Top House Republican group urges its members to ‘lean into the culture wars’ and fight critical race theory

Jim Banks
Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana speaks during a Republican Study Committee press conference. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images
  • The largest House Republican caucus is urging conservative members of Congress to “lean into the culture war.
  • Rep. Jim Banks writes in the memo that Republicans are “winning” the war against critical race theory.
  • More than 20 states have introduced bills banning critical race theory and other “divisive concepts.
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The largest House Republican caucus is urging conservative members of Congress to “lean into the culture war,” according to a memo sent out by Republican Study Committee chair Rep. Jim Banks and published by Politico.

The Ohio Republican writes in the memo to his members that Republicans are “winning” the war against critical race theory, which some public schools are using to teach students about racism.

“My encouragement to you is lean into it. Lean into the culture war,” he writes. “Because the backlash against Critical Race Theory is real.”

Banks cites polling showing that 79% of Americans in swing districts don’t want kids to be taught “that their destiny and inherent value depends on their skin color” and instead “want American schools to be teaching about the American Dream.” He celebrated the “organic” movement of parents demanding that their kids’ schools not teach about systemic racism.

The congressman also baselessly claimed the GOP’s opposition to critical race theory, which holds that US institutions are systemically racist, “is the same vision shared by civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“We believe that individuals should be judged based on the contents of their character, not their skin. And we believe that America’s institutions should be colorblind, just as our Constitution is colorblind,” Banks writes in the memo.

While the modern GOP espouses a “color blind” approach to policy, King dedicated his work to addressing systemic and institutional racism before his assassination in 1968. King fought the legalized racism of segregation with civil disobedience, saying in 1967 that most white Americans had never made a determined effort to give Blacks “genuine equality” and contrasted the government’s willingness after the Civil War to give acres of land to white immigrants against its paltry offerings to freed Blacks.

Republicans and right-wing media have aggressively focused on the issue in recent months, framing the debate over how to teach US history as a fight between conservative patriots and Democrats “who want to tear America down.” More than 20 states have introduced bills banning the teaching of critical race theory and other “divisive concepts” in public schools.

The GOP has doubled down on many of the cultural battles former President Donald Trump waged on the campaign trail and in office. The party’s positions on race and education, including policing alleged liberal “indoctrination” on college campuses, has the potential to appeal to key constituencies, including white suburban women, and fuel passions among the party’s base.