Biden’s diverse picks, the “very best of the nation”, are not representatives of the people who put them into office as much as they are figureheads. They are ambassadors with no brief other than to stand as proof of meritocracy – if you work hard and are “the very best”, you too can get a great gig. Diversity in government isn’t about solidarity, it’s used as proof of the soundness of the system: the elevation of women in particular as “girl boss feminists” who will not be interrupted, the reduction of the deeply serious business of government to inspiration politics.
It’s irritating and it’s infantilising, but it can’t be dismissed. There is real value in inspiration politics. To be able to see people who look like you in exclusive places is undoubtedly important. It unlocks confidence and ambition. And there is political capital in caring about the brand of the party and its reputation as inclusive. But when it all stops there what we end up with is a counterfeit form of liberation politics that achieves little beyond letting parties (and businesses) get away with a smattering of new faces.