John A. Lancaster
Presidential elections are always hotbeds for bombastic rhetoric and lofty promises that stir fervor and hope amid the voting public. Yet, what is typically overlooked in the sea of rhetoric are the underlying implications of highly touted policies. Take for example Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren. She authored an article on Medium addressing the lack of diversity in federal employment. She claimed her “administration will be committed to diversity and inclusion, starting on day one.” Her commitment was expressed through promises to:
- Build a Cabinet and senior leadership team that reflects the full diversity of America, including having at least 50% of Cabinet positions filled by women and non binary people.
- Ensure representation of LGBTQ+ people across all levels of government, including in leadership roles.
- Diversify recruitment to direct real resources toward attracting entry-level applicants for public service from HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, and reform high-level recruiting processes to attract diverse experienced hires into senior management positions.
- Create new paid fellowship programs for federal jobs for people from marginalized communities and low- income applicants, including formerly incarcerated individuals.
- Open up promotion pathways by requiring every federal agency to incorporate diversity as part of their core strategic plan and creating support networks through a government-wide mentorship program that centers Black and Brown employees.
- Recommit to President Obama’s efforts to raise the level of people with disabilities in federal service — and I will include federal contractors and internship programs too.
It’s important to pay attention to the manner in which Warren demonstrates her aspirations. Value is placed not in the diverse peoples’ capacity to perform but in what social group they’re a part of. There’s no indication that she esteems the ability of the diverse people, only the mere fact that they are diverse. Haphazardly promising to fill roles with persons from various backgrounds for the sake of representation doesn’t undo any injustice that may have been done to discriminated persons nor does it disprove any ill-conceived notions that may have been formed against said persons. Instead, this dynamic renders the contributions of diverse people as no more than an afterthought. Without taking into account what the discriminated persons can actually achieve based on their efforts, they are subsequently reduced to simple placeholders, symbols of the administrator’s virtue instead of a testament to their own worth. This would make it even more difficult for diverse people to legitimize their prowess.
If Warren truly has faith in the downtrodden minority she’s championing, then her course of action would only consist of mitigating those factors preventing workforce diversity. So long as discriminated people are at least just as able, ambitious, disciplined, and willing as anyone else, they will make a notable impact on the workforce with the absence of any supposed barriers. Warren’s platform robs discriminated people of the opportunity to compete evenhandedly with everyone else. The significance of an individual from a disadvantaged group earning a respected occupation and excelling displays the potential of people from that group to overcome prejudice and contribute to the betterment of the world, thus providing distinction for the individual and garnering pride and acclaim for the group. Shoehorning disadvantaged groups into positions as a political statement renders their presence as purely symbolic. At that point the disadvantaged peoples are merely points in a game played by do- gooders competing to mold the world to their preferred image.
The current conversation about inclusion has shifted to focusing on the benefits of inclusion and how best to use diverse people. Nevertheless, these sentiments are absent in the Warren platform. People flourish by showing their undeniable talent, not by being showcased as a virtue signal. Despite what cause Warren may committed to, these kinds of procedures deprecate the very people they’re targeting.
John A. Lancaster earned an economics degree from Frostburg State University and was a PhD Fellow for The Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University.