(CNN)Democrats were jubilant Thursday as Nancy Pelosi reclaimed the speaker’s gavel and the House of Representatives opened the 116th Congress. But you have to wonder how long the kumbaya can last in the Democratic conference, as divisions over style and tactics have already become apparent.
Can Pelosi keep her conference from fracturing the way the Republicans’ did after winning a House majority in 2010?
The Republicans and Freedom Caucus members were united on most votes but not all; the same will be true for these Democratic factions. The question is whether the differences of opinion will boil over the way they did for Republicans, driving the party’s elected leadership crazy.
Well, Democrats won the House and the bloodthirsty partisans aren’t just going to forget about what drove them to donate and knock on doors in 2018. This will be a major headache for Pelosi, who has the political acumen to understand that a hyperpartisan impeachment proceeding could easily backfire and cost her party dearly in 2020.
Whether Pelosi can hold her conference together will have more of an effect on 2020’s presidential campaign than on policymaking, anyway. With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his 53-seat majority in the Senate standing ready to block whatever shots the House puts up, the challenge for Pelosi is running an agenda that could be packaged and sold by the Democratic nominee for president.
If she can’t control her progressive flank over the next two years, the fractured result could be that voters in middle America come to the same conclusion they did in 2016: The national Democratic Party is just too extreme to be entrusted with the presidency.