It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1986, famously said “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help.” The Reagan era, perhaps in part due to his folksy humor, has dominated Republican politics for decades. To this day, conservative politicians in the United States invoke Reagan’s name to preach beliefs of small government and emphasize individual freedoms.
At least, they will preach it. Practicing it has become more elusive as time passes. Since the dawn of the Trump era of American politics, conservative politics have shifted massively. Gone are the days of small governance; instead, politicians preach a massive government devoid of their “deep state” enemies, with increasingly nationalist and nativist rhetoric backing it. All Americans are aware of former President Donald Trump’s quest to claim the presidency again in 2024. What they may not be aware of is the massive apparatus behind him seeking to fundamentally change government to act in Trump’s whims.
Project 2025 is an organization of groups founded by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C. The project, which collaborates with scores of conservative advocacy groups like Turning Point USA and the Conservative Partnership Institute, seeks to draft and implement a plan to reshape the federal government in the case of Trump’s victory in 2024.
The project, which preaches the “unitary executive theory” holding that the president holds unfettered power over the executive branch, seeks to recruit tens of thousands of Trumpist conservatives to work in the federal government. This is meant to coincide with Trump’s plan to reinstate his “Schedule F” executive order, which would give him ultimate power to lay off thousands of government workers from nominally independent organizations, ostensibly to “destroy the deep state.”
At first glance, this does not sound off the cuff for a shift in administrations. However, the devil is in the details, as Project 2025’s plans do not stop at reshuffling the federal government. The project’s plan to end independence in governmental organizations would give Trump full power over the Department of Justice, among other government organizations. This, combined with Trump’s campaign promises to investigate Biden and his other political enemies if reelected, is enough to raise a thousand eyebrows.
Beyond Trump’s promises to arrest and fire his enemies, Project 2025 seeks to help Trump reshape the government’s role in individual lives. The project’s manifesto states that they will compel states to share personal information on abortions, such as each woman’s state of residence and method of abortion, as well as rollback FDA approval of “abortion pills” like mifepristone. They also seek to revoke all anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, and ban pornography, with Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts calling it “manifested today in the omnipresent propagation of transgender ideology and sexualization of children'' in the project’s manifesto, further stating that “The people who produce and distribute it should be imprisoned. Educators and public librarians who purvey it should be classed as registered sex offenders.”
The project’s greatest sins lie in what they don’t make public in their statements and manifesto. An article in The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources involved in Project 2025, lays bare what Trump and The Heritage Foundation seek to do with their newfound power if their plans are successful. Trump has allegedly drafted a list of those he seeks to have investigated after his potential inauguration, including President Biden as well as former allies like his former chief of staff John Kelly and former attorney general William Barr. The project has also allegedly drafted plans to end a DOJ policy to shield prosecutions from political considerations, and drafted an executive order to use the Insurrection Act to deploy American military forces domestically at Trump’s command.
A second Trump administration will not be like the first. During his first term in office, Trump found himself frequently restrained by checks and balances in the federal government. His promises to invoke the Insurrection Act during the George Floyd protests in 2020 were roundly rejected by his inner circle, as well as his requests to have protestors shot. His attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election fell apart in the face of judicial defeats and inner resistance. This circle of resistance to the president’s most authoritarian whims is exactly what Project 2025 seeks to defang. A government stacked with Trump loyalists will have no qualms obeying the president’s wishes under the aforementioned unitary executive theory.
This is even if those wishes are to have political enemies prosecuted, abortion and LGBTQ+ rights curtailed, American military in the streets, or those who protest Trump’s rule shot.