Stephen Bannon's misplaced war

Stephen Bannon's misplaced war
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (D-Ind.) is certainly happy to hear about Stephen Bannon’s war on the Republican establishment.

So is Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (D-N.D.). And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank GOP defeats Schumer bid to delay tax vote MORE (D-Mont.).  And Sens. Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineDemocrats turn on Al Franken Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Overnight Regulation: Feds push to clarify regs on bump stocks | Interior wants Trump to shrink two more monuments | Navajo Nation sues over monument rollback | FCC won't delay net neutrality vote | Senate panel approves bill easing Dodd-Frank rules MORE (D-Ohio) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries MORE (D-W.Va.).

And Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mo.).

The list goes on.

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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 McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.).

McConnell, at great personal and reputational cost, stopped President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation 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 CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 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
establishment.

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 TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia 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 www.thefeeherytheory.com. 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.).