How Bernie Sanders And Steve Bannon Are Defining American Politics

The battle lines for the 2018 midterm election are being revealed as both parties gear up for emotional debates on issues and positions that were one confined to the radical fringes but now drive American politics.

Republican fratricide is looming in a clash between Donald Trump's populist, economic nationalism and Washington governing elites compered by Steve Bannon and shows the GOP's destructive 2016 primary did nothing to solve its deep philosophical splits.

Republicans always knew that 2018 was going to be a tough year -- first-term incumbent presidents and their parties traditionally get a lashing from the voters. But the GOP's hopes of holding the House and expanding its majority in a favorable set of Senate races are being threatened by internecine conflict.

Now, his erstwhile political guru Bannon, styling himself as a "street fighter," is eying up a roster of GOP primary challengers more in line with Trump's establishment-busting creed than the senators and dwellers of the Washington swamp who currently occupy Republican seats.

It's a high-risk strategy, since some senior party figures fear that a desire to punish senators insufficiently loyal to Trump in primary races could deliver candidates who are less well-placed to defeat Democrats.

"I do get the fact that Bannon wants to help the President," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican political strategist. 

"I get the fact that a lot of folks who support the President are frustrated with more mainstream members of Congress who are not pushing the Trump agenda through," he added. "That said, this could wind up being potentially disastrous. It's one thing to challenge a candidate but if you can't field a challenger who can win in the general election that is absolutely not helpful."

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Analysis & Political Strategy