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After the Trump assassination attempt, defining democracy gets even harder; Trump picks Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, a once-fierce critic turned loyal ally, as his GOP running mate; DC residents push back on natural gas infrastructure buildup; and a new law allows youth on Medi-Cal to consent to mental health treatment.

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Donald Trump is formally put up for GOP nomination and picks Ohio Senator J.D. Vance as his running mate. Former presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy and swing state delegates consider ticket.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

Conservative groups write 'game plan' for U.S. government takeover

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Friday, February 16, 2024   

By Carrie Baker for Ms. Magazine.
Broadcast version by Mark Richardson reporting for the Ms. Magazine-Public News Service Collaboration


Wealthy right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation has published a detailed plan for the next Republican president to use the executive branch of the federal government to attack the rights of women, LGBTQ people and the BIPOC community, by eliminating the agencies and offices responsible for enforcing civil rights laws and placing trained right-wing ideologues in staff positions throughout the federal government. 

Called the 2025 Presidential Transition Project—or “Project 2025,” for short—the plan has “four pillars”:


  1. an 887-page policy agenda,

  2. presidential personnel database of vetted conservatives,

  3. Presidential Administration Academy to train these people to achieve the Project 2025 policy agenda, and

  4. 180-day playbook, which is what they hope to achieve in the first 180 days if Trump takes office in January 2025.


To develop this plan, the Heritage Foundation organized a broad coalition of over 90 conservative organizations—a who’s-who of groups that have led attacks on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy, gender studies, the Equal Rights Amendment and #MeToo initiatives.


The coalition includes Concerned Women for America, the Independent Women’s Forum, the Eagle Forum, the Susan B. Anthony Foundation, Moms for Liberty, AAPLOG (the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists), Students for Life of America, Alliance Defending Freedom, First Liberty and Turning Point USA.


The Heritage Foundation claimed over 400 “scholars and policy experts” participated in writing the policy agenda, titled “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise.”


Their main target: what they call “the totalitarian cult known today as ‘The Great Awokening.’”


Throughout “The Conservative Promise,” they rail against “woke progressivism,” “woke culture warriors,” “woke bureaucrats at the Pentagon,” “woke extremism,” “woke propaganda,” the “woke agenda,” “wokeism,” the “woke-dominated system of public schools and universities,” “woke revolutionaries,” the “radical, supposedly ‘woke’ faction,” the “woke policies in corporate America” and the “woke gender ideology.” They describe the Department of Education as a “convenient one-stop shop for the woke education cartel.” 


They have particular vitriol for colleges and universities, which they describe as an “establishment captured by woke ‘diversicrats’ and a de facto monopoly enforced by the federal accreditation cartel.”


The authors invoke their first Mandate for Leadership book series, written in 1979, which guided the Reagan presidency: “In 1979, the threats we faced were the Soviet Union, the socialism of 1970s liberals, and the predatory deviancy of cultural elites. Reagan defeated these beasts by ignoring their tentacles and striking instead at their hearts.”


Like their current leader, Donald Trump, they dehumanize Democrats by likening them to animals.


The plan has four goals:


  1. Restore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children.

  2. Dismantle the administrative state and return self-governance to the American people.

  3. Defend our nation’s sovereignty, borders, and bounty against global threats.

  4. Secure our God-given individual rights to live freely—what our Constitution calls “the Blessings of Liberty.”


The contradictions are glaring:


The authors of “The Conservative Promise” claim to support equality, while advocating for dismantling the government agencies that enforce laws ensuring equality, such as Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. 


They claim to support freedom and liberty, while advocating for a total ban on abortion, rolling back the rights of LGBTQ people and closing the border.


They claim to support free speech, while advocating for banning any mention of “critical race theory” and “gender ideology” from schools and other societal institutions. 


They claim to support the working class, while calling for tax cuts for the rich, elimination of labor protections and deregulation of big business and the oil industry.


Throughout “The Conservative Promise,” the authors condemn “ruling elites,” which they refer to as “Washington elites,” “establishment elites,” “Marxist elites,” “socialist elites,” “Hollywood elites,” “entrenched elites,” “globalist elites,” “pro-open border elites” and” cultural elites.”


They explain:


“Today, nearly every top-tier U.S. university president or Wall Street hedge fund manager has more in common with a socialist European head of state, than with the parents at a high school football game in Waco, Texas. Many elites’ entire identity, it seems, is wrapped up in their sense of superiority over those people. But under our Constitution, they are the mere equals of the workers who shower after work instead of before.” — p. 10
They assume the worst of intentions of people they brand elites, whom they charge with “making decisions for us” and working to “serve themselves first and everyone else a distant second.” They describe the “elites” as power-hungry socialists: “For socialists, who are almost always well-to-do, socialism is not a means of equalizing outcomes, but a means of accumulating power. They never get around to helping anyone else” (p. 15). 


The irony is that the Heritage Foundation and many of the organizations in their coalition are led and funded by billionaire capitalists, most of whom don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes or be limited by labor laws or environmental regulations designed to protect the public from economic abuse, pollution and climate change. The conservatives criticizing the elites are themselves elites.


They argue that “the Left” opposes equality and liberty established in the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “It’s this radical equality—liberty for all—not just of rights but of authority—that the rich and powerful have hated about democracy in America since 1776. They resent Americans’ audacity in insisting that we don’t need them to tell us how to live. It’s this inalienable right of self-direction—of each person’s opportunity to direct himself or herself, and his or her community, to the good—that the ruling class disdains” (p. 14).


Yet this “inalienable right to self-direction” does not appear to extend to pregnant women or LGBTQ people. 


They even invoke women’s rights to call for the destruction of women’s rights: “Left to our own devices the American people rejected European monarchy and colonialism just as we rejected slavery, second-class citizenship for women,mercantilism, socialism, Wilsonian globalism, Fascism, Communism, and (today) wokeism” (p. 14).


Yet banning abortion makes women second-class citizens.


They charge the left with trying to control other people’s lives, while they themselves are the ones who propose and champion state-level and federal bans on abortion and gender-affirming care: “The Left does not believe that all men are created equal—they think they are special. They certainly don’t think all people have an unalienable right to pursue the good life. They think only they themselves have such a right along with a moral responsibility to make decisions for everyone else. They don’t think any citizen, state, business, church, or charity should be allowed any freedom until they first bend the knee” (p. 16).


Yet they want to use the force of law to impose their religious beliefs on others by determining intimate bodily decisions for pregnant women and LGBTQ people. Lawmakers that identify with the political left supports laws to empower individuals to make their own decisions about their bodies and lives, whereas the political right is passing laws limiting people’s ability to make these choices.


They explain what they believe freedom means in the Constitution: “An individual must be free to live as his Creator ordained—to flourish. Our Constitution grants each of us the liberty to do not what we want, but what we ought. This pursuit of the good life is found primarily in family—marriage, children, Thanksgiving dinners, and the like” (p. 14). Thanksgiving dinners? What we ought? His Creator?


On immigration reform, they say, “The only direct impact of open borders on pro-open borders elites is that the constant flow of illegal immigration suppresses the wages of their housekeepers, landscapers, and busboys” (p. 11).


On “billionaire climate activists,” they say their concern for the environment “is not a political cause, but a pseudo-religion meant to baptize liberals’ ruthless pursuit of absolute power in the holy water of environmental virtue” (p. 11).


Climate-changing oil and gas is not the problem; it’s the solution, they say: “America’s vast reserves of oil and natural gas are not an environmental problem; they are the lifeblood of economic growth” (p. 13).


They condemn socialism and push free market capitalism, private property and deregulation in the name of liberty:


“In socialist nation after socialist nation, the only way the government could keep its disgruntled people in line was to surveil and terrorize them. By contrast, in countries with a high degree of economic freedom, elites are not in charge because everyone is in charge. People work, build, invest, save, and create according to their own interests and in service to the common good of their fellow citizens.” — p. 15


In reality, free market policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations have generated tremendous wealth inequality and environmental pollution that targets the most vulnerable communities.


Despite a longstanding American tradition that career employees of the federal government are not political appointees, “The Conservative Promise” calls for removing any federal government employee who disagrees with their beliefs and replacing them with conservative ideologues. They boast about “how to fire supposedly ‘un-fireable’ federal bureaucrats; how to shutter wasteful and corrupt bureaus and offices; how to muzzle woke propaganda at every level of Government” (p. 9).


They promise the total destruction of the federal government: “The solution to all of the above problems is not to tinker with this or that government program, to replace this or that bureaucrat. These are problems not of technocratic efficiency but of national sovereignty and constitutional governance. We solve them not by trimming and reshaping the leaves but by ripping out the trees—root and branch” (p. 12).


Some of the specific action items include:


Department of Education:


  • Eliminate the Department of Education, which enforces civil rights law, including Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education;

  • Revert to the Trump administration’s Title IX sexual harassment and assault standards, which placed burdensome restrictions on the ability of survivors to report assault and obtain justice;

  • Reverse the Biden administration’s definition of sex under Title IX to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and redefine sex to mean biological sex assigned at birth

  • Increase public funding of religious education through expansion of “school choice” policies and give federal funds to states as block grants with no strings attached.


Department of Health and Human Services:


On abortion—


  • Under threat of funding loss, require “liberal states” to report to the CDC, “accurate and reliable statistical data about abortion, abortion survivors, and abortion-related maternal deaths”;

  • Require treatment of “fetuses born alive” after abortion;

  • Withdraw Medicaid funds for states that require abortion insurance or that discriminate in violation of the Weldon Amendment, which declares that no HHS funding may go to a state or local government that discriminates against pro-life health entities or insurers;

  • Audit states for Hyde amendment compliance;

  • Require the CDC to track “abortion across vari­ous demographic indicators to assess whether certain populations are targeted by abortion providers” (based on false allegations of eugenic motivations);

  • Reverse Biden administration support for travel to get abortion health care;

  • Prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds and allow states to defund Planned Parenthood in their state Medicaid plans;

  • Reverse FDA approval of mifepristone or at least go back to the pre-2016 limitation and prohibit the mailing of abortion pills;

  • Prohibit stem cell research and stop “the development and testing of the COVID-19 vaccines with aborted fetal cell lines”;

  • Affirm “rights of conscience” to deny medical care;

  • Declare that abortion and euthanasia are not health care;

  • Reverse Biden interpretation of The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) that requires treatment of women miscarrying.


On gender-affirming care—


  • Block gender-affirming health care

  • End Centers for Disease Controls’s collection of data on gender identity;

  • Block National Institute of Health research on gender identity and transgender health care and instead fund studies into the “short-term and long-term negative effects of cross-sex interventions”;

  • Reverse Biden administration’s redefinition of “sex” to include gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy status.


Other—


  • Add work requirements to receive Medicaid;

  • Condemn single-motherhood and same-sex marriage;

  • “HHS should prioritize married father engagement in its messaging, health, and welfare policies.”


Administration for Children and Families:


  • Use TANF (welfare) money to promote “Marriage, healthy family formation, and delaying sex to prevent pregnancy”;

  • Child support in the United States should strengthen marriage as the norm, restore broken homes, and encourage unmarried couples to commit to marriage.


Led and funded by multi-billionaires, such as oil moguls Charles and David Koch, conservatives have fought for years to cut taxes, deregulate business, ban abortion, eliminate civil rights protections as well as public health and environmental regulations, privatize government institutions such as public schools and prisons and eliminate welfare programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food assistance.


In 2017, Donald Trump enacted many of these policies, which were later reversed by the Biden administration.


With careful planning, conservatives today are working to make their policy priorities permanent, no matter what happens in future elections. 




Carrie Baker wrote this article for Ms. Magazine.


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