What is Project 2025, and why are so many Americans alarmed?

What is Project 2025, and why are so many Americans alarmed?
Described as a blueprint for the next conservative US administration, those behind it appear determined to transform the balance of power.
5 min read
Washington, DC
09 July, 2024
Trump has tried to distance himself from Project 2025, despite signs of his former administration's involvement. [Getty]

Its authors describe it as a presidential transition project. Many of its critics have called it a plan for a right-wing dictatorship. Whatever one's position is on Project 2025, those familiar with it agree that it would fundamentally transform the US political system into a far more conservative state.

What is the purpose of Project 2025?

The basic purpose of this initiative, outlined in a 922-page document, is to reconstitute federal positions into ones appointed by the US president and to consolidate the power of the executive branch. It has raised concerns among civil liberties advocates that this could eradicate the country's balance of power.

In their own words, the proposal would "restore the family as the centrepiece of American life and protect our children; dismantle the administrative state and return self-governance to the American people; defend our nation’s sovereignty, borders, and bounty against global threats; secure our God-given individual rights to live freely—what our Constitution calls the 'Blessings of Liberty.'"

Who is behind Project 2025? 

The organisation behind the initiative is the Heritage Foundation, a far-right think tank. The president of the foundation, Kevin Roberts, who has been promoting the project, said earlier this month in an interview that "we are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be."

Others supporting it include former members of Donald Trump's White House, including John McEntee, former director of Trump's White House Presidential Personnel Office, who is a senior adviser for the project. Dozens of far-right organisations, mainly associated with the Trump campaign, are listed as sponsors.

Though the project has largely fallen under the radar until recently, in recent weeks it has garnered mainstream media attention. This is likely what prompted Trump to issue a statement on his social media platform, Truth Social, distancing himself from the project.

On Friday, he wrote in a post, “I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they're saying, and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.” 

Critics of the former president, including some prominent conservatives, such as an adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, were quick to point out Trump's ties to the project. Since his post on Friday, he has kept a relatively low profile.

It's possible that Trump doesn't want the Heritage Foundation to take credit for his campaign's positions, given they have their own set of goals called Agenda 47 with many overlaps. 

What are the most important aspects of the proposal?

The main concerns that critics seem to have of this plan is the consolidation of presidential power and the institutionalisation of (generally far-right protestant) Christianity. According to the project's text, this would extend to all areas of the federal government, that is what remains after much of it is dissolved.

After taking partisan control of the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission, the project plans to significantly reduce climate change regulations. It also plans to abolish the department of education and remove almost all access to abortion and contraception.

The plan also aims to bring right-wing Christianity further into the government and the public sphere. This includes criminalising pornography, removing legal protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and prosecuting what refers to as anti-white racism.

How close is the project to becoming a reality?

According to the project's report, this plan, initially called Mandate for Leadership, began in the late 1970s, just prior to Ronald Reagan becoming president. According to the authors, Reagan was able to implement a substantial portion of their policy recommendations in a short period.

"Mandate's proven ideas and President Reagan’s skill at communicating their benefits led to his Administration implementing almost half of the recommendations by the end of his first year in office," reads the project's report. 

These changes included tax cuts for the wealthy, a drop in funding for social welfare programmes, opposition to environmental regulations, opposition to abortion, supporting the death penalty, opposing a litany of civil rights legislation, and supporting school prayer. 

The Heritage Foundation notes in their report that Trump implemented their policy even further in his first year in office.

How would this change people's daily lives?

Given that this project has been in the works for decades, it could be said that it is already affecting people's lives. With the help of policies implemented by Reagan and Trump, social movements have tapped into a decades-long moral panic about women, the LGBTQ+ community, Blacks and other minorities, immigrants, and Muslims and other religious minorities.

This can be seen in the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, its effective ban on affirmative action (or race-based admissions) at universities; organised campaigns to ban books; efforts to restrict rights for trans youth; and the proliferation of Christianity in schools.

What impact will this have beyond the US?

There are already signs the project's policies have taken hold abroad, most notably in Africa and Central America, where some of the world's poorest countries are highly dependent on US foreign aid. 

For years, faith-based groups operating in vulnerable countries have been lobbying for anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, positions that then created conditions for aid under the Trump administration.

During his time in office, Trump appointed far-right Christians to top positions responsible for foreign policy, leading to funding cuts to NGOs that shared information on abortion, a policy that the Biden administration has since reversed. This has led to widespread closures of health clinics and the proliferation of illegal abortions.

Do Democrats have their own version of Project 2025?

It appears that centrist Democrats have their own project in the works to strongly influence the federal government. However, instead of dismantling it, the idea would be to prevent progressives from accessing key positions.

Developed by Third Way, a centrist think tank, the idea is to create a "talent bank" for a new administration to use to fill government positions, according to a report by Politico.

It's unclear how successful these efforts will be. What is clear is that detailed plans for influence and policies are already being hammered out long before a new administration comes to office.