Events are starting to point toward the extinction of moderate Democrats.
Even before Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia said this week he won’t run again, aisle-crossers like him — Rep. Jane Harman, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Kent Conrad — were preemptively heading for the exits. At the same time, a whole center-left structure was crumbling: A policy shop, The Democratic Leadership Council, announced its shutdown after 27 years of picking centrist winners such as former President Bill Clinton, according to a Wall Street Journal report
Remaining behind to sift the wreckage are the blue dogs, a bloc of House Democrats who regularly buck their leadership to vote with Republicans.
Blue dogs who survived last November’s tea party-fueled GOP House takeover are a “diminished and demoralized” bunch, wrote Josh Kraushaar in the National Journal.
The Blue Dog Coalition is down to 25 members, from 54 just last year, “even as politically calculated centrism makes a comeback in the White House,” Kraushaar wrote.
The moderates’ demise is not a new story — not to anyone who reads David Broder’s column in the Washington Post. Laments over ebbing bipartisanship have occupied the sensible-sounding Broder for years.
But this week’s game-over announcements from Webb, Harman and the DLC are fodder for the belief that centrism is, if not dead, then doomed. blue dog Democrats, pragmatist Republicans, any lawmaker willing to cross over to get the people’s business done — all are endangered or irrelevant as two-party politics in the age of personalized media undergoes an ideological purification.
True, President Barack Obama has discovered lately the value of tacking right. Both parties embraced mixed seating at last month’s State of the Union address — a show of unity for a country rattled by the shooting spree in Tucson that had left a moderate Democrat, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, gravely wounded. It's possible that tea party lawmakers could become more moderate after a couple of years inside the Beltway.
But consider the collective shrug that greeted No Labels, a new post-partisan political organization launched with fanfare in December by New York City’s formerly Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Featured speakers included a trio of former officeholders: two beaten (Mike Castle, Charlie Crist) and one bowing out (Evan Bayh).
What enthusiasm there is today for “third way” politics seems to reside with an existing think tank, already called Third Way. Meanwhile the prevailing attitude in Washington toward co-mingling of ideologies seems to be “no way.”
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