Stephen Bannon's misplaced war

Stephen Bannon's misplaced war
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDem super PAC launches ad defending Donnelly on taxes Republicans insist tax law will help in midterms GOP chairman: House won't vote on Senate bill to loosen Dodd-Frank unless senators negotiate MORE (D-Ind.) is certainly happy to hear about Stephen Bannon’s war on the Republican establishment.

So is Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampBiden: Trump ‘dumbs down’ American values Power struggle threatens to sink bank legislation Overnight Finance: House threatens to freeze Senate Dodd-Frank rollback | New Russia sanctions | Trump vs. Trudeau on trade | Court tosses Obama financial adviser rule MORE (D-N.D.). And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate GOP: We will grow our majority in midterms Senate passes bipartisan bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Green Party Senate candidate was previously on state GOP payroll: report MORE (D-Mont.).  And Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBill to bolster gun background checks gains enough support to break filibuster Senators demand cyber deterrence strategy from Trump Two-year defense spending smooths the way to a ready military MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocratic senator: People don’t know what’s going on between Trump and Putin Power struggle threatens to sink bank legislation Pension committee must deliver on retirement promise MORE (D-Ohio) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate GOP: We will grow our majority in midterms CIA torture could stymie nominee An upset, yes, but a short victory lap for Democrat Lamb in Pennsylvania MORE (D-W.Va.).

And Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP Senate candidate slams McCaskill over Clinton ties Dems meddle against Illinois governor ahead of GOP primary Republicans insist tax law will help in midterms MORE (D-Mo.).

The list goes on.

There are 12 Democrats on the ballot in 2018 who got less than 55 percent of the vote in the last election.

Nine of them live in states that voted for Donald Trump.

And yet, Stephen Bannon, in all of his wisdom, is choosing to spend valuable campaign resources launching a war against allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate confirms Trump's border chief House leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill MORE (R-Ky.).

McConnell, at great personal and reputational cost, stopped President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller Stock market is in an election year: Will your vote impact your money? Trump will perpetuate bailouts by signing bank reform bill MORE’s effort to shift the Supreme Court to the left for a generation. He then ushered through a conservative replacement to Antonin Scalia and saved the conservative cause considerable heartache for years to come.

The Senate majority leader hasn’t exactly been twiddling his thumbs since the Senate captured slight control of the chamber at the beginning of the year.  He has been working closely with the Trump administration to help them put good, conservative judges in place throughout the judicial branch.

As Jeffery Toobin wrote in the August issue of The New Yorker, “So while the public watches Trump churn through White House staff members, his Administration is humming along nicely in filling federal judgeships, with the enthusiastic assistance of the Republican majority in the Senate.”

This trend has only accelerated since the summer and if Mr. McConnell is able to keep up the pace, and if the White House can continue to do its job of nominating decent conservative judges to vacant posts, this effort could utterly transform the judicial branch to make it much more friendly to so-called values voters.

The Values Voter Summit, the place where Mr. Bannon declared war against Sen. McConnell, started in 2006, as a gathering of social conservatives who came together to vent about the Republican leadership.

The GOP, like the Democrats, is necessarily a coalition of varied interests. Social conservatives are one of those interests, but not in any way the only one. The Values Voter Summit was founded as a way for these social conservatives to more directly make their concerns heard.

Republican leaders through the years have at times taken those concerns seriously and at other times have ignored them. 

In 2015, the Values Voter Summit endorsed Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Tech: Facebook faces crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Lawmakers demand answers | What to watch for next | Day one of AT&T's merger trial | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian The case for a new branch of the military: United States Space Force The problem with hindsight MORE (R-Texas) for president.  Only 5 percent of attendees voted for Donald Trump, who at the time was seen as little more than a curiosity.

Now, he is seen as their last, best chance to save America from liberals, communists, feminists and the hated Republican

I am so old, I remember when this same group of anti-establishmentarians endorsed Mitt Romney for the White House.

So, perhaps it is fitting that Bannon announce his plans to take out McConnell and the whole Republican party apparatus. It’s all nonsense, meant to satisfy Bannon’s ego and perhaps scare up some potential donors for his next big, money-making project.

It also is a huge distraction from what is at stake in the next election.

If Bannon truly cared about his ex-boss and his ex-boss’s agenda, he would find a way to work with the Senate majority leader and aggressively target the 12 Democrats who are vulnerable in 2018.

Midterm elections are usually a report card on the president’s performance. If the president is seen as failing, his party gets punished; if not, the party gets a pass.

Overcoming that historical dynamic will be tough.  To be successful, President TrumpDonald John TrumpLieu: There will be 'widespread civil unrest' if Trump fires Mueller Attorneys for Trump, Mueller hold face-to-face meeting to discuss potential interview topics: report Trump tariffs not helpful for nuclear talks, South Korea says MORE will have to campaign against do-nothing Democrats who offer nothing but obstruction and obfuscation.

But to do that, he needs Bannon to stop his silly war against McConnell and turn his sights on the Democrats.  They are the ones who are stopping this president from being successful, not the Senate majority leader, who is doing his job as well as anybody could.

Feehery is partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at He served as spokesman to former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as speechwriter to former Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).