And there are plenty of other centrist Democratic organizations picking up the slack. The Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank that spun off from the DLC in 2009, is alive and well. So is the New Democrat Network and Third Way. The Center for American Progress, founded by Clinton White House alumnus John Podesta, also qualifies as centrist and has the benefit of close ties to the Obama White House. The last DLC-er who could make that boast – the group’s CEO, Bruce Reed – just left the organization to become Vice President Biden’s chief of staff. He had just completed a stint as executive director of Mr. Obama’s fiscal commission.
On Capitol Hill, the ranks of the moderates have thinned in recent elections. The resignation of centrist Rep. Jane Harman (D) of California, to become president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars here in Washington, means the departure of yet another centrist “Blue Dog” Democrat from the House. The Blue Dogs have gone from 54 members in the last Congress to 25 now. Republican moderates have taken a similar beating, either through retirement or election losses.
But that hollowing out of the center on Capitol Hill is more a sign of the continuing polarization of Congress, not that there’s no possibility of action in the center – especially when the president and congressional leadership want to go there. In addition, notes Third Way co-founder Matt Bennett, a lot of the centrist Democrats who lost last fall held seats that were in traditionally Republican areas.