Donald Trump's Presidential Line Of Succession Will Be Very White & Very Male

It's 2016 (for a little while longer, at least), and in this modern age, you might've thought we'd come further in terms of equality and diversity than, well, it now looks like we have. After all, you just lived through the most diverse presidential administration in American history, represented by the first black president in American history. But from the looks of things, the executive branch is about to take a hard step backward in this department — the presidential succession will be very white and very male once the Trump administration takes power.

As it stands now, the presidential line of succession includes three women, four black Americans (Attorney General Loretta Lynch is the only black woman in the succession), and three Latino Americans (Education Secretary John King is both black and Puerto Rican). Here they are, ordered by their proximity to the presidency: Attorney General Lynch, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Education Secretary King, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

At present, Lynch is as close to the presidency as any black woman has ever been — seventh in line, immediately behind Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

By comparison, Trump's line of succession — at least, based on the positions he's filled so far — will be nowhere near as diverse. While his cabinet hasn't been fully filled out yet, there are only three people he's chosen so far who're nonwhite and/or women: Dr. Ben Carson for HUD, Elaine Chao for Transportation, and Betsy DeVos for Education. Here's how his line of succession looks so far, assuming all his cabinet picks are confirmed:

  • Vice President Mike Pence
  • Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
  • President pro tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
  • Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke
  • Secretary of Agriculture (yet to be decided)
  • Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross
  • Secretary of Labor Andy Puzder
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson
  • Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao
  • Secretary of Energy Rick Perry
  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs (yet to be decided)
  • Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly

Now, an important addendum: We still don't know who'll be in at Agriculture or Veteran's Affairs, and both of those slots have had women floated for them. Sarah Palin has gotten press as a possibility for the latter, bizarre as that may sound, and Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota has been rumored for the former, though the Democrats desperately want to keep her in the Senate to avoid losing a seat to a Republican governor's appointment.

But even if both Palin and Heitkamp were to make the cut, and that's in no way a guarantee, that'd leave the Trump administration with just two people of color — Chao and Carson — and three more white women. Assuming neither of them get the jobs, then it'll just be Chao and Carson, and then DeVos as the sole white woman in line to claim the presidency. And, needless to say, you don't get 11 spots down the line of succession unless something unthinkably catastrophic happens.