As Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives tout their unity at a gathering in Baltimore this week, they're facing conflict not just with Republicans but now progressive activists warning against any compromise with Donald Trump.
Democratic lawmakers have cheered as liberals protested President Trump's immigration policies and turned out in huge numbers to march on Washington. But that same progressive fury is increasingly being turned against them, a development that could lead to Democratic primary challenges from the left.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a Thursday interview that she supports activists exercising their rights but questioned targeting someone like Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, who represents a suburban Sacramento swing district narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
"What's their point, do they want to defeat him in the general (election)? I don't think that's a good idea," Pelosi said, standing outside meetings rooms in a Baltimore hotel where Democrats were plotting strategies for how to win House seats in the 2018 midterm election.
A group called "the Resistance" has demonstrated at the Elk Grove district office of California Rep. Bera. He is far from alone in California and nationwide. Some 200 protesters angry about Sen. Dianne Feinstein's support for some of Trump's nominees converged on her San Francisco mansion last month.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was jeered by progressives in New York. Even liberal icon Sen. EIizabeth Warren of Massachusetts suffered a backlash from the left for her support of Trump nominee Ben Carson to be the secretary of housing and urban development.
Pelosi, who represents a liberal San Francisco district, said activists can't expect all Democrats to share positions.
"They can't expect somebody who represents my constituents and somebody who represents a much more conservative district to have an agenda that is exactly (the same), except when it comes to America's working families," Pelosi said.
The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee on Tuesday listed Bera among its top California targets in the 2018 midterm election and claimed the protests show he lacks support in his district.
Bera has been criticized on the left for positions including 2016 support of the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, legislation that denied certain federal funds for state or local governments that impede the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The protesters say their goal is to "hold Ami Bera responsible and keep him progressive.” Their actions at Bera’s office and others have been peaceful and they’ve supported some of Bera’s positions.
Bera, who is attending the conference in Baltimore, said Thursday that the demonstrations at his office and a town hall meeting he held last month are "great."
"It's a grassroots that's energized," Bera said. "We need that energy."
He said that while he and the protesters might differ on policies, they share the same values that Trump is assaulting.
Tension between progressive advocates and Democratic lawmakers has creeped into the House Democrats' retreat in Baltimore this week, where Democrats are plotting strategy to gain seats in the 2018 midterm election. A coalition of progressive advocates criticized party leaders for inviting centrist think tank Third Way, which raises money on Wall Street.
The protests will have big consequences for Democratic lawmakers if they lead to primary election challenges in 2018.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V. was heavily criticized on twitter for his vote in favor of Trump nominee Jeff Sessions as attorney general, with calls for a primary challenge.
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky. said that is a risk. But the protests against lawmakers don't seem organized to produce political candidates for the Democratic primary, he said.
"I don't sense the protesters are necessarily Democratic groups. I think they would probably vote Democratic but they are there for different reasons, a lot of it is visceral," he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Democrats' only chance "of effectively pushing back against Trump" is to remain unified and not lost in fights between the left and the center.
"That is going to be an enormous challenge," Schiff said.