The race between Rep. Howard Berman and Rep. Brad Sherman for the newly configured 30th congressional district, in the San Fernando Valley, is a demonstration of raw human tribalism and our eager propensity to fight over most everything. It demonstrates how substantive similarities between two candidates from the same party won't prevent both sides from fighting each other with imagination, energy and passion.
In Sherman's case, the fighting became fairly literal at a recent debate. The younger and larger candidate grabbed Berman and seemed to challenge him to a spontaneous gunfight, fisticuffs or dance-off. We're not sure entirely what the nature of his challenge was, as he yelled, "You want to get into this?," but it wasn't surprising that he later offered a sheepish concession that the moment wouldn't make his political highlight reel.
Sherman's shocking loss of control should disqualify any candidate for most any office in a civilized society, until such time that we agree to a system in which all disagreements are resolved by professional wrestling. But there are other reasons why Berman deserves to return to Congress.
Berman has served the nation exceedingly well as the ranking Democrat on the House's Foreign Affairs Committee, bringing coherence and diplomacy to America's efforts to manage its complex alliances in the Middle East, South Asia, and other hot spots. Berman is respected and adored by Washington colleagues, which allows him to be effective in serving his constituents's specific goals and needs. (Robert Gates, speaking a few weeks ago at USC, noted that the ability to make friends in D.C. should be viewed once again as an asset, not a liability, in our hysterically polarized times.)
And Los Angeles as a whole has benefited from Berman's ability to moderate America's conversations with the world. Figures such as Berman will be even more crucial in coming years. It is time for the Valley, Los Angeles and Southern California as a whole to step forward and assert their collective identity as America's major hub within a global -- and increasingly Pacific -- era.
Southern California now serves as the United States' dominant gateway to the world's growing economies, and the West Coast as a whole has a chance soon enough to pass the East Coast in relevance to the nation's future. This can benefit all Southern Californians, including residents of the 30th district.
But the region's expanding role and potential influence is being neglected, with predictable jealousy, by Atlantic-based experts, such as Harvard and Columbia scholars who last year implausibly left it off their list of the major world-shaping urban centers of coming years.
In such a context, losing Berman's global gravitas would be a setback for a region that has so much to look forward to and which needs to raise its profile nationally and internationally. Combined with the far lower risk of him grabbing and wrestling colleagues in future disputes, he looks to be the 30th district's best bet for the future.