Trump's lackeys have a blueprint for his potential second term

And it's just as bleak as you'd imagine.

As we move into what will likely be the third consecutive presidential election involving Trump, one may wonder how the former commander-in-chief plans to pitch a second term. Looking past the bumbling bluster and wanton cruelty, the Trump team is not hiding that should he return to the Oval Office, his new regime will be based on a simple theme: Vengeance.

Nothing encapsulates this premise more than a not-so-subtle agenda published by the far-right Heritage Foundation — alongside other reactionary think tanks, hundreds of longtime conservative policy wonks and a coalition of Trump-aligned lawyers. Officially titled “Mandate for Leadership” (but referred to in the press as the “Project 2025”), the nearly 1,000-page tome is a comprehensive plan to reshape the federal government and its staffing in such a way to allow for Trumpian retribution — especially via techniques that would subvert the Justice Department. 

For example, the proposal advises an incoming Republican president to “conduct an immediate, comprehensive review of all major active FBI investigations and activities and terminate any that are unlawful or contrary to the national interest.” 

Though this is not the first “Mandate for Leadership” — a new version has been released every four years by the Heritage Foundation since the first term of Ronald Reagan — this edition is also particularly threatening to the integrity of American democracy as we understand it. 

While the document’s stated goals include the same rote, tiresome pledge to “Restore the family” and “Secure God-given rights,” the real meat of the text pertains to dry, administrative loopholes that could allow Trump to avoid congressional approval of department heads. 

“Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, for most federal agencies, a vacancy at the top means that the next available deputy becomes the acting head. Project 2025 sees a path to manipulating this law to ensure loyalists take control,” Harold Meyerson explains in The American Prospect.

Basically, Trump could permanently stall selecting, say, a head to the Department of Defense and then make Michael Flynn or another QAnon-addled lackey the deputy director — who would then be able to serve as the department head without democratic oversight. 

Other extreme approaches include violating the Constitution by forcing employers to pay overtime to workers who are scheduled to work on the Sabbath, denying Medicare funds to states that require insurance companies to cover abortions, and a “whole-of-government” unwinding of federal climate policy, according to the text. 

But just because these absurdist propositions seem outlandish doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. While a substantial number of Americans reject this ideology, the Republican strategy has always been to take advantage of the nation’s outdated, minoritarian-inflected methods of selecting leadership. 

“It is hardly an accident that so much public outrage exists against Washington elites, that Project 2025 has leapt to embrace it, and that Trump has so effectively exploited it over the past six years,” Michael Hirsh writes in Politico. 

“Indeed, if one sets aside the outrages committed by Trump — and a lot of the other craziness now possessing the GOP — Project 2025 very likely has a substantial political base. One that isn’t going away.”

There are certainly enough Americans — even if it’s not in the slightest bit the majority — who are willing to buy into Trump’s Hobbesian endeavor. And this next election cycle will be about permanently foreclosing that possibility.

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Jamie Larson