Just below the surface of Biden’s tightly scripted recent events, tensions are beginning to simmer as different Democratic factions jockey for jobs.

WILMINGTON, Del. President-elect Joe Biden is rapidly assembling a team of Washington hands with deep experience, projecting an image of cohesion that stands in contrast with the savage infighting often at play around President Donald Trump.
But just below the surface of his tightly scripted recent events, tensions are simmering as different factions within Bidens decades-old orbit jockey for jobs and outside figures have grown increasingly vocal in questioning some of the early choices for top positions within the administration.
While the conflicts dont break neatly along ideological lines, they underscore a broader challenge certain to become a defining theme of the next four years: Whether the former vice president, a centrist, can bridge the divide with progressives and a younger generation of aides who got their start under President Barack Obama.
Progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have questioned some centrist Democrats and longtime Biden allies whose names have been floated for jobs. At the same time, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the highest ranking Black lawmaker who played a pivotal role in helping the president-elect cement his path to victory, said recently he was disappointed more Black candidates hadn’t been selected for the Cabinet. 
Derrick Johnson, head of the NAACP, noted that civil rights leaders have yet to meet with Biden to discuss key appointments or the Georgia Senate run-off elections on Jan. 5 that will determine control of the chamber and Biden’s agenda.
“Civil rights leaders in this country should be on par, if not more, than other constituency groups he has met with,” Johnson said, adding that he expected that the historic advocacy group and others would receive that invitation soon.
‘The establishment candidate won’ 
For now, at the center of the anxiety, several Democrats said, is who is line for which jobs and how transition officials are making those decisions. A half dozen Democrats spoke to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity to offer a frank assessment of internal tensions of a president-elect whom they still support. Some were former Obama aides. Others work on Capitol Hill. Some are hoping to land jobs with the new administration while others will not.  
The establishment candidate won, and now the entire establishment is queuing up for all the plum jobs, said one Democrat speaking on the condition of anonymity, adding that tension is exacerbated because many arent sure where they stand with the new administration. It is genuinely hard to tell what is putting some over others.
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All presidential transitions face upheaval and jockeying from both inside and outside forces, particularly when the incoming party has been out of power. Many of the Democrats who spoke to USA TODAY about internal tensions acknowledged it was not vastly different from what Obama dealt with in 2009.
T.J. Ducklo, a spokesman for the Biden transition, said the president-elect is assembling an administration to “unite the country,” which includes a broad and diverse range of candidates. Ducklo didn’t directly address the tensions, some of which have been on public display. 
“As the President-elect often says, the Biden administration will look like America, and the process unfolding now includes input from leaders and organizations that are critical to creating a government that can effectively serve the American people in a time of unprecedented crisis,” he said. 
A ‘normal’ transition
Biden, who ran for president in part on a promise to return a sense of normalcy to the White House, has already ushered in the kind of transition Americans came to expect before 2016. He has managed to do so even as Trump has used his bully pulpit on a daily basis to level evidence-free claims of fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
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Standing in a historic theater in his home state, Biden formally introduced his six-person economic team Tuesday a series of appointments that highlighted the balancing act he faces as he seeks to keep the stakes up in a big tent party. 
His nominee for Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, was Obamas pick to chair the Fed and has won praise from progressives, moderates and even Trump’s former economic adviser, Gary Cohn. She would be the first woman to head the department. Wally Adeyemo, another former Obama senior aide, would become the first Black person to serve as deputy secretary of Treasury, assuming he wins Senate confirmation. 
Bidens team also included longtime and loyal allies of his own: Jared Bernstein served as chief economist to Biden when he was vice president and will now be a member of his Council of Economic Advisers. Same for Heather Boushey, a progressive economist and longtime Biden adviser who has focused on the problem of economic inequality.
“This team is tested and experienced,” Biden said. “It includes groundbreaking Americans who come from different backgrounds, but share my core economic vision.”
But his picks havent come free of controversy from outside observers, or from within. Some of those concerns have been raised publicly. 
Bidens choice of former Hillary Clinton aide Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget has drawn fire from progressives and conservatives. Much of that blowback is rooted in bad blood between Tanden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden,” Brianna Joy Gray, a former press secretary for Sanders, tweeted this week. 
The Democratic rivalries and political maneuvering, however, are still a marked departure from the chaos, back-biting and media leaks that defined Trump’s transition to power four years ago. A few days after the election, Trump dropped his transition chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, replacing him with then vice president-elect Mike Pence. Constant staff shake-ups and infighting between those loyal to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and those who backed former aide Steve Bannon would feature as a theme throughout the Trump presidency.
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In the weeks before Inauguration Day, Biden has used polished events focused on policy themes to announce his aides and reinforce his messaging, often without taking questions. During the same period in 2016, Trump paraded a pageant of Republican stalwarts, campaign donors and associates through the lobby of Trump Tower as he mulled his picks and kept the country in suspense from his high-rise perch in Manhattan. 
“I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!” the former reality television star tweeted in November 2016 of his Cabinet decisions.
Cabinet ‘looks like America’
Some have also raised concerns about whether Biden is fulfilling his campaign promise to build a team that “looks like America.” He has already named several people of color to top jobs, including Symone Sanders, who will be a senior aide to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who will be a senior adviser to Biden. Three of nine top White House jobs Biden announced last month are Latino. 
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This week’s appointments appeared to address some of the concerns voiced recently Clyburn, whose endorsement ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary in February was widely viewed as key to Biden’s success. Clyburn told The Hill newspaper last week that he was disappointed Biden did not feature more Black candidates in his Cabinet.
Biden officials have previously stressed that about half of the Cabinet positions announced so far have gone to people of color, including Alejandro Mayorkas, who was chosen to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, nominated to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. 
By comparison, President Bill Clinton in first term and Obama in his second term each appointed four Black Cabinet members, according to Pew Research Center. Of the 24 senior White House positions Biden has named, five are Black, one is Arab American and five are Latino. Trump appointed only one Black member of his Cabinet, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and no Hispanics. 
Lingering resentments 
Like Obama who had to bring together former aides to President Bill Clinton with a younger generation of Democrats who had fueled his upstart campaign Biden must meld a network of allies he has developed over five decades in public service with former Obama aides, as well as a new generation that has gravitated to figures such as Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Those marriages havent always been perfect matches.
Some Democrats speaking to USA TODAY described tensions between former Obama aides and longtime Biden officials. Others described frustration building between aides who worked on the campaign from its start and those who came on board much later, after the Democratic primaries. There is also uncertainty about whether Biden is committed to promoting diversity in the highest ranks of his White House.
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Some of the resentment, Democrats said, lingers from the Obama administration. Even some aides to the former president acknowledge Biden wasnt always embraced inside the White House. Ben Rhodes, Obamas former deputy national security adviser, summed it up when he described Biden as a “unguided missile” in his 2018 memoir.
“The animosity between ex-Obama people and the Biden people is so obvious to me because they’re holding us responsible for how we treated Biden, said one former Obama administration official on condition of anonymity. And they treated him pretty crappy. I will say that.”
Obama aides have for years pushed back on the narrative that the two men didn’t get along and describe a close relationship that strengthened over time.  
One former Obama administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the transition process said the relationships Biden fostered across generations of government are more important than ever given the coronavirus crisis and the economic fallout that will confront him on day one. In other words, the person said, it makes sense for Biden to turn first to the people he knows for top jobs. 
“Theres nobody who knows the way Washington works more than Joe Biden and so it would be silly not to call on those relationships, given what the country is facing right now,” the former official said. “Whether those date back to his time in the Senate or his time as vice president, you know, theres too much riding on this moment not to summon people with the right expertise.” 
‘Bridge’ presidency
Biden campaigned on the promise that he would serve as a “bridge” to a new generation of Democrats but some progressives have signaled discontent over the potential return of Biden’s veteran operatives.
Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., last week threw their support behind a petition to block former Biden chief of staff Bruce Reed from leading the Office of Management and Budget. The petition, sponsored by the Justice Democrats, described Reed as a “deficit hawk” who supported cuts to Social Security and Medicare as the head of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission under Obama. 
The Bowles-Simpson commission, created in 2010, recommended reductions to safety net programs as well as tax increases to reduce budget deficits. Its recommendations, rejected by Congress, have been criticized from the right and the left even as centrists view it as a balanced approach to righting the nation’s fiscal woes. 
“Rejecting Reed will be a major test for the soul of the Biden presidency,” the petition read.
Instead, Biden nominated Tanden for the job on Tuesday.   
Not all of the jockeying around Biden is tied to political ideology. 
One former Obama administration official who has contemplated working for the Biden administration and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters acknowledged there is tension over jobs, particularly among political operatives if not the top-level policy aides. 
But while some of that entails aides who worked for Obama and werent as close to Biden it also involves multiple lanes and crosscurrents of staffers from other Democratic presidential campaigns who signed on with Biden after the primaries. In other cases, the person said, there is jockeying between people who served in the Obama-Biden administration in top roles and those who are new to Washington.
Biden wants people who are loyal, experienced, the person said. For super-fast climbers who want to jump the line, this is not going to be satisfying.