Are Progressives Becoming the New Tea Party?

Progressive activists across the country were gleeful about the defeat of Obama's choice for Fed chair, Larry Summers.

Senate Banking Committee members Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkeley of Oregon, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, together with a network of progressive activists who abhorred Summers, basically staged a coup, forcing Summers's withdrawal last weekend.

It wasn't how things were supposed to go.

The Administration, Wall Street, and a chorus of friendly mainstream media voices, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, pushed Summers over the progressives' preferred candidate--the far more qualified Janet Yellin, as economist Dean Baker has pointed out.

Yet progressives did not give up. They kept pointing out the problems with Summers: that he was an architect of financial deregulation in the 1990s and 2000s that led to the recent economic collapse; that he supported trade deficits and an opposed economic stimulus that righted the economy and helped the poor and middle class; and, of course, that he was fired from the presidency of Harvard for suggesting that girls are inherently bad at science and math. 

The Summers defeat severely weakened President Obama, CNBC.com senior editor John Carney warned, and could even lead to a government shut down.

"The victory against Summers's nomination is likely to embolden resistance among the liberal Democrats to a budget resolution that includes further spending cuts," Carney wrote.

Will progressives and Tea Partiers be equally to blame if the government shuts down? Or, down the road, if there is another debt ceiling crisis?

CNBC's Carney thinks so.

In Carney's estimation, Democrats will have to accept House Republicans' Food Stamps cuts in exchange for dropping the ridiculous demand that they kill or delay sections of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for avoiding a shutdown. 

"It would fall to the Obama administration to try to bring reluctant Democrats along" on such a deal, Carney reasons. "But after failing to convince Democrats to support Summers, it seems more likely that the White House will fail to convince them to support the Republican budget cuts. The economics team in the Obama administration just is not very good at this these days. This is a recipe for a government shutdown."

In other words, it's looking like Congressional Democrats, having rejected the architect of the bank collapse and recession, might start feeling their oats and reject the House Republicans' attempts to do more damage to the poor and middle class with safety-net cuts, too.

Outside the CNBC studios, that sounds like good news. 

In the Atlantic.com, David A. Graham writes that, by breaking ranks with the President first on Syria and then on Summers, progressives in Congress are looking more like the Tea Party every day. 

"Maybe Republicans don't have a monopoly on disarray after all," Graham wrote.

Again, that's bad news if you're President Obama.

But it's good news if you don't think it's a wise idea to launch a third war in the Middle East,  or to put an advocate for the very bank deregulation that torpedoed the economy in charge of the Fed.  

Can primary challenges to corporate Democrats be far behind?

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter