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Have You Heard about Project 2025?

           The saving grace of the first Trump administration was its sheer incompetence. Much as Trump might rail on about the “deep state,” he ultimately had no clue what to do about it. The situation is likely to be very different if he wins another term. A conservative brain trust led by the Heritage Foundation has created a blueprint for government take-over called Project 2025.

            The frightening ambitions of Project 2025 are detailed in a massive, mind-numbing document titled “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Challenge.” The document is indeed conservative in its goal of resurrecting a time when white, Christian families supposedly lived in blissful domesticity, but it is anything but conservative in the means it proposes to use. Rather than advocating for limited government, “Mandate for Leadership” envisions a radical concentration of power in the hands of the executive.

            At the heart of this effort would be a sweeping purge of the federal bureaucracy to replace civil servants with Trump loyalists, who are being recruited through what’s been described as a “right-wing LinkedIn.” As usual, I feel I should interject a bit of history here. Back in the first Gilded Age, a major issue was government corruption in the form of paying off political debts by putting partisan hacks in jobs for which they had no qualifications. To remedy this, the federal government inaugurated and slowly expanded the Civil Service system. The system sought to fill government positions with qualified applicants who would then be shielded to a degree from political interference. Reformers in the Progressive Era pushed for government regulations to develop a civil service of trained professionals following scientific evidence.

            As far as Project 2025 is concerned, one problem is that scientific evidence doesn’t always align with their conservative objectives. Take, for example, the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and is being driven by human actions. “Mandate for Leadership” calls for putting the E.P.A. in the hands of appointees concerned less with climate science than with managing the agency to ensure that the interests of the fossil fuel industry are protected.

            “Mandate for Leadership” puts a huge target on the backs of the Justice Department. Nothing better illustrates the degree to which the Heritage Foundation has exchanged its conservative principles for a full embrace of Trump’s revenge politics. Gone would be any semblance of independence in the administration of the nation’s laws. The document even calls for a legislative change to “rein in” the FBI.

            Trump’s authoritarian leanings would find ample support in the document’s recommendations. If the rule of law appears inconsistent with “the president’s policy agenda,” it would be the job of D.O.J. lawyers to find a way around it. One of its more radical proposals is the assertion that the executive branch would be fully empowered to determine what is constitutional. It’s an idea that directly threatens the separation of powers at the very heart of our Constitution.

            No group would suffer more from these proposals than migrants to this country. The document claims that the secretary of homeland security could ignore all legal safeguards if he/she deems it “urgent” to deal with “an actual or anticipated mass migration of aliens.” Another section calls for taking that whole responsibility away from the Department of Homeland Security in favor of a massive new Cabinet-level immigration department. That change would give the government the resources to carry out Trump’s plan for deporting millions.

            When Trump was first elected in 2016, his control of the Republican party was still incomplete. It is no longer. Back then, there were still people in place to keep him in check. We cannot expect that to be the case if he wins again. If the theme of his first term was chaos, that of his second may be fascism.


Paul Harris


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