Trump Still Hasn’t Named a Democrat to His Cabinet


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Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, left Trump Tower after a meeting this month.

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Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump campaigned on an unusual mix of policy positions that pulled from both Republican and Democratic orthodoxy. He drew support from the mostly white working class of rural America that once leaned blue. And he said he would gladly work with the rival party to strike deals once he took office.

But with the top positions in his administration mostly filled out, it looks as if Mr. Trump could well pass on an early opportunity embraced by nearly every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to reach across the aisle: appointing a member of the opposing party to his cabinet.

So far, of the 20 or so cabinet and other top-level advisory positions Mr. Trump has announced, not one has gone to a Democrat. With only a few seats left at the table, Democrats hope it will stay that way.

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Donald Trump Is Choosing His Cabinet. Here’s the Latest List.

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The reason is that an appointment from Democratic ranks — particularly from the Senate — would be more than just good optics for the Republicans. If Mr. Trump were to nominate a red-state Democrat, there would be a better than average chance that the nominee’s replacement would be a Republican, padding the G.O.P. majority in Congress.

Democrats know the strategy well. Working in an earlier, Democratic-dominated era, Mr. Obama’s staff used cabinet positions and other top jobs, like ambassadorships, to the same effect.

Mr. Obama went so far that he set a modern record, initially naming three Republicans to his first cabinet in 2009. One of those picks, Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, withdrew his name from consideration before the Senate ever considered his nomination as commerce secretary, but the other two, Ray LaHood and Robert M. Gates, went on to serve. There have been others since.

The custom is as old as the nation itself, dating (at least in spirit) to George Washington’s choice of Thomas Jefferson, a leading critic of his administration, as the first secretary of state.

More recently, President George W. Bush had only one Democrat, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, serve in his cabinet during eight years in office. The same was true of President Bill Clinton, who made William S. Cohen, a moderate Republican senator, secretary of defense for his second term.

Mr. Trump, of course, still has time and jobs to spare. He has yet to announce picks for secretary of veterans affairs, secretary of agriculture, director of the Office of Management and Budget or United States trade representative — cabinet-level positions that have gone to members of the opposing party in the past.

As Mr. Trump weighs his final picks, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, appears to be the most likely member of her party still in the running. She met with Mr. Trump in New York on Dec. 2. At the time, Ms. Heitkamp was said to be under consideration for several positions, but she is now a top contender to lead the Department of Agriculture.

Choosing Ms. Heitkamp, a centrist, would have an added advantage for Mr. Trump and the Republicans: It would quickly set off a special election to fill a Senate vacancy from a deep-red state.

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