After the recent primary results in Iowa and South Carolina, 2024 is shaping up to be a repeat of the 2020 old men battle royale: Trump v. Biden. A lot has changed in four years, but one major development that stands out is the conservative strategy. This time around they are not caught off guard by a surprise upset like they were in 2016, or a pandemic in 2020.
This time they are ready to execute their conservative vision of America Day One in office. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you The Heritage Foundation and Project 2025.
Project 2025 is The Heritage Foundation’s policy and action plan should a conservative win the presidency this November. Officially titled Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise, it is a four pillar, 920-page document that lays out in vague, inflammatory language the vision for a conservative America, or, in their own words: “This book is the work of the entire conservative movement.”
What is The Heritage Foundation?
The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that dates back to the Nixon administration. Founded by the grandson of the Coors company founder (yes the beer) in 1973, its list of original trustees included General Motors, Chase Bank, Dow Chemical, Sears, Mobil, and Pfizer. Since its founding, Heritage has had an enormous impact on American policy, especially during the Reagan Administration.
In 1981 Heritage published the fist edition of Mandate for Leadership, the prequel to Project 2025. On the first day of Reagan’s presidency he passed out a copy to his entire cabinet. At the end of his first year in office, 60% of the 2,000 recommendations had been adopted by his administration.
920 Pages of What Exactly?
The overall tone of newest edition is that American culture is under threat from things like “cultural Marxism,” and “transgenderism,” both of which are never actually defined. The phrase “cultural Marxism” is reminiscent of “cultural Bolshevism,” a term that Nazis used in 1930s Germany during Hitler’s rise to power as a scapegoat for the country’s problems, mostly targeting Jews, leftists, and LGBTQ people, something the Heritage Foundation is continuing. It blatantly targets LGBTQ people, especially trans people.
“Pornography, manifested today in the omnipresent propagation of transgender ideology and sexualization of children, for instance, is not a political Gordian knot inextricably binding up disparate claims about free speech, property rights, sexual liberation, and child welfare. It has no claim to First Amendment protection. Its purveyors are child predators and misogynistic exploiters of women. Their product is as addictive as any illicit drug and as psychologically destructive as any crime. Pornography should be outlawed. The people who produce and distribute it should be imprisoned. Educators and public librarians who purvey it should be classed as registered sex offenders.”Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise (Project 2025)
This is a direct quote on page 5 under the heading “Promise #1: Restore the Family as the Centerpiece of American Life and Protect our Children.” Their logic here is simple. “Transgenderism,” in all forms, equals pornography. People who produce pornography should be in prison. Therefore, all trans people should be in prison.
That same section also calls for the “deleting” of terms like “sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), gender, gender equality, gender equity, gender awareness, gender-sensitive, abortion, reproductive health, reproductive rights, and any other term used to deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights out of every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.”
The US Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Comission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of identities like race and gender. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is charged with enforcing laws that prohibit the discrimination of race and gender in a criminal setting. Some of the laws these agencies are responsible for enforcing are the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against race and sexual orientation discrimination, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Project 2025 not only calls for eliminating terms like gender equality from these pieces of legislation and department mandates, but calls for the president to be solely in charge of these departments.
Deregulating Into a Dictatorship
One of the more frightening aspects of the Project 2025 manifesto is its advocacy for something called Unitary Executive Theory. Historically, the executive branch of the United States is headed by the president, and subsequent departments were created to enforce the laws that Congress passed. Some of these agencies, like the EEOC, operate independently of the president, but the president is in charge of appointments in these departments.
The Constitution itself, however, does not mention any of these agencies, and the job of enforcing the laws that Congress enacts is vested in the executive branch, i.e. the president. As the United States grew larger and more complex, agencies headed by experts and appointed by the president were created to delegate the job of enforcing laws. Unitary executive theory argues that the president should be in charge of the entire executive branch.
Project 2025 wants to place things like the DOJ, the FBI, the EEOC, the EPA, the FCC and other agencies solely under control of the president. The manifesto claims this creation of a bureaucracy creates an unbalanced power structure within the executive branch, and their solution is to give the power of 30 different agencies and departments solely to the president.
Reactions and Developments
Despite very outspoken reactions from the Left on the dangers of Project 2025, some calling it an attempt at a Trump authoritarian overthrow, or the first step to a Christofascist America, donations to the Heritage Foundation continue to surge. According to an article published in November of last year, the Heritage Foundation distributed around $1.67 million in donations in 2022, and has been linked to dark money groups connected to Leonardo Leo, a right wing political donor who helped shape the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Project 2025 is reminiscent of the same type of rhetoric that swept 1930s Germany and Europe before Hitler and the Nazis’ rise to power. The 920 page manifesto calls for a terrifying amount of deregulation and consolidation of power in the name of balancing power. It labels the very existence of trans people as a threat to children. The recent efforts to educate America’s past with race and slavery is deemed un-American, and they are calling for the banning of books and materials related to Critical Race Theory or mentions of LGBTQ people and themes.
According to a December Gallup Poll, Biden and Trump currently have similar approval ratings. 41% of US adults view Biden favorably and 42% of US adults view Trump favorably. If this trend continues, the upcoming 2024 election is shaping up to be possibly even more contentious than 2020, and this time there seems to be even more at stake.
If you want to read more about Project 2025, here is the link to a pdf that is available for free on their website.