“Institutionalizing Trumpism": Heritage Foundation President's Revealing Project 2025 Interview
Kevin Roberts discussed purging 50k civil servants, pushed election denial, falsely said communists are infiltrating government, and praised authoritarian Viktor Orbán as a model to emulate in the US.
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Kevin Roberts, Heritage Foundation President, sat down with The New York Times to discuss Project 2025. The interview offered insights into the worldview of a man leading the effort to establish an intellectual and tactical framework for American authoritarianism. It’s a revelatory, chilling, and necessary read.
Roberts told New York Times Journalist Lulu Garcia-Navarro that he views the Heritage Foundation’s modern role in politics as “institutionalizing Trumpism.” When reading their 920-page manifesto outlining Project 2025’s goals and tactics, it’s clear that’s exactly what a successful implementation of their plan would accomplish.
For those who are unfamiliar, Project 2025 is an authoritarian plot to replace tens of thousands of federal workers with trained GOP loyalists, dismantle federal agencies, and turn the federal government into a tool of the far-right. It equips the next Republican president with a playbook detailing exactly how to destroy the administrative state and replace it with “an army” of loyalists who will implement the far-right’s agenda with no pushback.
That agenda includes the centralization of power in the executive branch, outright dismantling of multiple federal agencies, rolling back environmental regulations, ending federal protections for LGBTQ+ people, and undoing all progress made in diversity, equity, and inclusion within the federal government under the guise of religious freedom.
The playbook is built on ideas of absolute executive power found in the conservative unitary executive theory - the same authoritarian theory powering Trump’s false defense of absolute immunity in his criminal cases.
Project 2025 isn’t a fringe effort. The Heritage Foundation has partnered with over 70 right-wing organizations, from Turning Point USA to Moms for Liberty. I’ve written extensively about Project 2025 and discussed it in an appearance on the Meidas Touch Network with PoliticsGirl. This is an issue I’ve been following closely, so when I saw this interview drop on Sunday, it certainly caught my attention.
Kevin Roberts’ New York Times interview covered a lot of ground. Roberts discussed Project 2025’s proposed strategy of purging 50,000 federal workers, falsely said President Biden didn’t win the 2020 election, pushed paranoid conspiracy theories about communists infiltrating the government, and praised Hungary’s far-right authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán as a model to emulate in the US.
With the threat of a potential second Trump term looming, it’s important that we arm voters with knowledge of what he and his Republican allies have planned.
Let’s dive into Kevin Roberts’ interview.
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The Replacement Of Civil Servants With Loyalists
Project 2025 involves the re-implementation of Schedule F, an executive order then-President Trump issued in October 2020, which reclassified tens of thousands of federal workers as “at-will” employees, making them easier to fire for no cause. President Biden immediately revoked the executive order when he took office.
If a Republican president wins and issues this executive order in 2025, the plan calls for the immediate replacement of as many as 54,000 civil servants with Republican loyalists. Project 2025 has a detailed plan for how to accomplish this quickly. They’ve already begun screening, training, and creating a database of thousands of GOP loyalists so they’ll be ready on day one.
When asked about his efforts to “destroy the administrative state,” Kevin Roberts said that the destruction he envisions does, in fact, involve Schedule F.
“People will lose their jobs,” Roberts said. NYT Journalist Garcia-Navarro asked a clarifying question, inquiring, “So the goal is to try to essentially fire a lot of career civil servants, many of whom have decades of experience in government…”
Roberts interjected: “Many of whom have decades of experience putting government power above American sovereignty.” Roberts goes on to essentially describe the deep state right-wing conspiracy theorists decry. Roberts baselessly vented anger at civil servants:
“And for conservatives, one of our greatest frustrations is that thousands of times in the last decades, they have blocked conservative innovation. So we want them out of there. We want Schedule F. I don’t know what the right number is in terms of the reduction in the number of federal employees, but it’s substantial.”
Roberts went on to confirm that around 50,000 is the right range of potential oustings: “I’ve seen 50,000. I ultimately don’t know the precise number, but that’s a comfortable range.”
It’s clear that the Heritage Foundation aims to have the next Republican president ready to implement their radical agenda on day one. Roberts told The Times that “the Trump administration, with the best of intentions, simply got a slow start. And Heritage and our allies in Project 2025 believe that must never be repeated.”
Driving some of this desire to purge civil servants is a paranoid, baseless belief that communists have infiltrated the government. Without evidence, Roberts claims that “Chinese Communist Party agents” and “socialists” are employed in the federal government.
Roberts told Garcia-Navarro that Joe McCarthy was right. Yes, the Joe McCarthy of 1950s McCarthyism. Roberts said: “Yeah. I was referring to his motivation, and his motivation was, as you know, that real Communists, like capital-C Communists, had infiltrated the federal government.”
That speaks volumes about the worldview and state of mind of Kevin Roberts.
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Praise Of Viktor Orbán As A “Model” For US Authoritarianism
In December 2023, as President Biden hosted Ukrainian President Zelenskyy at the White House, the Heritage Foundation hosted Hungary’s far-right authoritarian leader, Viktor Orbán, to discuss ending aid to Ukraine.
This affinity for far-right authoritarians among the American right isn’t a new phenomenon. Donald Trump has been praising autocrats for years. Right-wing media figure Tucker Carlson has also been amplifying and praising Orbán. Carlson interviewed him over the summer, where he praised Trump.
Just this week in New Hampshire, Donald Trump overtly praised the autocrat, telling a crowd of rallygoers: “There’s a great man, a great leader, in Europe. Viktor Orbán. He’s the prime minister of Hungary. He’s a very great leader, very strong man. Some people don’t like him because he’s too strong. It’s nice to have a strongman running your country.”
Far-right authoritarianism is a globally collaborative movement.
In his interview with The Times, Kevin Roberts said that Orbán is “a very impressive leader.”
NYT Journalist Garcia-Navarro brought up Orbán’s CPAC speech, where he said that Hungry is “the place where we didn’t just talk about defeating the progressives and liberals and causing a conservative Christian political turn, but we actually did it.”
Roberts replied: “It’s all true. It should be celebrated.”
Garcia-Navarro pushed back, spotlighting Orbán’s overtly depraved and authoritarian rhetoric and stances: “That said, Orbán brags about turning Hungary into an ‘illiberal democracy’ — his words. He’s anti-L.G.B.T. He’s anti-immigrant. He said explicitly that he wants to prevent Europe from becoming ‘mixed race.’ Over his four terms, he presided over a pattern of democratic backsliding in Hungary.”
Roberts said: “I’ve not seen that.”
Garcia-Navarro went further, hammering in the extremism of Orbán and Roberts’ previous unequivocal praise: “He’s also very open about being a Christian nationalist. And you’ve said in a previous interview, ‘Modern Hungary is not just a model for conservative statecraft but the model.’”
“What is it exactly that he has done that you find laudable?” Garcia-Navarro asked.
Roberts replied, “That actually gets to the heart of the question, rather than framing that I would disagree with. The focus on family policy broadly. The motivation to realize that Hungary has to do something, as most countries in the world outside Africa do, to reverse the decline in the birthrate.”
One could argue that Orbán’s focus on increasing the birthrate has a lot to do with his desire to stop Hungary from becoming a “mixed-race” country, as he puts it. This focus on demographic control is something we see a lot in the American right as well, trumpeted not just by Republican lawmakers but also influential figures like Elon Musk.
As I said, the far-right is a globally collaborative movement.
Making America Hungary is one hell of a goal and seems to be exactly what Projet 2025 aims for.
Orbán has consolidated power over the country’s judiciary and media, and his party has drawn legislative districts in a way that makes it very difficult for opposition parties to win seats — somewhat similar to partisan gerrymandering efforts for state legislative and congressional seats in the U.S. That process currently favors Republicans because they control more of the state legislatures that create those boundaries.
Orban’s moves have led international political observers to label him as the face of a new wave of authoritarianism.
All available evidence suggests Kevin Roberts and his colleagues behind Project 2025 believe in this form of consolidated power. The plan outlined in Project 2025 sends that message clearly. Roberts also articulated his belief in the unitary executive theory and asserted that the Department of Justice shouldn’t be independent. Roberts told the Times:
“Unitary executive theory is something we don’t just agree with. We believe it is the proper constitutional understanding of our government… The Department of Justice — we just disagree wholly that the Department of Justice is independent of the president or the executive branch. That was not an understanding until the modern era.”
Roberts was later asked: “Do you believe that President Biden won the 2020 election?” Roberts replied: “No.”
Why This Matters
Former President Ronald Reagan implemented 60% of the Heritage Foundation’s 2,000 recommendations in their 1981 “Mandate for Leadership.” This is an organization that knows how government works and has been successfully influencing Republican administrations for decades. Understanding the way the current President of the Heritage Foundation thinks is vital to understanding the intent behind Project 2025.
It’s unmistakable that the intent of this project isn’t an aspirational restoration of American values as they claim in their manifesto. The intent and goal of Project 2025 is to make America more like the authoritarian countries the far-right admires. And the Republican base is already being primed for Orbán-like authoritarianism.
Project 2025’s plans align with Donald Trump’s Agenda 47, especially when it comes to dismantling agencies, replacing federal workers with loyalists, and centralizing power in the executive branch.
Americans should take this threat seriously.