges both at home and abroad. Biden can build the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in history while assembling a team that can move America forward.”
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