Project 2025 targets election 2024

Targeting the voting booth for Trump is a massive operation to return the authoritarian to the White House

By Gregg Barak

Contributing Writer

Published May 11, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Voting booths (Getty Images/cmannphoto)
Voting booths (Getty Images/cmannphoto)

In his recent interview with Time magazine, Donald Trump shared a litany of false grievances and real promises should he return to the White House. His promises include, among other things, “authoritarian power grabs, administrative cronyism, mass deportations of the undocumented, harassment of women over abortion, trade wars and vengeance brought upon his rivals and enemies.” 

Meanwhile, even before getting creamed in court this week, the pestilent “juvenile delinquent” redirected his grievance to avoid the courtroom’s “gag order” . to his nemesis, special counsel Jack Smith, who indicted Trump in both the federal election interference case. and the classified documents case.. So late last Friday evening on Truth Social, the former president first posted, “ARREST DERANGED JACK SMITH. HE IS A CRIMINAL.” Then, over that weekend at a Mar-a-Lago retreat for his biggest donors, he once again referred to Smith as “deranged” and “an evil thug.” Wrapping up his truculent remarks, as reported by the Washington Post, the projector-in-chief then called Smith a “f***ing a**hole,” adding that Biden and the Democrats were “running a Gestapo administration.”

During dinner at the same fundraiser, Trump slamed environmental protection rules and asked big oil for $1 billion. In return, the corrupt Boss promised them more tax breaks. He would also on day one if re-elected, Trump vowed, do away with Biden’s executive order regulations and scrap his policies on electric vehicles, according to The New York Times.

Project 2025 is a coalition of 100 organizations under the leadership of the far-right Heritage Foundation with the goal of institutionalizing Trumpism. Last fall the Washington Post wrote: “Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term; with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on the first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrators.”

Authoritarian expert and author of Strongman: Mussolini to the Present Ruth Ben-Ghat describes Project 2025 as “a plan for an authoritarian takeover of America that goes by a deceptively neutral name. It brings together all of the ideological strands that supported Trump during his first presidency, and more who have joined the battle since then,” such as white Christian nationalists and far-right Catholics who favor the lessening or abolition of the separation of Church and State.

In discussing the history of autocracy, Ben-Ghat explains that “conservative elites have always played a big role.” These elites may also be extremists themselves “hiding behind a veneer of respectability” or they may ally with ordinary extremists striking “an ‘authoritarian bargain’ with the demagogue of the hour who they believe will save their own status in society and advance their ideological agendas.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Steven Hahn in his latest book, Illiberal America: A History, reminds us that in the United States the beliefs in illiberal democracies, if not authoritarianism, are as American as apple or cherry pies. In opposition to the ideals of liberalism and justice for all, “Americans have long been animated by competing values, equally deep-seated in which the illiberal will of the community overrides individual rights, and often protects itself by excluding perceived threats, whether on grounds of race, religion, gender, economic status or ideology.”      

As many others, myself included, have argued Trump was not the first politician and he won’t be the last one to capitalize on American anti-democratic sentiments, state criminality, and klan-like community mob violence. Although the insurrectionist-in-chief, four times criminally indicted former president, and presumptive three-time nominee for commander-in-chief by the GOP is unequivocally the most successful authoritarian in U.S. history.        

In a recent Raw Story commentary, Inside the Trump Crime Syndicate and MAGA cabinet of knaves and rogues, I compared the damages of Donald Trump’s 2020 election interference and failed coup on Jan. 6 with the damages of Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign and the failed Watergate break-in and coverup. I also assessed the accountability of the associates of the Trump Crime Syndicate and MAGA kitchen cabinet with those indicted and convicted members of Nixon’s inner circles whose crimes were either directly or indirectly ordered by the president.

Among other things, I underscored that the Trumpian world has to a large extent already normalized the abuse of executive power as well as the abuse of legislative and judicial power, which all seem to be beyond incrimination.

The executive abuse of power and the accountability of the perpetrators was not difficult to compare. The legal and political reactions of the American people or the body politic to Nixon 50 years ago and Trump today are as different as night and day.

Politics aside in 1974, Democrats and Republicans alike, officials and non-officials, elites and everyday people were in agreement that what the POTUS had done was criminal and that he should be held liable for his abuse of power. Everybody was united against President Nixon and we were all pleased by his resignation from office. Mostly, because he was obviously guilty as charged and we wanted to believe that no person is above the law. Nixon had no defenders to speak of — lunatics or otherwise — like Trump does.

With respect to the presumptive 2024 presidential candidate and man currently on trial for 34 felonies in a Manhattan courthouse, Americans could not be more divided or polarized about what constitutes a crime and who the real criminals are, then when it comes to the prosecution versus the persecution of Donald Trump.

As for the two other branches of power, there were neither the widespread abuses of the legislature nor a Supreme Court without any delay in calling out and sanctioning Nixon tout de suite in response to the Watergate break-in and coverup.

Both Nixon and his associates were held accountable in a reasonably short period of time unlike Trump and his associates who have committed far worse crimes that threaten — then and now — American democracy and the rule of law.

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I finished my comparative examination of presidential immunity, politics, and punishment as follows:

Paradoxically, it may seem strange given the reaction of the Republicans and the Department of Justice to Nixon and Watergate, that Trump and his election interference crimes have been given a free pass by the Supreme Court

With respect to Trump’s inner circles, a few have already pleaded guilty and many more will be held to account regardless of whether Trump is, although this is certainly a reflection on a man who boasted of surrounding himself with the “best and brightest” the nation has to offer.

With respect to Trump and the “balance of powers” scheme of things, I was able to scrutinize the accountability of the executive abuse of power. I could not, however, do the same with respect to the other two branches of political power: legislative and juridical.

In the case of Congress, there has been no accountability of any kind for those GOP House of Representatives who immorally and without any legal justification refused to certify the election of Joe Biden. Simultaneously, there were also other more deeply involved Republican power players participating in the plot to overturn the 2020 election. They have yet to be criminally investigated aside from the House Select Committee for their co-conspiring roles to interfere with the results of the 2020 election. 

These unaccounted for individuals are not limited to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-LA, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI. 

In the case of the Supreme Court, there will likely never be any accountability. Unless those blameworthy, anti-14th Amendment justices, are impeached for the first time in U.S. history for obstructing justice. 

Not unlike the “reasoning” of Trump who has complained about witch hunts and overzealous prosecutors, the conservative justices who during oral argument the week before last were skeptical of the Jan. 6 prosecution of Trump. Chief Justice John Roberts went so far as to slam the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that unanimously denied the former president’s immunity claim.

Likewise, professor of law at Harvard, Jack Goldsmith, writing for Lawfare maintains, “no, the justices were not normalizing the president as a crime boss.” 

I beg to differ. I understand perfectly well the excuse Goldsmith is making on behalf of the justices. Sure, there were other issues related to immunity that the court had a right to take up. Even so, these had nothing to do with Trump’s crimes or his criminal behavior as president. 

For their part, the justices were playing dodgeball as they zig-zagged around refusing to acknowledge, let alone, deal with the rogue elephant that on appeal should never have been granted entree into their courtroom in the first place.

Meanwhile, their diversionary hypotheticals were not only insulting to the office of the presidency and to American Democracy, they were also totally irrelevant or off the legal mark. Talk about a lame and corrupt — Trumpian — court of law.

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The political lack of accountability for the roles played by actors in the legislative branch before and after Jan. 6 and by the Supreme Court three years after the failed coup are massive derelictions of both constitutional duty and commonwealth responsibility. 

As for Trump’s fraudulent patterns of electioneering, these began in 2016 and have never stopped. The first time he ran for president, Trump engaged in election interference while colluding with the Russians and manufactured false stories about his political opponents while “catching and killing” sexual dalliances with America Media, Inc. and its publication the National Enquirer.       

Once before and once after the 2020 presidential race, the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump for election interference. The first case involved President Trump extorting President Zelensky of Ukraine to find some dirt on Joe Biden, or at least, to say out loud that there would be some kind of investigation. The second case was for Jan. 6. Both times the presumptive 2024 GOP nominee escaped culpability because of “jury nullification” carried out by the Boss’ Republican knaves in the Senate.

Presently, according to Rolling Stone magazine, Trump and the Republicans are “doing everything to rig the 2024 election.” Similarly,  J. Michael Luttig who served for 15 years as a conservative judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District, maintains that should the Republicans lose to Biden for a second time, they have a new and improved blueprint in place to steal the 2024 presidential election just as they had one in place to steal 2020.

 Rolling Stone claims that “Trump and his allies have been working since his 2020 defeat to game the system in his favor ahead of a third run at the White House.” These include “auditioning lawyers” to challenge the 2024 election; “working to stop states from using data provided by Electronic Information Center (ERIC) to spot voting irregularities and identify unregistered voters''; and “trying to promote a MAGA version of ERIC” as some kind of alternative. 

Judge Luttig states that “January 6 was never about a stolen election or even about actual voting fraud. It was always and only about an election that Trump lost fair and square, under legislatively promulgated election rules in a handful of swing states that he and other Republicans contend were unlawfully changed by state election officials and state courts to expand the right and opportunity to vote, largely in response to the Covid pandemic.”

Since 2020 more than 560 new laws governing elections have gone into effect. According to voting rights experts, a slate of new voting rights laws in red battleground states “could serve as a preview for how changes to ballot access may offset the outcome of the 2024 general election” for president.

So far in 2024, 40 states have passed new voting laws. Fourteen of those have “enacted laws that will make it harder to vote. For example, targeting voter registration, enforcing stricter voter ID laws, and loosening up on restrictions for poll watchers to make intimidation easier. Provisions such as these, according to the Brennan Center of Justice, create burdens on voters of color, and advantages for the Republicans.

Finally, these new restrictive voting laws are undermining the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was passed into law during the height of the civil rights movement in order to prohibit racial discrimination in voting. And to finally make good on some of the empty promises of the 14th amendment as the U.S. was about to celebrate its hundredth anniversary.

By Gregg Barak

Gregg Barak is an emeritus professor of criminology and criminal justice at Eastern Michigan University, and the author of multiple award-winning books on the crimes of the powerful including Criminology on Trump (2022) whose sequel, Indicting the 45th President: Boss Trump, the GOP, and What We can Do About the Threat to American Democracy will be published April 1, 2024. 



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