Exclusive: Conservatives Build Governing Machine Ready for 2025
With the 2024 presidential election less than two years away, conservative groups are building a machine ready to take over and govern on Inauguration Day, 2025.
Taking lessons learned from the “infighting and inaction” in the early days of staffing the Trump administration — a presidency marred by an ingrained administrative state set on thwarting Trump’s policy goals — conservative groups are creating a policy and personnel plan of action in order to “take the reins of government.”
Paul Dans, director of the Heritage Foundation’s 2025 Presidential Transition Project, spoke with Breitbart News about the vision for a conservative movement that is not only ready to govern but to achieve conservative wins at a national level.
“The common themes you begin to realize among all the conservatives is the bureaucracy,” he said. “If there was a central theme in this whole project, it is really to dismantle the administrative state. The administrative state has been co-opted by progressives and liberals and it functions against any incoming conservative president. The faster the party realizes how to work with a bureaucracy, the more effective it will be.”
“Conservatives really need to figure out how to work government to achieve their own values,” he added.
Referring to the project as an “outreach program,” Dans, who served as the chief of staff U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the Trump administration, explained that conservatives need to become more comfortable with the idea of serving in the government.
Election workers open mail-in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on November 11, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
“As conservatives, we don’t think in terms of working in government and training for it,” he said. “We’re much more dedicated to the private sector or our own kind of family pursuits, religious — and that’s right, that’s really what we’re here to pursue.”
It is such a disposition away from government that makes running an effective administration difficult for conservatives. Democrats, however, are experts at taking control of government and acting quickly to achieve their goals and are particularly aided by career bureaucracy that largely agrees with the policy prescriptions.
“Our opposition are constantly thinking about government,” Dans told Breitbart News. “They have figured out how to engineer it to accomplish their ends with each new administration. In President Trump’s case, there had been an eight year hiatus between the last Republican administration and in the interim, you saw President Obama really remake government in profound ways that really needed to be undone.”
One of the major goals of the 2025 project is to find Americans willing to serve in government and train them to be effective from the first day in office.
“The key recognition is that personnel is policy — that axiom holds true,” Dans explained. “We hope, at the end of the day, that we have qualified, aligned personnel who are trained up to know their battle plan and can start work from day one.”
Saying they are looking for “new blood in Washington,” the project is looking outside of D.C. to find the right people to staff the next administration.
“We’re reaching outside of the swamp and appealing to new people to come and serve in Washington, and then hopefully go back home to their farm,” Dans said, emphasizing that conservatives need to start viewing this sort of work as a patriotic public service. “This is a call for people to come forward as public servants and be able to commit themselves to doing this.”
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as he delivers a Christmas address in the East Room of the White House on December 22, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
“That’s done mainly by people stepping forward and getting their hands dirty and volunteering, much like they would any other public service serving in the military, or volunteering in the soup kitchen, or religious practice,” he continued, adding that they are looking for persons who see what the Biden administration and Democrat leadership has done and feel compelled to get involved.
“This is an outreach to bring people from across the 50 states who have been frustrated, watching what’s gone on with the national government, who’ve maybe always wanted to enter and didn’t have connections or know where to start, or were afraid that it wouldn’t be manageable with their family situation or present job,” he said.
One key to the project’s success is the “personnel database” being built as a “conservative network akin to a LinkedIn.”
“We’re allowing aspirants who want to serve as well as those who just want to be outside government support this endeavor to create essentially a conservative network akin to a LinkedIn where the applicant can develop his or her profile and upload the resume,” Dans said of the second “pillar” of the project. “Ultimately, we will review that these applicants and match them up against prospective organization charge for agencies and offer this to the eventual transition team.”
“We basically designed a systematic entry point — a portal that will bring people who are successful in other walks of life, or who’ve always wanted to get to Washington, and kind of show them: ‘Here’s the avenues to do it,’” he added.
The conservative movement, however, has often been a fractured one consisting of different interests and worldviews — a contributing factor to governance difficulties.
The 2025 project aims to unify the movement and is one of 45 different organizations all working toward the same goal.
“I think in pretty much every group there’s a realization to know what time it is,” he said. “We have to use all the tools and some of the traditional playbook is not going to be effective.”
“We are very much realizing that we have to use some of the tools of government to confront powers that have been moving against conservatives, namely, confronting big tech, confronting big pharma, confronting business — the management of many of those enterprises have become de facto arms of the progressives and the Democrat Party,” he continued.
President Joe Biden arrives to deliver the State of the Union address as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) look on during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol House Chamber on March 1, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Saul Loeb – Pool/Getty Images)
Such a realization also brings with it tension from different factions of the conservative movement.
When asked if he thought there would be pushback from the Republican establishment, Dans said, “There will be. I mean it’s tough to switch gears.”
Some of the tension will come from disputes between the Reaganites and the populists, who view the use of government power differently.
Reaganites believe in “small government” as a core tenet, but populists are skeptical that not using government is tantamount to ceding ground to the left.
“The reality is we are where we are — the world is a much different place than it was in 1980,” Dans said. “President Reagan was certainly the president for his times and had generational impact.”
“The reality is that much more damage has been done,” he continued. “This upcoming election is really going to be defining for the America that we know and as conservatives cherish.”
“This project certainly is big tent and is bringing in a lot of more traditional views, but to be sure there is kind of an esprit de corps [spirit of comradery and devotion] of much more activist, on-offense type approach to government,” he said.
“There’s a hunger in the country for reformation, and that’s ultimately what we’re going for,” he concluded.
The project is structured by four pillars: policy agenda, personnel database, training, and a 180-day playbook.
“‘This is what conservatives demand and these are areas where conservatives are split, and ultimately, your campaign can elect which menu option to go on the various policy choice, but you should know that this is where the Conservatives demand to be,” Dans said of the policy book set to be published in April. “And if you want to go against it, you go at your own peril.”
It will “distill out the core areas of conservative consensus and then kind of bracket areas where there’s disagreement,” Dans continued. “This is all purposed towards getting it in the hands of the potential candidate for president in advance of the primary season.”
The pillars are interconnected in that the policy book will sow ideological alignment among factions and potential appointees. Persons motivated to serve can then use the personnel database to answer the call.
The personnel database will be used to find qualified candidates to end up in the third pillar — training — in order to execute effectively from the first day in office.
Finally, the project will come out with a playbook, complete with policy recommendations and executive orders to get the ball rolling.
“Start writing transition plans well in advance and be ready to allow a new team to take the reins of government,” Dans said.
Much of the motivation behind such a project is the recognition that very little transition infrastructure existed when Trump took office — especially as his win “came as a shock to Conservative, Inc.” — making it difficult for the administration to get off the ground.
President-elect Donald J. Trump arrives at his inauguration at the United States Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo credit should read ANDREW GOMBERT/AFP/Getty Images)
“Whatever you might say about the Biden administration, we can take a cue from them in the fact that they were prepared and they did manage to get a lot of things signed early on,” Dans said.
One tool implemented late in the Trump administration is a personnel classification called Schedule F, which allows a president to effectively fire career civil servants who have outsized influence on policy. Most civil servants are protected by statute and unions.
“Schedule F is a key recognition that policy-determinative positions should, by design in this government, be political,” Dans, who was charged with implementing Schedule F in the Trump administration, said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s exactly how our government is intended to be.”
While the prospect of Schedule F made headlines this year, Dans told Breitbart News that, while it is a useful tool, it is not a “panacea.”
“It’s a great idea, but it’s a little bit of a shiny object, too,” he said. “I don’t see it as a panacea. At the end of the day, it’s the actual person, the manager, him or herself, that will get this done.”
“I can assure you the most important part is actually having the problem solver, the optimist, the person who does not quit, and who is a believer in the agenda to get into government in the first place,” he concluded.
“This is a project to make sure that conservatives are ready to go from day one, to hit the ground running so to speak. It’s a massive effort to prepare way in advance of a new administration,” he said. “An effort to come together as a conservative movement and really establish what our core beliefs are, and our demands are going to be of the next conservative president, and establish that well in advance of the primaries.”
Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.