2025 America won’t be like 1933 Germany and they won’t be wearing brownshirts. But the program of the reactionary forces in America is as radical as that of the interwar fascists. And they have a plan for taking over.
The Weimar Republic provides an example of how quickly a determined, organised group can subvert and transform a political system from the top. Gleichschaltung describes the Nazification of the German political, administrative, and justice institutions following Hitler’s assumption of power in March 1933. By the end of 1934, and starting with the civil service, the Nazis had taken control of every major organ of the German state. The Nazis understood the need to maintain the “illusion of a democracy” and to establish a facade of legality as they established their authoritarian regime.
The American reactionaries aim to eviscerate the so-called deep state and “to roll back nothing less than 100 years of what they see as liberal encroachment on Washington.” Moreover, they are building the capacity to accomplish their objective. At his first major 2024 campaign rally Donald Trump declared “Either the deep state destroys America or we destroy the deep state”. Trump had previously posted a “10-point plan to dismantle the deep state”. This included re-issuing his “2020 executive order restoring the president’s authority to remove rogue bureaucrats”, and he promised to “wield that power very aggressively”.
Trump would “clean out all of the corrupt actors in our national security and intelligence apparatus, and there are plenty of them”. Of the Justice Department and the FBI, Trump said “the thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced”. In apocalyptic tones at Waco he thundered “2024 is the final battle, it’s going to be the big one. You put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and America will be a free nation once again”.
A significant number of interlinked think tanks, organisations, and individuals, many associated with the previous Trump Administration, are engaged in extensive preparations for his return. Trump will have the tools and personnel for his gleichschaltung. They are readying “a government-in-waiting for [Trump’s] second term”
The team of former Trump officials led by Paul Dans, Director of the 2025 Presidential Transition Project at the Heritage Foundation, is building a database of suitable candidates for positions in a new Republican Administration. They have set up the Presidential Administration Academy “to prepare and equip future political appointees now to be ready on Day One of the next conservative Administration”. Nearly a thousand future MAGA bureaucrats recruited from around the country are already in training. They are serious.
Trump’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, has been tasked with implementing the Project 2025 policy program. New cabinet secretaries would be ready on day one with draft executive orders, playbooks, and memoranda. Vought says “Whatever is necessary to seize control of the administrative state is really our task.” The Trump-endorsed America First Policy Institute, led by former domestic policy chief Brooke Rollins, has developed a comprehensive Trumpesque policy agenda ready to be implemented on day one of a new administration.
The thousand page Project 2025 handbook, Mandate for Leadership (MFL), contributed to by more than 400 conservative scholars and policy experts, details the plan. The intention is to fire “as many as 50,000 federal workers” immediately on taking office. The “’deep state’ bureaucracy” would be commandeered, reshaped and eliminated”. It will be replaced by legions of political appointees loyal to Trump and to the radical program of the reactionaries.
But even more disturbing and worthy of closer scrutiny by Australian ministers, policy advisors, and media commentators are the extensive policy recommendations set out in MFL for reforming every aspect of American government policy. That’s where the truly radical proposals are to be found. Anyone concerned about climate change, human rights, global trade rules or a myriad other policy domains should consult the MFL. It’s frightening.
Trump’s return to power could be catastrophic if he follows through on his stated intentions, and there is little reason to believe he won’t. Constitutional governance, rule-of-law, and, perhaps eventually, the peaceful transfer-of-power based on free-and-fair elections could all be under threat. Substantial elements of the agendas of the christian nationalists and the national conservatives would be realised with dissent and minority rights diminished and the division between state and religion narrowed.
If Trump were to win and have a cooperative Republican controlled Congress, and in particular the Senate that has the power to confirm cabinet positions, there would be little to stop him. Even with a hostile Senate in Democrat hands administration in America could be disrupted and paralysed for decades and fall into an even more confrontational, even violent, coercive political mode. Trump would still have extensive room to flood the Administration with reactionaries apart from those appointments requiring Congressional concurrence.
None of this is hidden. The Project 2025 web page openly declares “Our goal is to assemble an army of aligned, vetted, trained, and prepared conservatives to go to work on Day One to deconstruct the Administrative State”. The America First Policy institute website details ”a plan for establishing policies that keep America first, always”. There is an army of activists preparing to operationalise Trump’s threats.
Australian politicians and policies are enslaved to this fading hegemon that is always teetering between collapse and authoritarianism. Australia’s interests and position in the world are currently welded to the domestic developments of this unstable polity. Holding our breath and hoping Trump loses is not a national strategy. Australia’s security is hostage to the Faustian AUKUS bargain with America.
Even if Trump fails to get reelected these resources will be available to any successful Republican candidate. The danger of an American gleichschaltung will persist.
It might sound like a progressive’s conspiracy fantasy, but in interwar Weimar, democratic night fell quickly. It could happen again in America.
Copyright Mike Scrafton. This article may be reproduced under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence for non-commercial purposes, and providing that work is not altered, only redistributed, and the original author is credited. Please see the Cross-post and re-use policy for more information.
Also published in John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations.