Stephen Bannon's misplaced war

Stephen Bannon's misplaced war
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D-Ind.) is certainly happy to hear about Stephen Bannon’s war on the Republican establishment.

So is Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On 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 MORE (D-N.D.). And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (D-Mont.).  And Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism On The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage Michelle Obama would be tied with Biden as frontrunner if she ran in 2020, poll shows MORE (D-Ohio) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate MORE (D-W.Va.).

And Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor The 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 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 McConnellDems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Sanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE (R-Ky.).

McConnell, at great personal and reputational cost, stopped President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Obama spends Presidents Day at Ayesha Curry's San Francisco restaurant Government's misguided holiday to celebrate itself 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 CruzO'Rourke mulling another Senate run as well as presidential bid Texas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes Trump working on labels for 2020 Dems: report 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 TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ 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.).