Ahead of debate, Black voters should know this about Trump and Project 2025

As President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump prepare to spar on Thursday in the 2024 election’s first presidential debate, many are sounding the alarm about the dangers of Project 2025 and its implications for Black and brown voters.

Project 2025, formerly called the 2025 Presidential Transition Project, is a wide-ranging manifesto of policy priorities and prescriptions for the next Republican president. If Trump reclaims the White House, the plan calls for several actions that would upend the federal government and, as critics argue, undo the progress made to safeguard and enrich Black and brown communities.

Published by the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation and drafted by former advisers to the Trump administration, Project 2025 urges various measures impacting civil rights, the economy, immigration, criminal justice, health care and more.

“It’s a right-wing manifesto or blueprint of how they want to use this as a power grab tool to take this country back to a place that our parents and grandparents never thought that their children and grandchildren would have to wrestle with,” said longtime Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright.

Seawright, who advises Democratic campaigns as CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, said, “There’s not one person associated with [the Heritage Foundation] that speaks to the needs, concerns, fears, hopes and aspirations of the Black community.”

While Trump and his campaign have tried to distance themselves from Project 2025, Democrats have aimed to tie him to the controversial document by noting his rhetoric on the campaign trail and the fact that it is crafted by Trump allies.

“We should not take anything that Donald Trump says about distancing himself from Project 2025 seriously,” said former U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., who is running to reclaim the 17th District seat now held by Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y. “Look at who he surrounds himself with. Look at his close advisers, and listen to the words that he has himself said.”

Democratic strategist Joel Payne warned that Project 2025 would make it “easier for MAGA to live on way past Donald Trump” if conservatives “get their way.” The former Hillary Clinton campaign official noted that conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society already had success in the courts, most notably the installment of three conservative Supreme Court justices nominated by Trump that ultimately led to the overturning of abortion rights and affirmative action rulings. 

“You’ve got this conservative bench on the Supreme Court that’s already done monumental things like overturning rights and overturning freedoms,” he told theGrio. 

Below are some of what Project 2025 proposals could do.

Eliminate racial equity programs due to “anti-white” discrimination 

This photo from April shows the sign above the door to the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging inside the main administration building on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas. Republican lawmakers across the U.S. are seeking to restrict diversity initiatives on college campuses, arguing that they enforce a liberal orthodoxy. (Photo: John Hanna/AP)

The 900-plus-page document calls for the “deletion” of terms like “diversity, equity, and inclusion” from “every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.” It argues that terms referring to race, gender, and sexuality “deprive” Americans of their “First Amendment rights.”

Project 2025, which contains the word “equity” 90 times, calls for the elimination of “racist” equity programs, including offices and staff, that are designed to close racial gaps in housing, health care and business. It accuses the Biden-Harris administration of enshrining “affirmative discrimination” throughout the federal government, or, in other words, the discrimination of white people. Similar arguments have been argued in legal cases that have successfully blocked President Biden’s debt relief program for Black farmers, ended race-based affirmative action in college admissions, and prevented the newly expanded Minority Business Development Agency from deploying its services exclusively to historically disadvantaged Black and brown enterprises.

Trump, who as president signed an executive order banning diversity training in the workplace, said that, if reelected, he would tackle the issue of “anti-white” discrimination. He told Time magazine during an interview in April 2024, “There’s absolutely a bias against white [people], and that’s a problem.”

Jamarr Brown, executive director of Color of Change PAC, told theGrio that efforts to eliminate policies and programs related to race or diversity – which also benefit brown and LGBTQ+ communities – are aimed to “punish” people who largely do not vote for Trump or, more broadly, the Republican Party. 

Brown said the GOP base has also been “misinformed” about what equity means through misinformation and disinformation from conservative leaders and groups. 

“It’s been painted as we’re just going to give you opportunity … resources and access just based on what you look like or based on what you claim in terms of any other protected class,” he explained. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion is about bringing all of us together and giving everyone the same opportunities, putting everyone on the same footing in a country and society that was based on everyone not being on the same foot.”

Brown noted that any attempts to eliminate equity on the federal level would follow similar actions already taken on the state level that have terminated DEI programs in schools, including mentorship and tutoring programs. 

“That’s no accident, and that’s strategic,” said Seawright, who contended that Project 2025 shows where “the hearts,  minds and the soul of the GOP really is.” 

“They substitute the word patriotism for racism, and this document proves that,” he added.  “It’s simply a document to centralize power with a certain group of people, i.e. white men, predominantly, in this country, to take it back, and they’ve been unapologetic about that.”

Potentially eliminate thousands of Black federal employees

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, speaks during a May 2023 news conference with labor leaders to make an announcement on the federal minimum wage. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, recently confirmed in an interview with MSNBC that Project 2025 aims to eliminate at least 50,000 “civil servant” federal employees. These career administrative workers are separate from political appointees, whose jobs are typically replaced with every new administration. 

In Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation decries a “federal bureaucracy” that it argues has run amok and is directly threatening a future Republican presidency and its policy goals. 

“Federal employees are often ideologically aligned — not with the majority of the American people — but with one another, posing a profound problem for republican government, a government “of, by, and for” the people,” reads the document.

As a result, the organization proposes replacing said workers with more political “loyalists,” reports Axios. The group has already compiled a database of potential individuals to be ready on Day One of a hypothetical Trump administration in January 2025.

Critics like Brown of Color of Change PAC fear that the first targets of conservatives will be Black and brown federal workers. Though only about 20 percent of workers are Black employees, the federal government has historically been a pathway to the middle class for Black Americans. 

“They’re going to start looking at race and class,” he posited. “They’re going to start digging into people’s backgrounds, find people that they can eliminate.” 

Brown predicted that federal workers in agencies like the Departments of Justice and Education would be the first to go. He explained: “These departments are really responsible for servicing communities of people who [Republicans] are not interested in.”

Brown added, “It’s not just about eliminating Black and brown people. It’s also about government working for them, or dismantling it to a point where it just doesn’t work.”

Eliminate the Department of Education and student loan programs 

Wisdom Cole, the national director of the NAACP Youth and College Division, leads a June 2023 march from the Supreme Court to the White House after the high court struck down President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program. (Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Project 2025 calls for the elimination of the Department of Education, which was first established in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter. It describes the department as a “convenient one-stop shop for the woke education cartel” and accuses it of “inject[ing] racist, anti-American, ahistorical propaganda into America’s classrooms.”

Striking a similar tone expressed by Republican governors who have banned Black and LGBTQ+ history and so-called critical race theory, the project’s authors accuse the education secretary of serving advocates “whose message is that children can choose their own sex, that America is ‘systemically racist,’ that math itself is racist, and that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideal of a colorblind society should be rejected in favor of reinstating a color-conscious society.”

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Project 2025 calls for ending the practice of broad student loan cancellation and phasing out of income-based repayment plans. It calls President Biden’s existing programs “extremely generous to borrowers.” In total, the Biden-Harris administration says it has forgiven $167 billion in debt relief for nearly 5 million American borrowers.

“The new Administration must end abuses in the loan forgiveness programs. Borrowers should be expected to repay their loans,” the project reads.

A study conducted by the Center for American Progress concluded that Project 2025’s student loan proposals would raise student loan balances, even for borrowers who make their payments on time. 

The study projects: “Others with higher debts, lower incomes, or both may get caught in a debt trap, in which their monthly payments would never cover the growing interest on a ballooning balance. Project 2025 would force them to pay in perpetuity.”

Outside of the threat to student loan forgiveness, Brown maintained that the “real issue” with Project 2025’s proposals on education is how Black and brown children would be educated. 

“We’re seeing across the country where African-American history is being whitewashed,” he told theGrio. “It definitely is dangerous to the continued education of our people.” 

“They want an uneducated society so that they can maintain power and control,” he continued, “and so we’ve got to show our power in this election to make sure they don’t get the seats that they need in order to continue the dismantling of public education.”

Politicize the Department of Justice, send troops to Black cities

Demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd in May 2020 talk to a member of the Secret Service at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. Thousands of National Guard troops patrolled major U.S. cities after five consecutive nights of protests over racism and police brutality that boiled over into arson and looting, sending shock waves through the country. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The authors of Project 2025 take particular aim at the Department of Justice by calling for a complete overhaul of the law enforcement agency.

“The DOJ has become a bloated bureaucracy with a critical core of personnel who are infatuated with the perpetuation of a radical liberal agenda and the defeat of perceived political enemies,” the project claims. 

More specifically, they target the FBI,  the Civil Rights Division and the Executive Office for Immigration Review by calling for more political appointees to serve within the agencies, as opposed to civil servant federal workers. According to Project 2025,  the next Republican administration must implement a “vast expansion of the number of appointees.”

While the project accuses President Biden of “unprecedented politicization and weaponization” of the DOJ, critics warn that the aim is to do the exact same thing to Trump’s so-called political enemies, including Biden. 

Trump himself has suggested so, despite not citing any evidence that the former vice president and longtime senator — or others — have broken any laws. He and other Republicans have falsely claimed that Biden has used the DOJ to bring criminal charges against Trump, despite his federal indictments coming from an independent special counsel, plus the federal government has no jurisdiction in his state-level indictment in Georgia and recent civil prosecution and conviction in New York. 

Despite no evidence that Biden is leading a “political witch hunt” against him, Trump and his allies have hinted that the former president could go after Black prosecutors responsible for his criminal and civil cases, including New York Attorney General Letitia James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Trump has accused the prosecutors of trying to interfere in the 2024 election by seeking to prosecute him rather than going after violent crime in their jurisdictions. 

Similarly, the authors of Project 2025 call for the next conservative administration to “initiate legal action against local officials — including District Attorneys — who deny American citizens the ‘equal protection of the laws’ by refusing to prosecute criminal offenses in their jurisdictions.” The authors added, “This holds true particularly for jurisdictions that refuse to enforce the law against criminals based on the Left’s favored defining characteristics of the would-be offender (race, so-called gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.) or other political considerations (e.g., immigration status).”

Additionally, Trump has vowed to use the powers of the DOJ to deploy the military in inner cities like those in New York City and Chicago – which have large Black populations – to combat so-called “crime dens.” This is despite federal data that shows violent crime has declined and hate crimes have increased

Brown told theGrio that Project 2025 and Trump’s proposals for the DOJ are “dangerous to the lives of Black people.” 

“We rely on the Department of Justice to be impartial in situations,” he noted. “Donald Trump politicizing the DOJ is also about dismantling democracy.”

Start mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, including those from Africa and Haiti

Haitian family on the U.S.-Mexico border,
An immigrant family from Haiti is taken into custody by a U.S. Border Patrol agent at the U.S.-Mexico border on Dec. 7, 2021, in Yuma, Arizona. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

There is no policy that Trump has repeated more than vowing to execute mass deportations of migrants and undocumented immigrants. Roberts of the Heritage Foundation echoed that call, telling MSNBC that the potential Republican president should immediately shut down the U.S. border, followed by “the biggest mass deportation system ever in the history of America.”

“It is unjust and illegal and evil that more than 10 million illegal aliens have come to this country. It’s imperative that we send those people back, invite them back to come through the legal system,” said Roberts.

While on the campaign trail, Trump has sought to tie the issue of immigration to Black and brown communities. During a rally in Las Vegas, he said undocumented immigrants were “totally destroying our Black population … [and] our Hispanic population.”

However, advocates and Democrats have warned that Trump and Project 2025’s plan for mass deportations will undoubtedly include migrants and undocumented immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean – notably Haiti. 

Brown described it as a covert “plan within the plan,” in which Africans and Haitians would “be in danger.” He noted, “They can’t always say that part out loud.”

For his part, Trump has said that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the United States, and as recently as three weeks ago said that “millions” of immigrants from South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East (and notably not Europe) are “coming in from jails and prisons … mental institutions and insane asylums.”

Former Rep. Jones told theGrio that overall, Project 2025 is evidence that a “second Trump presidency will be so much worse and more sinister than the first one.”

“He will not be concerned about reelection, for one thing. He already aims, as he has said in his own words, to terminate the Constitution,” said Jones, who is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 

The Democratic nominee for New York’s 17th Congressional District said the 2024 election is “the most important election in our lifetimes,” asserting that a Democratic-controlled Congress is needed build to “safeguard” Americans from a potential second Trump administration and what “he aims to do as described in Project 2025.” 

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