Stephen Bannon's misplaced war

Stephen Bannon's misplaced war
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party Senate approves funding bill, preventing partial government shutdown MORE (D-Ind.) is certainly happy to hear about Stephen Bannon’s war on the Republican establishment.

So is Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Gary Cohn criticizes the shutdown: 'Completely wrong' EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D-N.D.). And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party MORE (D-Mont.).  And Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Democrats signal they'll reject Trump shutdown proposal Trump expected to pitch immigration deal to end funding stalemate MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell Brown2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend Sen. Casey says he won't run for president in 2020 The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story MORE (D-Ohio) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Centrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Bipartisan group of senators will urge Trump to reopen government for 3 weeks MORE (D-W.Va.).

And Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government Ex-Sen. McCaskill joins NBC, MSNBC Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party 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 McConnellSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback MORE (R-Ky.).

McConnell, at great personal and reputational cost, stopped President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAmericans need an economy that supports more than the 1 percent Pompeo’s retreat into chaos Barack Obama wishes Michelle a happy birthday: 'You’re one of a kind' 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 CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science 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 TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ 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.).