Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote a blunt and impassioned Facebook post Wednesday defending her decision to approve Ben Carson's nomination for secretary of housing and urban development.
"Dr. Carson’s answers weren’t perfect," Warren wrote, after joining her fellow Democrats and Republicans on the Senate banking committee in OK-ing Carson's nomination and passing it on to the full Senate. "But at his hearing, he committed to track and report on conflicts of interest at the agency. In his written responses to me, he made good, detailed promises, on everything from protecting anti-homelessness programs to enforcing fair housing laws. Promises that – if they’re honored – would help a lot of working families."
Warren went on to express skepticism that Carson would actually follow through with his promises, but she seemed convinced that President Donald Trump's alternative nominee — whoever that may be — would be unwilling to make the promises to begin with.
"Can we count on Dr. Carson to keep those promises?" Warren wrote. "I don’t know. People are right to be skeptical; I am. But a man who makes written promises gives us a toehold on accountability. If President Trump goes to his second choice, I don’t think we will get another HUD nominee who will even make these promises — much less follow through on them."
Warren's argument is based on a simple premise: that Carson is not a particularly harmful HUD option. If the Senate rejects his nomination, Trump might come back with an even worse pick, making Carson the better option. On its surface, this seems logical. If Warren and her fellow Democrats are convinced that Trump will keep throwing garbage fires at them — as he has with practically every other Cabinet pick — the smart thing is to get while the getting is (relatively) good.
But the reality is, Democrats gain little by falling in line behind Trump's agenda. They are the Senate minority, meaning that their opposition to Trump's Cabinet picks would likely be overpowered by a GOP majority vote anyway.
The president has also made it clear that he intends to undermine whatever good these federal agencies might do by placing them in the hands of inept "yes" men, right-wing hardliners and corporate cronies who've demonstrated little interest in the public good. Carson is not exempt. He's never run a federal agency; believes poverty is a "choice"; and declined, during his confirmation hearing, to promise that his decisions as HUD secretary would not benefit the president's business and real estate interests. There's no way this ends well.
Carson's only discernible qualification, in fact, is that he's apparently convinced Trump he'll serve him faithfully. This alone should be disqualifying. But it becomes even more so under the least popular incoming president in recent memory, who nearly 3 million more Americans voted against than for, and whose agenda is currently being opposed in mass protests around the world.
By showing out in force against the president's Cabinet nominees, Senate Democrats would maintain the moral high ground against a demonstrably immoral administration. It may not win them points with their GOP colleagues. But if the past eight years have taught us anything, it's that Republicans in Congress will trade anything — values and democracy included — for power. These are not people to be bartered with. They are a force to be opposed. American progressives are expecting an outright Democratic opposition, especially from progressive darlings like Sen. Warren. Anything less makes them complicit in whatever havoc Trump wreaks on the American people. History will not treat them kindly.