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The Journal Gazette

  • Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd

Monday, June 12, 2017 3:50 pm

Banks walking political 'tightrope'

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Freshman Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, and his northeast Indiana constituency are the subjects of a story in The Atlantic.

The headline of the piece – "Y'all Sent Me to Washington at an Interesting Time" – is from a remark that Banks made to John Sutton, owner of Sutton's Deli in Angola.

Atlantic national political writer Molly Ball shadowed Banks on his recent visits to Angola and Auburn. The gist of her story is that Banks is a traditional "movement conservative" governing at the same time Republicans have cast their lot with the unconventional and unpredictable President Donald Trump.

" ... Banks voted for Trump 'with reservations.' He disagrees with Trump on issues like foreign policy, trade, and fiscal policy, to name a few, but he voted for the president’s health-care bill, describing it as a step in the right direction," Ball writes about Banks.

"He is, in other words, a fairly ordinary Republican congressman, trying to find his way in Washington in not-so-ordinary times," she writes.

Banks recalls a meeting of the Allen County Republican Party where he stressed his independence from the White House. Some people in the room thought he was being disloyal, while others supported his position.

"I’m trying to figure out how to navigate that tightrope," Banks says in the story.

Along the way, Ball makes some observations about the first-term federal lawmaker who grew up in a trailer park in Columbia City.

"Quiet and thoughtful, Banks is not a man blessed with a surfeit of personality, and he describes himself as an introvert," she writes.

Then there is this: "It occurred to me that the formality with which Banks carries himself was the posture of a man not born into the world he occupies, still warily feeling out its customs. Surrounded by local poo-bahs at civic events, he kept being asked whether he played golf, and kept having to politely demur."

And this: "I could see why Trump supporters might be displeased with Banks. In our day together, he had expressed more criticism – albeit measured and cautious – than praise of the president." Banks goes on to tell Ball that Trump's "unnecessary distractions" have kept the GOP Congress from advancing its agenda.

If Banks is walking a tightrope, so are many of Trump's backers, according to Ball.  

"Banks heard over and over again from constituents who supported Trump in theory – but were counting on him to preserve the federal grant that keeps them afloat, protect the military base that supplies local jobs, bolster the drug-treatment program for local opioid addicts, secure more funding for local roads and bridges," she writes.