Trump’s Allies Don’t Want to Destroy the ‘Deep State.’ They Want to Seize It.

Every new administration that wins power away from the opposing party contends that whatever its predecessors did was terrible and that victory constitutes a popular mandate to fix or get rid of it all. Elections have consequences, politicians love to remind us, and a big one entails trying to change everything, right away.

It is possible to read “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise” — an 887-page document proposing to remake the executive branch, department by department, agency by agency, office by office — as one more go-round in this Washington tradition. With contributions by dozens of conservative thinkers and activists under the leadership of the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, the book announces itself as part of a “unified effort to be ready for the next conservative administration to govern at 12:00 noon, Jan. 20, 2025.” There is much work ahead, it states, “just to undo the significant damage that will have been done during the Biden years.”

The book has not been blessed by Donald Trump or his campaign, and the authors emphasize that they want to help the next conservative president, “whoever he or she may be.” But with so many former Trump officials among its contributors, so much praise for him throughout its pages (he is mentioned some 300 times, compared with once for Nikki Haley) and such clear affinity between Trump’s impulses and the document’s proposals, it is easy to imagine “Mandate for Leadership” wielding influence in a second Trump term. It is an off-the-shelf governing plan for a leader who took office last time with no clear plan and no real ability to govern. This book attempts to supply him with both.

There is plenty here that one would expect from a contemporary conservative agenda: calls for lower corporate taxes and against abortion rights; criticism of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and the “climate fanaticism” of the Biden administration; and plans to militarize the southern border and target the “administrative state,” which is depicted here as a powerful and unmanageable federal bureaucracy bent on left-wing social engineering. Yet what is most striking about the book is not the specific policy agenda it outlines but how far the authors are willing to go in pursuit of that agenda and how reckless their assumptions are about law, power and public service.

“Mandate for Leadership,” which was edited by Paul Dans and Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation, is not about anything as simplistic as being dictator for a day but about consolidating authority and eroding accountability for the long haul. It calls for a relentless politicizing of the federal government, with presidential appointees overpowering career officials at every turn and agencies and offices abolished on overtly ideological grounds. Though it assures readers that the president and his or her subordinates “must be committed to the Constitution and the rule of law,” it portrays the president as the personal embodiment of popular will and treats the law as an impediment to conservative governance. It elevates the role of religious beliefs in government affairs and regards the powers of Congress and the judiciary with dismissiveness.

Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times
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