On a precious few occasions, the Donald Trump White House was foiled by its own incompetence. For example, their cover-up of their inclusion of a citizenship question on the Census—a stunt aimed at disempowering communities of color—was so sloppy that the Supreme Court declared it unlawfully pretextual. They so bungled the administrative rulemaking process that advocates were able to successfully challenge dozens of anti-environment regulations. And it took them three tries to come up with a version of a Muslim travel ban that the Supreme Court’s conservatives believed they could uphold with a straight face.

In short, they weren’t prepared before. But if Trump wins the White House in November 2024, the people around him don’t plan to make that mistake again. 

Over the past few years, the Heritage Foundation has led the creation of a step-by-step manual, the “Mandate For Leadership,” that is designed to allow the next Republican president to function effectively as an authoritarian. This 900-page behemoth can be boiled down to one core directive: create a white Christian nationalist society. 

The names of the Supreme Court’s Republican justices are notably absent from Project 2025’s list of coalition members, which includes familiar jagoffs like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Moms for Liberty. But the justices are basically the document’s uncredited coauthors: Project 2025’s to-do list identifies several recent Supreme Court decisions as springboards from which it can launch its sweeping policy proposals. Today’s terrible rulings are tomorrow’s justifications for the conservative movement to do something even worse.

First, Project 2025 namechecks Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the 2022 decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Dobbs gets treated as turning every uterus in the nation’s borders into a valid legal target: The “Mandate For Leadership” argues that the Court’s rescission of the constitutional right to abortion care means the Department of Justice should “announce its intent to enforce” the Comstock Act, an 1873 law that bars mailing anything “obscene,” including, among other things, abortion medication. The document explicitly claims that, in light of Dobbs, the FDA is “ethically and legally obliged to revisit and withdraw its initial approval” for abortion medication. Finally, it asserts that Dobbs empowers the executive branch to prevent pregnant children in immigration detention from ending their pregnancies: Under their plan, the Office of Resettlement Staff “should never be allowed to facilitate abortions for unaccompanied children in its custody,” and “the White House should insist that DOJ fight to defend that policy up to the U.S. Supreme Court in light of Dobbs.”

Dobbs was not the culmination of conservative attacks on abortion rights, but rather the set-up for a multipronged assault on reproductive freedom. Although the Supreme Court pretended that its ruling merely returned the abortion issue to the states, it laid the groundwork for future Republican administrations to ban abortion nationwide overnight.

Next, Project 2025 identifies the Court’s 2020 decision in Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the key to achieving another conservative policy goal: finally, once and for all, destroying the Bureau altogether. The CFPB is the independent agency that Congress created after the 2008 financial crisis to protect the public from unscrupulous lenders. The CFPB used to be led by a single director with for-cause removal protections. But in Seila Law, the Court held that this structure violated principles of separation of powers. The CFPB still exists, but because of Seila Law, the president doesn’t need a reason to fire its director.

Now, Project 2025 argues that Seila Law “chipped away” at the legal basis of independent agencies altogether, and flatly says the CFPB “is unconstitutional” and should be abolished. Again, conservatives see the Court as providing the necessary tools for the nation’s capitalist overlords to avoid the slightest threat of accountability.

Finally, Project 2025 weaponizes Students for Fair Admissions, the pair of cases the Court’s conservatives used to strike down affirmative action programs last year. Apparently, SFFA can do more than serve as fodder for disgusting lawsuits by aggrieved white guys: Project 2025 cites the cases as a basis for thwarting the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice work, which focuses on how race or income can affect access to clean air, land, and water. Back in 2022, the EPA released a plan identifying legal authorities to address “public health and environmental quality disparities in communities with environmental justice concerns—disparities that will be exacerbated or remain in place if we fail to act.”

This is a problem for Republicans, who think that people who want lead-free water should have had the forethought to be born rich and white. Although Project 2025’s plan generally permits environmental protection efforts, its authors oppose taking racial disparities into account as part of those efforts, arguing that EPA’s work should “be based on neutral constitutional principles” consistent with the Court’s ruling in SFFA. “Neutral” here should be read as “indifferent in the face of injustice.”

Project 2025’s plans for capitalizing on the Supreme Court’s recent decisions show that the Court’s Republicans aren’t just extending invitations to the conservative movement—they’re drawing maps for where it should go next. While the Republican justices may not have written Project 2025, it wouldn’t exist without them.

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