Bad news: Centrist group collapses after party is captured by ideological extremists

No, not the Republican Party.

The Democratic Leadership Council, the iconic centrist organization of the Clinton years, is out of money and could close its doors as soon as next week, a person familiar with the plans said Monday.

The DLC, a network of Democratic elected officials and policy intellectuals had long been fading from its mid-’90s political relevance, tarred by the left as a symbol of “triangulation” at a moment when there’s little appetite for intra-party warfare on the center-right. The group tried — but has failed — to remake itself in the summer of 2009, when its founder, Al From, stepped down as president. Its new leader, former Clinton aide Bruce Reed, sought to remake the group as a think tank, and the DLC split from its associated think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute…

The DLC is already showing signs of disrepair. Its website currently leads a Harold Ford op-ed from last November, titled, “Yes we can collaborate.” It lists as its staff just four people, and has only one fellow. Recent tax returns weren’t immediately publicly available, but returns from 2004-2008 show a decline in its budget from $2.6 million to $1.5 million, and a source said funding further dried up during the financial crisis that began nine months before Reed took over.

Geraghty reminds us that nutroots icons like Kos have been gunning for the DLC for years, but I think the Council simply outlived its purpose. Virtually everyone in Congress who might have listened to them — i.e. the Blue Dogs — was wiped out in the big red tsunami in November, and the few survivors left in the south are now busily converting to the GOP to protect themselves. There are other groups available to lobby from the center (Third Way, No Labels), and Democrats are fully aware of how desperately they need to win back independents in 2012 to reelect Obama. They have every incentive, in other words, to tack right on some issues without Harold Ford urging them to do so. The only question: Can Nancy bring herself to do it?

In other “centrist Democrats imploding” news, Jane Harman announced today that she’s quitting Congress, which almost certainly means she’ll be replaced by someone more liberal, and Heath Shuler turned up on Scarborough’s show to confirm that, yes indeed, Pelosi is happy to entirely ignore the Blue Dogs in her caucus. Exit question: Where do moderate Democrats turn now? To the master of triangulation himself? Or to characters even more sinister?