The current score in the fight to find the next Federal Reserve chair: Progressives 1, White House 0. But the left isn’t ready to declare victory yet.
After opposition from progressive and women’s groups to the idea of Larry Summers as the next chair of the Federal Reserve helped make Senate confirmation look dicey, Summers withdrew his name from consideration for the job Sunday, leading to much rejoicing in progressive circles.
“What an awesome moment this is. I cannot tell you how many people are overjoyed right now that this is happening. It’s a huge, huge thing,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of Ultraviolet, a women’s rights advocacy group that strongly opposed Summers based in part on what Thomas called “character issues” dating back to his days as president of Harvard.
Ultraviolet, the National Organization for Women and other groups were gearing upa pressure campaign aimed at pushing Summers, whom President Obama staunchly defended, out of the running for Fed chair. Thomas said it seemed pretty clear that the fight was against the White House, though she said “we can’t know for sure what the real opposition to [Janet] Yellen or support for Summers looked like inside the White House, so I would stop short of saying this was ‘the left versus Obama,’ but it certainly was a fight.”
“This was such an uphill battle, right from the start,” she said. “[Obama] trusts and respects Larry Summers, and I think he was coming to his defense in the media because he felt like he needed to…it wasn’t necessarily the case that President Obama wasn’t considering other candidates, but we were under the impression that Yellen was in second place as far as President Obama personally was concerned.”
NOW president Terry O’Neill said the Summers news came as a surprise. She was convinced women’s groups were fighting with President Obama on the Fed chair nomination, and that Summers was on track for the job despite protests from liberals and women’s groups.
“It was absolutely a battle between women’s groups and the president. I was very surprised the president didn’t understand how much damage he would do to his legacy if he passed over a better qualified woman in order to put a less qualified man in place who was his friend,” she said. “This is something that women have observed and experienced over and over again in our lives and in our work and it makes us cross-eyed with frustration.”