Thursday, April 18, 2024

Jim Banks Leads House GOP Crusade Against Wokeism

At a time when Republicans are increasingly asserting themselves in battles over a coterie of acronyms that have captured the commanding heights of American society – ESG, DEI, and CRT – Rep. Jim Banks has emerged as a leader in the GOP-controlled House of the fight against the “wokeism” these theories collectively represent.

A fourth-term congressman from Indiana, Banks has earned his anti-woke bona fides by engaging in high-profile clashes with military officials over their embrace of “anti-racist” literature and related initiatives, the Chamber of Commerce over issues ranging from woke capitalism to China, and Twitter over his “misgendering” of Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine.

During his tenure chairing the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, Banks advocated in a memo to then-minority leader Kevin McCarthy that the party make fighting wokeism an essential part of the GOP’s effort to court working class voters.

This January, he announced his most ambitious effort yet: Banks would be building a new anti-woke caucus. The timing of the announcement came within days of a bigger one – that Banks would be running for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2024.

What follows are excerpts from an interview with Ben Weingarten, conducted with Rep. Banks by telephone on February 23, edited for clarity and length.

Weingarten: President Biden recently put out an affirmatively advancing equity executive order 2.0. I’m curious as to your thoughts generally on the two such orders, and what Republicans in Congress are obligated to do to combat them.

Banks: Wokeism is a cancer that’s going to eat our country inside out and kill us if we don’t do something about it, and the Biden administration doubling down on it is just a testament to how important it is for Republicans to do something about it now.

BW: I understand that there are a dozen or so members who may be joining the Anti-Woke Caucus, and that you anticipate hopefully bringing in dozens more. Why aren’t there more like 100 or 200 Republican members who would want to join such a caucus? Is it political, or is it on the merits that they would have trepidations about it?

JB: So we started it because we believe it’s important, and one of the duties that we have with the Anti-Woke Caucus is to help members understand what wokeism is and develop a strategy across the board of what to do about it. So I’m convening my colleagues for our first meeting coming up in a couple of weeks. We have 20 members who have reached out and signed on. We’ve invited every member of Congress to join the Anti-Woke Caucus. As a side note, the highest-ranking Republican to join the Anti-Woke Caucus is [Chair of the House Republican Conference] Elise Stefanik.

But we’re just getting started I don’t want to demean any colleague who hasn’t joined our effort but we intend to be active, we intend to be very productive over the two-year term of the Congress.

BW: Critics suggest that broadly, “culture war” issues which are often bound up in one way or another with wokeism, and anti-wokeism aren’t necessarily political winners in places Republicans need to win to establish substantial majorities in Congress and win the presidency. How do you respond to those skeptical of this fight?

JB: Well, wokeism is the opposite of Americanism or patriotism. And what we need more than ever in our country is a renewal of patriotism. And as I put it, the anti-Americanism, critical race theory, these anti-American woke ideologies are self-defeating for our country. How do we raise up the next generation of young men and women who will do what I did, raise their right hand to serve in the military, to protect and defend our country or to build and advance America in significant ways if at the same time we’re teaching them that America is inherently evil, racist, not worth dying and fighting for?

So we have to reverse course. And wokeism is becoming deeply embedded in all of our institutions, schools, of course, the federal government, our military … This isn’t about politics but the future of our country, and I believe that the country at large, the voters, the American people, they get that and they understand how important it is that we fight back against it. So at the end of the day that’s inherently a political winner.

BW: You obviously have a target-rich environment because as you noted, virtually every institution has been captured by wokeism in one way or another, starting with the federal government broadly. Certainly, that provides an opportunity to expose, where necessary, defund, and prohibit woke activities at the federal level. That’s kind of the negative agenda. What do you see to the extent you root out this “cancer” in the federal government the positive agenda looking like?

JB: In our opening statement in the American Mind, when I wrote and explained why I was creating the Anti-Woke Caucus, really [it covered] three missions: Identify Wokeism, defund it and uproot it, and then hold those accountable for it like General [Mark] Milley for pushing wokeism on our troops, or other administration officials who are pushing it in the federal government and using taxpayer dollars and resources to advance it. So, you’re right, that’s a defensive measure.

But offensively, we need to get back to teaching our kids that America is the greatest source for good in the world, America is the greatest country in the history of the world … And we’ve had leaders at different points in the past in this country who recognized that from Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, to Donald Trump understood that at different points in American history that we had to restore Americanism and patriotism. I hope the Anti-Woke Caucus will be a force for that … To do just that.

BW: You have this 10,000-ton elephant in the room of an administrative state where even if its woke functions get defunded, personnel, career officials, and the like, are still probably going to try to impose it – even if not by name. To that end, do you sense that there’s an appetite within the legislative branch to actually take on the administrative state more broadly, strip protections from civil servants so that there can be a change in personnel as well as a change in policy?

JB: Yeah I do. I believe that there is an opening or a moment to do that currently. And I look at what Governor DeSantis has done in Florida talk about good politics he’s taught Republicans that when you fight back and you don’t back down, these issues are political winners. And going after the administrative state and kind of the roadmap that he built there, banning mandatory diversity statements in the federal government like he has done at the state level, banning DEI trainings and CRT being taught in schools, anti-Americanism being taught in schools.

So I think when we go out at the federal level and we develop that strategy, advance it, it’s only gonna benefit us at the ballot box at the same time. But I do believe there’s a window of opportunity and a lot of motivation among legislators at the federal level to do that.

BW: What kind of legislative activity can the public expect from the caucus?

JB: Yeah, a few things: We want to be a clearing house for good legislation and elevate good legislative efforts by bringing attention to bills that members of the House and the Senate are advancing and highlight them and help them build cosponsors and growing support for legislative efforts. So that’s one thing that we want to do.

But as soon as we can, probably midway through the Congress, I think we want to come out with a midway report in the Congress kind of identifying at that point, the larger strategy to uproot wokeism.

But I think the most important thing that we can do is not just draft legislation and introduce it ourselves, but highlight other good pieces of legislation across the board and help grow support that’s the whole point of having a caucus.

BW: What do you make of the attacks of Senator Schumer, Congressman Thompson, and others about the release of the 41,000 hours of Capitol Police footage or Capitol Complex footage to Tucker Carlson and more generally that it poses some kind of security threat? Is that a legitimate criticism?

JB: Of course not. Speaker McCarthy deserves a tremendous amount of support. I can’t think of a greater example in a lifetime of government transparency than what Speaker McCarthy has advanced in releasing all of these videos. The public deserves to know what happened that day. The reason Nancy Pelosi kicked me off the [Jan. 6] committee is because she knew that I was going to lead the way in exposing her negligence and her lack of leadership that ultimately resulted in the tragic day that was Jan. 6. And she kicked me off the committee because she wanted the committee to provide a one-sided report which was politically motivated to attack her political enemies.

And what Speaker McCarthy has done deserves a great amount of praise and support because he’s doing just the opposite. Let the facts speak for themselves, and I have no doubt that after Tucker Carlson is finished reviewing that video footage, the American people are going to see and learn things that they never heard from Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney and a sham Jan. 6 Committee. And that’ll provide a healthier opportunity to do everything that we can to make sure that something like Jan. 6 never happens again.

BW: There’s a sense of despair among some on the right that those who have weaponized institutions – namely the national security and law enforcement apparatus – never really pay a price for it – that there’s a two-standard justice system, even going beyond the justice system qua justice system. What would you say to those who believe that justice won’t ever be meted out to those deserving of it?

JB: Yeah, I share the disgust and the concern that so many Americans have that justice won’t be served especially against the most corrupt administration of an American history. You talk about two sets of justice, you look at how the FBI treated Donald Trump and the raid on Mar-a-Lago for classified documents versus how they’ve handled a very similar situation with President Biden. And the American people see it, they get it, they’re disgusted by it but they’re also weary from Republicans in the past who promised justice, never to see justice served.

So we have a moment in time, we have a Republican majority, it’s a four-seat slim Republican majority, and with it, we have a moral duty to make sure that justice is served and to hold people accountable who have abused their power and their public trust. And I have a higher degree of confidence that Jim Jordan, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will do more over the next two years on this front than we’ve ever seen a Republican do in history. So I remain optimistic that we will see accountability like we’ve never seen it before, but Republicans have a moral duty to make sure that that happens.

BW: Well, Congressman, I appreciate you taking the time.

JB: You got it. I’ll just draw attention to our piece in the American Mind and Tom Klingenstein’s response or sort of his guidance – which we view as the north star to the Anti-Woke Caucus – his counsel and advice. And we’re trying to rise to the moment, a very important moment in American history to combat Wokeism but even more importantly, to restore Americanism and patriotism in this great country again.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.