Stephen Bannon's misplaced war

Stephen Bannon's misplaced war
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyK Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Some in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE (D-Ind.) is certainly happy to hear about Stephen Bannon’s war on the Republican establishment.

So is Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA Biden office highlights support from women after second accuser comes forward MORE (D-N.D.). And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) Tester20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Bipartisan senators want 'highest possible' funding for carbon capture technology MORE (D-Mont.).  And Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Dems ask Justice Dept to release findings of Acosta-Epstein investigation MORE (D-Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery Sherrod Brown asks Trump Fed pick why he referred to Cleveland, Cincinnati as 'armpits of America' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Ohio) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCain says he withdrew from Fed consideration because of 'pay cut' On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed MORE (D-W.Va.).

And Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? Dems charge ahead on immigration Biden and Bernie set for clash MORE (R-Ky.).

McConnell, at great personal and reputational cost, stopped President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaChina, Russia, Iran rise in Latin America as US retreats Castro wants to follow Obama's lead on balancing presidency with fatherhood Trump's regulatory rollback boosts odds of a financial crisis 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 CruzCornyn campaign, Patton Oswalt trade jabs over comedian's support for Senate candidate MJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Liberal survey: Sanders cruising, Buttigieg rising 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 TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 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.).