Salena Zito

  “For many years, these districts produced Republican majorities for presidents but continued to vote for their Democratic incumbent congressman,” Eisenach said.

  Like moderates from border states and parts of the upper Midwest, they typically produce more pork for their districts than more urban or suburban liberal Democrats, who often represent either minorities or affluent liberals.

  A moderate Democrat is almost always against stringent gun control, is personally against abortion, is skeptical about extending affirmative action beyond anti-discrimination, supports a fairly aggressive foreign policy, wears patriotism on their sleeves, and actually sees periodic conflicts between regulation and job-creation.

  “Only one of Oklahoma’s congressional districts can conceivably be won by a moderate Democrat but each year it gets harder,” said Eisenach.

  Guys such as Boren are not good-ole-boy party hacks; these moderate Democrats are superbly educated and morally serious.

  Their profiles closely match Republicans recently elected to Congress, Eisenach said, “except for one thing: a large constituency and party that listen to them, and an ideological passion to seek major changes.”

  The bulk of moderate Democrats who have announced retirement strike him as deeply disappointed people who were unable to use their considerable talents in office.

  David Wasserman, House analyst for the Cook Political Report, points to this statistic: “There are six conservative Southern Democratic House members remaining. After 2012, it’s possible none of them, who are threatened by redistricting, will be in office.”

  And the 19 Democrats who voted against Nancy Pelosi for the House Minority Leader position have very little incentive to stay; they’re a minority within a minority in the House, not to mention members of a minority party in their districts. “So they’re triply marginalized,” said Wasserman.

  The moderate Democrat is a disappearing breed, which is a problem for Democrats overall – because, in any given election year, those moderates could be the difference between being in the majority or the minority party.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.