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On March 14, 2006, Marcy Winograd, a longtime Democratic Party activist, announced that she would challenge Representative Jane Harman for California's 36th Congressional district seat.

"My campaign is building on a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and the Bush administration's policies, which continue to remove the civil liberties of American citizens," Winograd said. "In just the few weeks since I decided to run, I've received an outpouring of public support and political endorsements."

Jane Harman, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, had come under extensive criticism from the left. Her support for the Iraq War and her February 12 appearance on Meet the Press in which she expressed support for the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, energized the the progressive left to work against her. Winograd earned the endorsements of "Progressive Democrats of America, Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, the Western Region of the United Auto Workers union and a half-dozen presidents of local Democratic clubs."

How did Harman respond? By trying to reach out to progressives and by listening. That included creating an account here at Daily Kos. In what were some often heated exchanges, Harman interacted with this community. And she listened to us. On June 1, the week before the California primary, she wrote:

Now I know that many Kossacks don't agree with me on every issue, and many of you may even be supporting my primary opponent.  But you may be surprised at how much we do agree on.  

You and I agree that the Bush Administration hyped and selectively released intelligence to build the case for war in Iraq.  Had the White House been straight with the American people, diplomacy could have succeeded, making military action unnecessary.

You and I agree that the Bush Administration's NSA wiretap program without warrants is wrong, it violates the law.  There's no reason that President Bush and the Justice Department couldn't follow the tried-and-true procedures under FISA that protect civil liberties.  That's why John Conyers and I recently introduced the LISTEN Act, co-sponsored by 46 other Members of Congress, to turn up the heat on the White House.

You and I agree that the drumbeat towards war in Iran must end.  We don't know nearly enough about Iran's true capabilities or intentions -- nor has the Bush Administration taken advantage of all the diplomatic, political, and economic options available to us.

You and I agree that we must always protect a women's right to choose -- protect and preserve our environment -- guarantee equal rights for all, including gays and lesbians.

That's why we're Democrats -- and that's why it's so important that Democrats win back the House this November.  I know we agree on that. [Emphasis in original]

When confronted with a primary challenge from the left of her party, Rep. Harman understood that she had lost touch with an important component of her base. And she understood that she needed to find out why, needed to begin a conversation with those party activists and with the netroots community. Not only did she post diaries, she stuck around to comment. Not all of us agreed with her responses, and were adamant in telling her so. But we had an honest exchange of views and, amazingly, she began to take a harder line against the Bush administration. She came back to being a Democrat.

That's how a good politician, a good Democrat, and a responsible representative responds to a primary challenge. By realizing that they've got a problem back home, and responding to it. Contrast it to this:

Friends say his predicament has left Mr. Lieberman nervous, dispirited and angry, a portrait of a politician stunned to face opponents as passionate in their loathing of his principles as he is proud of them. . . . Yet he suddenly finds himself in a nasty tangle, not with the Republicans who held little back in their effort to thwart his run for vice president, but with a wing of his own party that has adopted a bloody-knuckle approach to politics and wants to finish him off in Connecticut's primary on Aug. 8. . . .

To Mr. Lieberman's camp, the bloggers embody what his longtime friend Lanny Davis calls "the demonizing, hating, virulent, character-assassinating left of the Democratic Party. . . . He's being subjected to the hate machine like Bill Clinton and George Bush have," said Mr. Davis, a former special counsel to Mr. Clinton. "Joe Lieberman has never been subjected to this before."

Says Joe:

"There are people who really disappoint you, you trusted them, you thought they were friends," [Lieberman] said quietly. "Then there are the people who don't forget you."
. . .

Lieberman is quick to turn that accusation around. "Look, talk about who is a good Democrat or who is a bad Democrat. By running his campaign on this single issue, he has taken the safest Democratic Senate seat and put it somewhat in jeopardy," he says disingenuously. "And he has taken three Democratic House challengers, each of whom has a chance to get elected, and by putting me in a position that I may not be on the Democratic line, has made it harder for them to get elected."

A good Democrat, Senator Lieberman, is loyal to his party and to his ideals. This can be achieved when the Democratic representative respects dissenting views and does not operate from a sense of entitlement.

A good Democratic representative respects the will of his constituents even when he disagrees with their views. He listens and responds. He explains his views and respects those that oppose him. He does not accuse his constituency of undermining the security of the nation because they disagree with him and the Republican president.

A good Democratic Senator does not accuse his fellow Senators of imperiling the nation's security by opposing the president. There are many examples of good Democrats who disagree with the Democratic base on the the Iraq Debacle. One of them is your Congressional colleague Jane Harman, once ironically known as the "Joe Lieberman of the House." It is clear now that that labelling Harman as that is false and unfair. Would that we could have called you the Jane Harman of the Senate. It was not to be.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 01:19 PM PDT.

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