Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have now gone on the record as saying that they would appoint Latinos to their cabinets and other top positions should they be elected president, at least according to their answers to a 20-question survey sent to them by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. Their written statements are the first concrete indications of how their presidencies will try to be inclusive of the largest minority group in the country.
What is the NHLA?
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda was established in 1991 and is countrywide coalition of top Latino advocacy groups that fight for the advancement of the Latino community, whether it be by advocating for beneficial policies or pushing for Latino inclusion in the political realm.
On Feb. 25, the NHLA sent a 20-question survey to all of the presidential candidates that asked how they were planning on helping out Latinos should they reach the highest office. In a surprise to no one, only the two Democratic candidates responded.
There’s a lot to unpack there (and we’ll definitely do that in the coming days), but the one thing that stood out for us was how they responded to the following question: “What would you do as president to meet or exceed the current level of Hispanic representation in presidentially-appointed positions?”
First, a brief history of Latinos in cabinet positions.
Currently, there are approximately 1,200 to 1,400 positions that require a presidential appointment (and senate confirmation). Of these, 15 are official cabinet positions and 7 others are cabinet-level appointments. There are two Latinos in Obama’s Cabinet — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro (a Mexican-American from Texas) and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez (a Dominican-American from Maryland). Although not an official cabinet position, Obama’s advisory team also includes Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Mexican-born Administrator of the Small Business Administration.
To date, there have been 12 Latinos named to presidential cabinets — including Henry Cisneros (pictured above), who, like Castro, is a Mexican-American from San Antonio who served as HUD Secretary— and two Latinas named to cabinet-level positions (the aforementioned Contreras-Sweet and Aida Alvarez). The first time a Latino was appointed to a cabinet position was in 1988, when Ronald Reagan named Lauro Cavazos to spearhead the Department of Education.
How did Hillary Clinton respond? Is she with us as much as older Latinos are with her?
All signs point to yes:
“If elected president, I will build on President Obama’s progress of appointing Latinos throughout the executive branch. From special assistants to cabinet members, Latinos will play a key role in helping to shape my policy priorities and be effectively represented in our agencies.”
Although Hillary Clinton’s record with Latinos hasn’t been the best (particularly on immigration), it’s completely possible that she’ll appoint as many (if not more) Latinos to her cabinet than President Obama. There’s already talk that she could pick a Latino vice-presidential running mate — two top contenders are Secretary Castro and Secretary Perez. That would certainly qualify as “build[ing] on President Obama’s progress.”
Young Latinos are feeling the Bern, but is he feeling Latinos?
“A Bernie Sanders Administration would reflect the diverse make-up of the country. Our country is best when a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and different points of view come together behind a common cause. I can think of no place more vital for such diversity than in the cabinet of the President of the United States of America.”
That’s a bit of a wishy-washy answer, which is very #onbrand for Bernie, but it’s still a positive answer. Because he didn’t give specifics (again, kind of #onbrand), let’s assume that he’ll at least go by the demographics of our country. With 15 cabinet appointments, and Latinos accounting for 17 percent of the total population, Bernie would have to nominate more than 2 Latinos (2.55) to be on par with the numbers.
Promising responses, to which both candidates will be held accountable should the make the high office. We’ll be watching.