No, Elizabeth Warren didn’t threaten to scuttle the cromnibus.

Lindsey Graham reacts to Elizabeth Warren’s speech:

“You have every right to vote no and argue to bring the bill down,” Graham said, as noted by Politico. “If there’s something you don’t like, welcome to democracy.”

Graham then said that Warren was really the problem.

“If you follow the lead of the senator of Massachusetts … people are not going to believe you are mature enough to run the place,” Graham said. “Don’t follow her lead. She’s the problem.”

This is another reflection of the puzzling Tea Party equivalence I wrote about earlier today. Lindsey Graham argues that removing the provision weakening Dodd-Frank bans on taxpayer-backed swap trading would be the equivalent of “bringing down the bill” and therefore shutting down the government.

But why should that be the case? All budget negotiations are in essence a series of threats and concessions in which failure to reach agreement leads inevitably to a government shutdown. The difference between responsible and irresponsible negotiation is all about where those lines are drawn.

I wrote earlier that the problem with the Tea Party isn’t its tactics but rather its ideology. That’s a slight exaggeration: staking out a line in the sand that you know your opponent will never cross is an unacceptable tactic. It’s not just that attempting to deny people healthcare by eliminating funding for the ACA is immoral public policy–it was also clear that Democrats would never cross that line.

But the progressive equivalent of that would be something that Republicans equivalently could never support: say, government-funded free abortions or a return to Eisenhower-era tax rates on the wealthy.

But why should letting Goldman Sachs and Citigroup trade risky swaps on the taxpayer’s dime be a red line Republicans will never cross? Republican voters hated the bank bailouts, too. Even writers at RedState came out on Elizabeth Warren’s side on this one. In a responsible democracy, Democrats could easily have said “not over our dead bodies” on this one and Republicans could have acceded to the will of their own voters and removed the provision. Or, if they felt particularly passionate about letting Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money, Republicans could have demanded some other less noxious policy priority in trade that most Democrats could have stomached. Unlike defunding the ACA, keep Dodd-Frank intact was surely a negotiable position.

Responsible people should be pushing back strongly on the notion that the progressive faction is somehow as dangerous as the Tea Party just because it has the courage to stand up to what Wall Street-friendly corporate centrists want. The progressive wing is right on the policy, and tactically it isn’t drawing any red lines that Republican legislators wouldn’t be able to sell to their base if they cared to.

Unless, of course, the Republican base isn’t their voters but rather the top tenth of one percent of incomes. But then, isn’t confronting and exposing that reality what decent politics is supposed to be all about?

Support the Washington Monthly with your tax-deductible donation. Your help is greatly appreciated.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.