There’s almost no outcome to this struggle that will leave the Democratic caucus stronger heading into the new session. Allowing Pelosi to take the role can hardly be considered a win. She’s perhaps the most hated Democratic leader in politics today, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton — and Trump would love nothing more than to spend the second half of his first term governing in opposition to her House.
A failed attempt to oust her could present a bigger problem for the Left. Even if she manages to avoid being overthrown, the very existence of a substantial opposition effort signals weakness within the party. She’d be forced to govern the factions that tried to replace her, and she’d have to do it while Republicans hold the Senate and a combative Republican president sits in the Oval Office.
If Democrats manage to support a challenger who wins the speakership instead of Pelosi, it will be a vote of no confidence in the party establishment. And it will come just as Democrats intend to use their new control of the House to investigate Trump — and as a slew of candidates begins competing for the honor of trying to unseat him in 2020.