U.S. Rep. Jim Banks and U.S. Sen. Todd Young.
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks and U.S. Sen. Todd Young.

WASHINGTON – Two Indiana Republicans – Sen. Todd Young and Rep. Jim Banks – are positioned to play roles in reshaping the party after a tumultuous end to the Trump administration that saw the GOP lose the White House and the Senate.

The denouement of President Donald Trump’s tenure was the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 by supporters inflamed by his claims of election fraud that had been rejected by state officials and courts.

But it wasn’t just the end of Trump’s term that was marked by anger. It characterized his rhetoric and the mindset of many in his constituency. 

As he prepares to run for reelection in 2022, Young is working on a plan to change the GOP’s approach to addressing economic and social grievances. He wants the party to be more positive in its policy framing.

“There is a question about whether our party is going to be a party that is grounded in resentment and anxiety and fear or if, instead, we’re going to be an aspirational party that is dedicated towards addressing the convergence of globalization and the fourth technological revolution and urbanization and the lack of agency and control over one’s lives that these those different forces have imposed upon certain segments of our population,” Young told reporters on a Feb. 2 conference call. “That’s what we need to wrestle with right now – and the hollowing out of certain communities on account of these forces.”

Young said answers will come from societal institutions, including government.

“Count me on that end of the party that wants to provide solutions opposed to harnessing anger, and resentment and anxiety,” said Young, the former c
chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.

Over in the House, Banks (3rd CD) is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a large caucus of conservatives whose influence is magnified in a chamber with a slim Democratic majority.

Banks spoke to HPI on Wednesday just after concluding his first RSC luncheon at the helm of the group. He said the RSC is developing an agenda that combines traditional Republican priorities embodied by President Ronald Reagan – such as fiscal conservatism, strong defense and support of pro-life policies – with Trump’s emphasis on reforming big-tech policy and getting tough on China.

“How do we marry the Reagan Republican wing of our party with the more populist wing of the party that Trump has brought into the fold?” Banks said. “If we can effectively do that, we’ll have a party that’s strong in the 2022 and 2024 elections and beyond.”

Both Young and Banks are trying to bring Republican governance as practiced in Indiana to the wider party, said former GOP Rep. Luke Messer, who is now a principal at Faegre Drinker Consulting.

“To be a long-term governing coalition, we have to be a party of principles, not personality,” said Messer, a former executive director of the Indiana GOP and former policy chair for House Republicans. “What they’re both talking about is taking the conservative principles you’ve seen in action in Indiana over the past 16 years and applying them nationally.”

Although most voters rejected Trump’s bombast and provocations, he promoted a populism that struck a chord – as did politicians on the left, such Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“It’s a mistake to ignore populist sentiment,” Messer said. “This is an international phenomenon, not just a domestic one.”

Banks credits Trump with moving the GOP away from monied interests.

“Before President Trump, we were more of the party that would bend to the whims of Wall Street, rather than putting Main Street America, blue-collar America,” first, Banks said.

Banks and Young differ on some issues that have roiled the GOP.

Banks voted against certifying presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania on the day that rioters broke into the Capitol. Young voted in favor of certification.

Banks said “election integrity” is another RSC priority. “It’s the issue that every Republican cares about no matter what they did on Jan. 6.”

Banks and Young also take different stances on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. Greene has espoused extremist views on school shootings and has voiced support for QAnon conspiracy theories. Banks said he condemns Greene’s rhetoric but is hesitant to deny her committee assignments.

“It’s a slippery slope to start to take members of Congress off committees for things they did or said before they were elected,” Banks said.

Young didn’t temporize about Greene.

“She’s nutty,” Young said. “She’s an embarrassment to our party. There’s no place for her in the Republican Party. People of her congressional district, it’s their prerogative if they want to abase themselves, if they want to elect someone who indulges in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and all manner of other nonsense. I’ve got no tolerance for people like that.”

Greene is one of the many challenges facing the GOP. Young and Banks will help determine how the party responds. 

Schoeff is HPI’s Washington correspondent.