The Peculiar Anti-PC Case for Larry Summers as Fed Chairman

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Who do you support to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Fed? Janet Yellen or Larry Summers? Ezra Klein reports today that Yellen supporters are blanketing the airwaves with endorsements, but Summers supporters are oddly reticent to speak publicly. Nonetheless, he figures it’s worthwhile to pass along the (anonymous) pro-Summers case that’s making the rounds of the White House.

The argument comes in five parts, and for what it’s worth, I consider #1 ridiculous, #2 doubtful, and #3 and #4 perfectly reasonable. You can read them and decide for yourself. But I was pretty taken aback by #5:

Backlash to the gender issue. This isn’t part of the case for Summers, exactly, but it’s part of the psychology of his supporters right now. People involved in the White House’s Fed search really, really don’t like the implication that they’re sexists. They see the allegation that gender is playing a role here as absurd and offensive and an effort to back them into making a choice based on political correctness rather than the merits. It’s a bit hard to gauge this, but my sense is the intense anger over the allegations is hardening people’s positions, as they don’t want to submit to a pressure campaign they consider deeply unfair.

I don’t get this. What I’ve seen are lots of gender-coded complaints coming from conservatives about how Yellen would be little more than a PC diversity choice. This is ridiculous and has gotten lots of pushback. I’ve also seen lots of liberals saying that it would be great to break one of the last glass ceilings in Washington and have a woman in the top spot at the Fed.

But what I haven’t seen are arguments that Team Obama would be outing themselves as sexists if they chose Summers. Have I just missed them? Maybe. But if Ezra is right about this, it sure seems as if the Obama folks are being a little hypersensitive.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate