Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who is the only member of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet to serve the full eight years of his two terms in office, has been selected by President-Elect Donald Trump to head the Department of Transportation in his upcoming administration.
Chao, who was the first Asian American woman to sit on a presidential Cabinet, previously served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation and Director of the Peace Corps under President George H.W. Bush.
Chao’s tenure as Labor Secretary was marked by her decidedly pro-business stance, leaving her frequently at odds with labour unions and workers’ rights groups. The Government Accountability Office reported in 2008 that the Labor Department inadequately investigated tens of thousands of complaints filed by workers alleging labour violations. In addition, the Department of Labor under Chao was repeatedly criticized for failing to conduct proper safety inspections to protect worker health, while redirecting resources towards stricter scrutiny of labour unions’ financial records. Nonetheless, Chao has remained a powerful player within the national Republican party even after leaving the position of Secretary of Labor, particularly as a close strategist and advisor to her husband of over twenty years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Although these days, Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao is predominantly seen stumping with husband Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell, Chao has built an impressive history as a public servant in her own right, breaking through a number of barriers to Asian Americans in Washington.
Her career in politics began in the Reagan Administration when Chao, a Republican, worked as Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration of the US Department of Transportation. She went on to serve as Deputy Secretary of Transportation and later as Director of the Peace Corps under President George H.W. Bush. Eventually, she was appointed as the 24th Labor Secretary under the junior Bush, and became the only Cabinet member of George W. Bush’s administration to serve out his full two terms. Chao is the first Asian American woman to be appointed to any of these positions, including as a Cabinet Secretary — the nation’s highest appointed office.
A staunch conservative, Chao has politics that are very nearly the polar opposite to my own. There’s very little I agree with when it comes to Chao’s philosophy (less that I agree with when it comes to her husband Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell), but no one can or should deny Chao’s accomplishments as a forthright and powerful Asian American woman in politics.
That’s why, in my mind, there is absolutely no justification for the racist, anti-Asian tirade of Kathy Groob, a Kentucky-based Democrat and founder of the Elect Women PAC, earlier this week.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!