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Inside the Twisted Fantasy Project of a New America

Conservative heavyweights have published a report on their plans if Trump wins a second term. We should all pay attention.

Crawford Kilian 11 Jul 2024The Tyee

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

It’s understandable that Canadians are anxious about the state of American politics this summer. Four months from the U.S. election, President Joe Biden is being hammered by the media while Donald Trump, a convicted felon, is being largely ignored.

But it’s not Trump we should be worrying about; it’s his supporters. They’re planning a detailed dismantling of the American federal government, leaving the states free to do as they please — especially those ruled by Republicans.

The blueprint for this dismantling comes from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. In April 2023 it published a 900-page document called “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise” under its Presidential Transition Project, also known as Project 2025.

Through its extensive collection of policy proposals, Project 2025 sets out a comprehensive plan to destroy the U.S. federal government as we know it.

The report attracted little attention until recently. But its contents are beginning to be understood — enough for Donald Trump to say he knows nothing about Project 2025 and thinks some of its ideas are “ridiculous” and “abysmal,” but wishes it luck anyway.

With so many Trump veterans among the report’s authors, it’s highly unlikely that he’s as ignorant of the content as he claims. And it’s very likely that Project 2025 is a good preview of a second Trump administration — a wish list, but an achievable one.

After all, a similar report by the Heritage Foundation in 1980 saw 60 per cent of its proposals enacted by the Ronald Reagan administration.

A good chapter-by-chapter analysis is available from Stop the Coup 2025. The Heritage Foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, is beginning to get some media attention, and we can expect plenty of criticism of Project 2025 as the U.S. election comes near.

Ignoring a key reason for public education

Chapter 11 on education deserves extra attention because it shows how Christian white nationalists, calling themselves “conservatives,” intend to roll back American education at least to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation to be constitutional.

More likely, it would dismantle the entire American public education system, which dates back two centuries, to the founding of the first free public high school in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1820.

The chapter begins by ignoring a key reason for American public education: it functions as a public service to equip children to grow up to become effective co-proprietors of a democratic nation. Instead, Project 2025 frames education as just another consumer choice, like deciding which SUV to buy.

Citing economist Milton Friedman, the authors argue for a system “wherein education is publicly funded but education decisions are made by families.”

Education, under Project 2025, would become a concern of state and local governments only, just as it had been until 70 years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren ended “separate but equal” public-school segregation.

Back then, it was already clear that Black schools were far from equal; it soon became clear that many Black students were behind their new white classmates. In many parts of the American South, private whites-only schools sprang up, leaving local public schools effectively re-segregated and underfunded.

That was a major reason for the creation of the federal Department of Education in the 1970s: to provide under-resourced public schools with the money and expertise enjoyed by private and religious schools.

Calls for an ‘anti-woke’ education system

To get a detailed sense of what Project 2025 would do to education, I recommend Stop the Coup 2025’s Chapter 11 summary. But some measures deserve mention here.

They include turning federal education funds over to the respective states to distribute as they please. This could include “education savings accounts,” enabling parents to pay to send their children to any school they wish, including faith-based schools, charter schools or, presumably, home-schooling.

Post-secondary education would emphasize apprenticeships and technical career programs, rather than “higher education establishments captured by woke ‘diversicrats.’”

Accreditation programs, which now ensure college and university academic quality, would be loosened. Student loan forgiveness would be dropped.

Students would be defined as male or female depending on their biological sex recognized at birth. And a great deal of fuss would be made over non-binary and trans students, none of it helping them.

Required curriculum: American exceptionalism

Whether in K-12 or post-secondary, courses would not use gender research or critical race theory as part of their content. The principle of American exceptionalism, however, would be required.

“Federal” children — including children of military personnel, Indigenous children and children in D.C. schools — would receive their education through some other agency, not the Department of Education.

Of course there’s more, but the point to keep in mind is that no one would be able to establish uniform educational standards across the United States, except in a negative way.

So states that want to keep teaching sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, could do so but would lose federal money if they did. Accredited colleges could maintain high standards and offer liberal-arts courses, but they would be competing with schools operating under lower standards.

Eventually American public schools might have to accept, for example, religious instruction in their classrooms, or teach evolution as a “theory.” Otherwise they might lose funding to competing faith-based schools and private schools.

Such students would eventually want to go on to university, or at least to schools willing to take them. Universities like Harvard and Stanford could recruit students from states and municipalities that still allowed rigorous academic coursework — though perhaps not in enough numbers to support faculty research.

As we saw during the pro-Palestinian campus protests, university presidents, deans and professors could be interrogated by politicians and driven from their jobs if they gave the wrong answers.

What a second term with Trump would look like

Under these new circumstances, we can predict that many educators would flee to more welcoming states, or emigrate. In either case, they would find few jobs and even fewer opportunities to do research. They would see their former colleagues accepting new limits on their freedom and getting on with their careers.

Here in Canada, we would have more than our share of émigré teachers, some of them landing in provinces already hostile to SOGI and impressed with the swiftness of the second Trump administration in achieving its goals.

We would also have governments that would be appalled by Project 2025, but terrified at the thought of losing trade with the Americans. Our own federal government might even be sympathetic to Trump’s Washington.

We should bear in mind that the authors of Project 2025, like their very wealthy funders, are people who have truly prospered in a democratic United States.

But mere prosperity has never been enough for them. Since the neoliberalism of the Reagan era, those who were already rich have made themselves richer still. In the process, they have developed a deep contempt for their fellow Americans and for democracy itself. They see the nation that made them rich and powerful as a mere carcass to be stripped.

Hence this fantasy of white male supremacy, enhanced by Christian nationalism and the threat of violence.

As Heritage Foundation president Roberts himself said in a podcast with Steve Bannon, “We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

And it is a fantasy, an imaginary world that cannot come true if Americans recognize it for what it is.

As for us here in Canada, our great literary scholar Northrop Frye once observed that “a Canadian is an American who rejects the Revolution” — and a second revolution as well.  [Tyee]

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