The leader of an influential House conservative caucus is charting a future for the GOP that deemphasizes President Trump but marries his populist agenda with traditional conservatism, a hybrid Republicanism he believes can win national elections.
“The Trump agenda was what was popular — not Trump the man,” Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, incoming chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “As it appears more and more likely that Trump will not be in the White House and we will begin the post-Trump era, our party has to begin a conversation of what we look like moving forward. No one is having that conversation. I want to lead it.”
The RSC focuses on writing legislation and, over the years, has been a springboard for prominent Republicans such as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Banks assumes command of the group in January.
The 41-year-old congressman and military veteran views Trump’s loss to President-elect Joe Biden as a failure of personality, not policy, pointing to Republican gains in Congress as proof the commander in chief’s legislative portfolio resonates. Banks wants to keep what worked, pairing popular elements of Trump populism with a fresh slate of reforms rooted in pre-Trump conservative principles that address healthcare, deficit reduction, and other thorny political issues.
Banks wants to pitch this updated GOP agenda with a unifying tone. The substantial bloc of disaffected Republicans who voted for Biden but supported Republicans down-ballot are his target.
“No one in the conservative movement is having the conversation about how we bring Bush compassionate conservatives and marry them with Trump populists — the party of Reagan with the party of Trump,” Banks said.