Secretary of Hope

Not satisfied with the state of the union? Frustrated with the
fact that some of the most influential roles in government are not
elected positions but appointed ones? Think that someone else could
do a better job as Attorney General or Secretary of Education? The
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Progressive Government Institute
(PGI) shares your concerns and wants your suggestions. How does
holistic doctor Andrew Weil sound for Surgeon General? What about
Jimmy Carter as Secretary of State?

Sound like a dream? Well, it is — it’s the ‘Dream Cabinet’ set
up online as part of the PGI’s Progressive Shadow Government
project. The Shadow Government is an advocacy project that promotes
progressive political values; the Dream Cabinet is an opportunity
for anyone to nominate a person (famous or not-so-famous) as an
alternative to whoever is in office today. Web site visitors can
also nominate alternative heads of executive branch and other
federal agencies; they can compare the records and positions of
current federal office holders (say, Ann Veneman, Secretary of
Agriculture ) with those of progressive nominees — Texas populist
Jim Hightower, for example. The result? Concrete alternatives to
government as we know it in 2004.

The PGI was launched in 2003 to, as founder Dal LaMagna puts it,
‘focus on the decision-making roles played by the president’s
cabinet and the top 1,000 presidential appointees. These are people
the voters never selected, but who still have an impact on our
daily lives. We pay attention to the power these appointees wield
and we promote the idea that the election should be framed around
not just who is put in the top spot, but the entire cabinet.’

To do this, the PGI goes well beyond promoting alternative
officeholders. It recruits what it calls ‘progressive experts’ who
follow the work of current appointees and offer informal critiques;
it compiles lists of the president’s executive orders, keeps
current with appointees’ decisions and actions, and publishes an
online newsletter, The Reformer. In addition, visitors to
the Web site
can become members, receive alerts about impending agency actions,
and express their opinions directly to the agencies involved. It’s
in service of the PGI’s hopeful slogan: ‘A better government is out

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.