Groundwork being laid for next presidential administration
Ray Carter | November 13, 2023
The 2024 presidential election is roughly one year away and Republican primary voters have yet to cast a single vote to select their nominee, but work is already underway to help staff and guide the next presidential administration should a conservative win.
The Heritage Foundation, through its Project 2025 initiative, wants any conservative presidential administration poised to hit the ground running upon inauguration in January 2025.
Rick Dearborn, an Oklahoma native who was President Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff and is now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation involved with Project 2025, said conservatives’ philosophical outlook can leave them at a disadvantage compared to liberals when it comes to controlling the levers of government power. Thus, he said conservatives must be proactive.
“Liberals love power. They put all the plumbing into government. They know where all the levers are. They know exactly how to manipulate our government to achieve their own agenda and their own ends,” Dearborn said. “Conservatives want to give all the power back to the people. Conservatives want to live their lives. But if we go on just living our lives and we’re not engaged, then we’re going to leave our government to liberals. And you get what you sow.”
Dearborn, who also served as executive director of the 2016 Presidential Transition Team, discussed Project 2025 during a recent Oklahoma City appearance sponsored by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which is among the entities partnering with the Heritage Foundation in the effort.
Project 2025 has four main pillars.
The first is a policy book, Mandate for Leadership, which outlines a vision of conservative success at each federal agency during the next administration based on the input and expertise of 350 leading conservative experts.
The second is development of a nationwide online personnel database, referred to as a sort of “conservative LinkedIn,” that will help a conservative presidential administration staff the federal government with likeminded appointees.
The project will also provide a Presidential Administration Academy, which will include interactive, on-demand training sessions to help new appointees become experts in managing government agencies.
The fourth and final pillar of Project 2025 is a playbook that transforms the policy ideas expressed in Mandate for Leadership into an implementation plan for each agency.
Identifying and training conservatives to staff a future presidential administration will be key to that administration’s success, Dearborn said.
He noted that the wrong kind of agency employees can issue regulations “that pervert the rules and laws that our country has passed” as well as “guidance documents” that are almost as impactful as a law even though the guidance document may not be based in law.
Dearborn noted there are two million federal employees today, not counting the military, and that the “largest number of that two million lean more to the left than they do to the right.”
“So what happens under a conservative president? More obstacles get placed in the way,” Dearborn said. “What happens under a liberal president? They advance the agenda as quickly as they can.”
There are also 16 million federal contractors who are effectively controlled by the two million federal employees.
There are only 3,000 to 4,000 political appointees in that system, making those leadership positions crucial to an administration’s success or failure.
“We have to find a way to put conservatives in that can also figure out how to run our government and advance a conservative agenda,” Dearborn said.
While the presidential race may have many twists and turns in the next year, if conservatives succeed in electing a new president, Dearborn said conservatives must do all they can do to increase the likelihood of success for that presidency.
“Conservative presidents are entitled to a supportive army of political appointees,” Dearborn said. “They shouldn’t have to battle their own people to get their agenda done; nothing about that strikes me as American. If the public elects a conservative president, they deserve a conservative agenda and they deserve a group of people that will help implement that agenda—full stop.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.