A shadow government is being recruited, right now, by right-wing radicals with ugly ideas. If they manage to take back the White House — Trump or no Trump — their action items are already drawn up and ready to be implemented on the day they take power.
We know where this is going. There’s enough precedent — both historical and current — to show how dangerous this moment is, and what lies on the other side of the tipping point. It would be checkmate for democracy, perhaps permanently.
I don't think this will happen, at least not this time around. But the blueprint for seizing the reins of power has been in plain sight for some time. Then last week, an article in the Associated Press (AP) put it on the front burner.
It’s called Project 2025. It’s bought and paid for by the Heritage Foundation, which is itself bought and paid for by very rich nutjobs who put huge sums of money into political subterfuge.
I’ve written before about Heritage, the so-called think tank of conservatism. At the time, I called it “the engine room of right-wing propaganda,” which is still apt. To quote myself:
The Heritage Foundation set out, long ago, to create a national electorate that’s intellectually lazy, civically ignorant, politically ambivalent, and easily manipulated. And they’ve largely succeeded.
Heritage’s intentions couldn’t be clearer. It’s all right there on their website, where you can go down any rabbit hole you care to. Every page will take you to a world you don’t recognize, where reality is inverted and grievance is an art form.
The scholarly pretension of the articles is breathtaking. The writers — many of whom are identified as ‘fellows’ — aspire to erudition, even as they twirl their mustaches. They line up on the wrong side of everything you might consider normal, things you wouldn’t have even called issues, had they not been pushed by people following an inside-out logic system only they understand.
The articles run to many thousands of words each. The writers seem to place a premium on the sheer quantity of their arguments, since the quality is so noticeably absent. They muster every bogus point they can think up, compulsively applying layers and layers of lipstick to whatever pig they’re promoting that day.
And that’s before you even get to Project 2025, which has its own mini-site and its own special brand of batshit. Its manifesto — un-ironically called “Mandate For Leadership: The Conservative Promise” — is a sort of modern-day Mein Kampf, not just in the substance of its arguments, but in the resentful tone of its writing. We should be grateful that AP read the whole thing, so we don’t have to.
But you needn’t read much of it to get the idea. The second sentence of the project’s “Policy Agenda” gets right to the point:
Our goal is to assemble an army of aligned, vetted, trained, and prepared conservatives to go to work on Day One to deconstruct the Administrative State.
In other words, they want to create a sort of half-assed government-in-waiting, a confederacy of dunces ready to remove and replace what they continue to call the “deep state.” The plan is to bring the entire apparatus of the federal government under the direct control of the president, presumably Trump.
They would start by firing some 50,000 federal workers immediately, starting at the top and working down. The management levels of each department would be filled with MAGA loyalists.
The manifesto targets every department — every agency, every commission, every bureau — and they’ve laid out detailed to-do lists for when they take over. In the case of things like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first item on that list is to abolish it altogether.
The project presumes that it’s no big deal to terminate without cause so many civil service employees, people who have built their lives around the acceptance of low pay in return for job security. Setting aside the cruelty of ending that system, the project seems to assume these people are cogs that can easily be swapped out for other, more politically pliable, cogs.
Which is, of course, nonsense. Most of those who’d be fired are experienced technocrats, people who play vital roles in our health and well-being. These are the people who do stuff, who know stuff, who run stuff. Their dedication — even after decades of budget cuts, government shutdowns, and right-wing slander — is as indispensable as it is underappreciated. Without them we’d be screwed.
We know how this ends. We can see it right now in Russia, China, Turkey, Hungary, and other places where democracy was once thought to have a chance. Wherever political reliability takes priority over law, science, and simple competence, the quality of normal life inevitably deteriorates.
To the Heritage Foundation this is a feature, not a bug. The people behind Project 2025 are not tattooed MAGA loons from some stoned-out Michigan militia. They’re educated, well-read, and smart. They’ve done their homework. They’ve studied Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, and other atrocious despots all the way back to Caligula, and they’ve basically said "Yup, that's for me! Sign me up!"
So with Project 2025, they’re following an old blueprint that has served such monsters since the beginning of time. They know exactly what they want to do, and to whom they want to do it.
The good news is that the whole plan presupposes the election of Donald Trump — or someone similarly inclined to overt fascism — and I don’t think either will happen. I’m not at all sure that Trump is a serious candidate — whatever the press may tell you — and I’m sensing that the Republican party itself is in more trouble than we think.
But even in a worst-case scenario, where Trump actually retakes the presidency, it’s not automatic that Project 2025 succeeds. There will still be institutions in place that will surely put up a fight.
Not that we can take anything for granted. The people behind Heritage are investing vast sums of money in the methodical dismantling of institutions, norms, and basic values that have been with us since the Enlightenment. They have an action plan to do it, and they’re known to be patient.
I don’t think they’ll take power in 2025, though we certainly can’t rule it out. But it would be foolish to think that means they’ll just go away.