After realizing over the past few years just how corrupt our political system is (I’m thinking about corporate personhood, revolving doors, and corporate welfare, among other things), I lost hope that social change could happen via federal politics. I determined that the only way to change things was through grassroots engagement—neighborhood by neighborhood, town by town, state by state.
I didn’t expect that in the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders would step forward and create a grassroots movement to change things in Washington. But as soon as he did, I was on board 100%. I have not had this much faith in a presidential candidate—ever. He is a true public servant, dedicated to making America be America to all people, not just the 1%.
Bernie is a busy guy (I mean he barely has time to comb his hair), so I thought I’d take it upon myself to help him assemble his cabinet. So without further ado, meet future President Sanders’s dream team:
Vice President: Elizabeth Warren
If there is one other politician I trust in Washington, it’s Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She is smart and fights for the middle class, including protecting consumers from “financial tricks and traps often hidden in mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.” The fact that “many people on Wall Street despise her” is a good sign that she has our (the people’s) best interest in mind.
Secretary of State: Eboo Patel
The mission statement for this department reads, “. . . to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” One of the best ways to promote peace and democracy is through interfaith cooperation. Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, recognizes the promises of diversity in the world and is dedicated to nonviolence. This approach will greatly improve our chances of building bridges around the world and truly committing to promote progress for “people everywhere.”
Secretary of the Treasury: Woody Tasch
Woody Tasch is the founder of the Slow Money Institute. He understands that our current economic system isn’t sustainable in any way, shape, or form—and has a model for how to do things differently. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of Wall Street, and therein lies the problem. As far as I know, none of it is real and it can come crashing down at any time (as it has before). Per Tasch, “we have to find a way to invest with much more realistic return expectations for the benefit of future generations.”
Secretary of Defense: Dawn Engle
Being a fan of nonviolent conflict resolution, this is a tricky one for me. If we have to have a military, I want somebody who is dedicated to peace and not in bed with the military–industrial complex. Dawn Engle, co-founder and executive director of the non-profit organization PeaceJam Foundation, fits the bill:
Peace is not simply the absence of war or the absence of violence. True and lasting peace can only exist when there is social justice and human rights for all. Governments keep making the mistake of trying to achieve peace by investing in the weapons of war. —Dawn Engle (Source)
Attorney General: Loretta E. Lynch
Why mess with a good thing?
Criminal conduct by police officers, federal agents, and their confederates cannot be tolerated and will be met with the full force of the law. —Loretta Lynch, Attorney General of the United States
Secretary of the Interior: Tabita Green
You think I’d leave myself out of this? Think again. Based on the current priorities of the Department of the Interior, I think I could have a lot of fun with this. I believe natural resources should not be allowed to be exploited for corporate gain. Plus, I’d be a great champion for future generations, the environment, and American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. Passion + organizational leadership = success, right?
Bernie, I’m your woman.
Secretary of Agriculture: Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin is an American farmer, author, and speaker. The mission of his family’s farm is “to develop emotionally, economically, environmentally enhancing agricultural enterprises and facilitate their duplication throughout the world.” Anybody with a functioning brain knows that industrial agriculture isn’t sustainable—or even humane. Salatin provides a different model. I think he and Tasch will get along well.
Secretary of Commerce: Bart Houlahan
The mission of the Department of Commerce is “to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity.” I’m a little weary about the “economic growth” part, but I believe in equal opportunity for all people to thrive. A couple of great ways to provide economic opportunity is to keep jobs in the US and create businesses to serve the common good, while being profitable. Bart Houlahan, co-founder of B Lab, knows a thing or two about this.
If we are collectively successful, we will restore communities and make great places to work, and it will all be profitable. —Bart Houlahan (Source)
Secretary of Labor: Robert Reich
He’s done it before and he can do it again. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. Just watch Inequality for All, and you’ll know why Robert Reich needs to be back in Washington.
(Sorry University of California at Berkley!)
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Dr. Andrew Weil
Oh wow. Big. Job! Americans are getting sicker and sicker, yet a very small portion of the budget is spent on prevention. We need a complete paradigm shift in how we look at health, both physical and mental. I recommend Dr. Andrew Weil for this job. He is well-respected and believes in a holistic approach to health through prevention and integrative medicine.
(Larry Cohen, executive director of Prevention Institute, is a close runner-up.)
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Julián Castro
Here’s another case of “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.” Castro has not been on the job very long—give him an opportunity to get the job done. HUD’s mission is solid: “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” Mr. Castro, please consider sustainable-built intergenerational cohousing development projects and walkable, bikable communities. No more sprawl!
Secretary of Transportation: Elon Musk
Okay, he’s a billionaire, but Elon Musk is a very smart billionaire and has invented a high-speed train. The United States is a large country. We need a way to travel across our vast land that doesn’t involve petroleum. On a personal note, I have no way to leave my rural town except with a car. I’d love to be able to catch a train from here to Chicago, Minneapolis, and Des Moines. Trains over spacecraft, please, Mr. Musk.
Secretary of Energy: Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, a global climate movement, will lead the charge to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and move forward with innovative energy solutions. He has praised Bernie Sanders’s environmental fights, so they should get along just fine. If you haven’t already divested from fossil fuels, now would be the time to do so.
Secretary of Education: Alfie Kohn
It’s no secret that our education system is failing our children and our teachers. Corporate interests are taking over more and more as can be seen in the excessive testing and accompanying curricula. We still feed our children fast food, recess is being cut, and our culture fosters competition over cooperation. Alfie Kohn, an “outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores,” promotes unconditional teaching and progressive education. He’s also not a huge fan of homework, so our kids will have more time to be kids on his watch.
Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs: Tammy Duckworth
In 2004, Tammy Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of her right arm in an explosion in the line of duty. She has experience working with veteran’s affairs both at the state and federal level. She’s currently in the House of Representatives and is running for the Senate. According to her website, “Tammy is focused on growing our economy by advocating for small businesses, investing in infrastructure, improving the lives of our Veterans, and cutting government waste and fraud.” I like it.
And a Couple of Changes…
These departments aren’t static, right?
Department of Homeland Security: N/A
We’ve had some debate here at the Green Residence whether or not to keep the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). George W. added this department after 9/11 to keep tabs on anybody who could be a potential threat within our borders. Among other things, the DHS funded a large surveillance program, National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, targeting mostly Muslim men, but didn’t find a single terrorist. Besides being a failure, the program stemmed from religious and gender profiling. (This is a problem!)
My husband, the Islamophobia scholar, says we should really be worried about white supremacists, and we need a department to keep them in check (he’s offered to step up to the plate).
However, I don’t think homeland security will be necessary once everybody living in this country has enough to eat, meaningful occupation, strong communities in which to live and work, and all the other wonderful things that will happen when Bernie becomes president.
Let’s shut it down, Bernie!
Secretary of Culture: Oprah Winfrey
In place of the DHS, I recommend adding a Department of Culture. Taking a cue from Sweden’s Ministry of Culture, the responsibility of this department could include human rights and anti-discrimination work. In addition, it would promote art for art’s sake, providing opportunity for artists of all kinds to create freely and enhance the country—and the world—with their creations.
Oprah is a supporter of culture and the arts, and I think she would make a fine addition to Bernie’s team (she could probably fund the entire department as well, so that’s an added bonus).
Art can only emerge and exist where there is freedom. —Alice Bah Kuhnke, Minister of Culture and Democracy, Sweden
My two cents.