The Incredible Shrinking Center

In a move that thins out the already shrinking ranks of Blue Dog Democrats even further Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) has announced her sudden resignation from the House of Representatives.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said Monday that she will resign from Congress, a announcement that came as a surprise to many in her party and served as the latest blow to the diminished ranks of the centrist wing of the Democratic caucus.

Harman added in an e-mail sent to supporters that she was “in discussions” to take over the presidency of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The think tank is currently run by former representative Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), who like Harman believes in a muscular foreign policy that has at times run afoul of the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

From the article, it seems that the GOP is not the only party that is looking askance at their more moderate officeholders.

Harman’s district has grown to be a reliably Democratic seat. President Obama won the district in the 2008 presidential race by 30 points and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry carried it by 19 in 2004.

Even so, she won only 60 percent of the vote in a Democratic primary last year, an indication of discontent among her party’s base with some of her centrist positions.

In Washington, her views on foreign policy – she initially supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – placed her outside the mainstream of a caucus dominated by liberals.

When one of those liberals, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), became her party’s House leader in January 2003, Harman succeeded her as the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, a post that Harman relished. However, when Democrats seized the majority in 2007, Pelosi denied her the chairmanship of the committee, giving it instead to Rep. Silvestre Reyes (Tex.).

I am bringing this up as a follow up to Drae’s post about the nature of consensus and compromise (and lack thereof in today’s political landscape).  Both parties are having their own problems tolerating the center and recent history has shown both sides attempting to force out those who might seek compromise in different areas.

Now, we do not know if Representative Harman’s decision is based on discomfort within the party.  Her statement reveals she is resigning to potentially take over the presidency of the Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars, a Democrat think tank that is more hawkish on foreign policy than the current Democratic line.  It is curious that this would take place only one month into a Congress to which she had campaigned for several months to be reelected.  But to find out how the more liberal side of the blogosphere felt about a Democrat who happened to support antiterrorism measures just Google “Harman + Kos Target Map”.

Whatever the reason for her departure the one certainty is that there is one less Blue Dog Democrat in the House of Representatives.   The progressive and liberal blogosphere is likely to celebrate this fact, and as a Republican I probably should not care either way.  But as the Blue Dogs are a segment of a major party that is committed to finding common ground with the opposition, I have to tip my cap to them and figuratively mourn the loss of a moderate voice in Congress -regardless of party.

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One Response to The Incredible Shrinking Center

  1. katydid says:

    Most interesting info!
    Thanks for this.

    I read your blog regularly, just don’t say much.

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