What Will Happen in the Second Trump Term?
A look behind the rhetoric at the actual plans being hatched.
They just won’t stop. The same day I wrote about media exaggeration of Trump’s second term plans to “seize power,” the New York Times comes out with an end-of-days Trump Apocalypse story—“Trump Has a Master Plan for Destroying the ‘Deep State.’” Their version of Trump 2.0 reads like an A.I.-generated rewrite of Mein Kampf.
Yet it’s a good question: What might Trump really do in his second term? Don’t worry, it’s all good unless you like the Deep State.
To start, Trump will certainly not repeat a mistake from term 1.0: He will quickly fill his political appointee positions with allies. This is what every new president does, but Trump was roundly criticized in term 1.0 for not filling the ranks fast enough and thus somehow endangering America. Probably never expecting to win, and not being a lifetime politician, Trump took office without a folder of thousands of resumes from party loyalists and think tank exiles looking for work. (Biden finished the task fast by basically picking up most of the under-employed Obama administration hacks and those still grouchy because their promised Hillary Administration jobs never materialized.)
This time, Trump seems more prepared. Every president has some 4,000 appointed positions to fill. Every president fills these with loyalists, party hacks, or, in the case of jobs like ambassadorships, wealthy donors. Anticipating term 2.0, the Heritage Foundation has been compiling and vetting some 20,000 resumes. The chosen should come through that process enthusiastic to carry out the peoples’ will, and are unlikely to form the core of a Deep State “resistance” as happened during term 1.0.
The thousands of jobs which need to be filled are listed in the Plum book, alongside the expected salary: everything from Secretary of State to Member of the Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation. You can submit your resume online. To ensure all these appointees are ready to go to work on Day One, Heritage is also offering an online course to train them up for the task. You can apply to enroll online.
Also in planning is the implementation of changes to Schedule F, which shields stay-in-place-forever civil servants from political influence. Unfortunately, what was intended in good faith to create a merit system inside a government where bureaucrats’ allegiance was owed to the public and not the White House ended up as a bubble of invincibility around many who do their work slowly and without interest.
The Executive Order to change Schedule F was written during the chaotic end of term 1.0. High on a Trump policy list for term 2.0 would be implementing these changes to Schedule F. The action would convert as many as 50,000 civil servant positions (still leaving about two million Federal civilian positions untouched) into political appointments, allowing deadwood to be cut away and jobs filled with people in line with the administration’s goals.
Action, rather than non-action, is the goal. If actually seen to fruition, this would be the most profound change to the civil service system since its creation in 1883. Impact might be greatest in institutions like the Department of Justice, which the liberal media fears will be weaponized by Trump to go after Biden and others in the same way that the Mueller investigation, two impeachments, and multiple indictments have dogged Trump.
Aside from personnel changes, it is Trump’s policy plans that scare the liberal media the most, having worked themselves into a froth in term 1.0 by mislabeling everything from immigrant holding centers (“concentration camps”) to an out-of-control mob (“insurrection to overthrow the government of the United States at the People's House”). Heritage’s Project 2025 has a long policy section, dealing with the issues department-by-department.
As an example, here’s a look at what they have in mind for the Department of State. State under Obama/Hillary morphed into the Department of Nice, working full time for LGBT rights, climate change, and just about everything but making America great. It was a center of “the resistance,” grinding out dissent cables on matters outside its own purview like domestic immigration policy and war plans for Syria.
According to the Project 2025 plan, Trump should remake the Department into a tool of his foreign policy instead of the adversary it was during term 1.0 (see the scuttling of rapprochement with North Korea). High on the list is reorienting the department to “focus on core diplomatic activities, and stop promoting policies birthed in the American culture wars. The United States should focus on core security, economic, and human rights engagement... and reject the promotion of divisive policies that hurt the deepening of shared goals.”
There is a tug-of-war between Presidents and bureaucracies— and that resistance is much starker under conservative Presidents, due largely to the fact that large swaths of the State Department’s workforce are left-wing and predisposed to disagree with a conservative President’s policy agenda and vision. It should not and cannot be this way. A major source, if not the major source, of the State Department’s ineffectiveness lies in its institutional belief that it is an independent institution that knows what is best for the United States, sets its own foreign policy, and does not need direction from an elected President.
Other State-centric policy goals will be freezing all in-process negotiations for review, conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of U.S. participation in all international organizations, and refocusing policy on China, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and North Korea.
This will be done in conjunction with internal housekeeping, specifically to “develop a reorganization strategy. Despite periodic attempts by previous Administrations (including the Trump Administration) to make more than cosmetic changes to the State Department, its structure has remained largely unchanged since the 20th century.” The State Department would “better serve future Administrations, regardless of party, if it were to be meaningfully streamlined.”
The next Administration should develop “a complete hypothetical reorganization of the department—one which would tighten accountability to political leadership, reduce overhead, eliminate redundancy, waste fewer taxpayer resources, and recommend additional personnel-related changes for improvement of function. Such reorganization could be creative, but also carefully review specific structure-related problems that have been documented over the years.”
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In other words, heads will roll in a staid, uncreative bureaucracy already on record as opposing most of Trump’s foreign policy goals with an agenda of its own.
The final set of clues as to what a Trump administration 2.0 policy might look like rests in Heritage's 180-day Transition Playbook, which includes a comprehensive, concrete transition plan for each federal agency. The Playbook will provide the next president a road map for doing that. You can read it all in eye-numbing detail. They’re not kidding; even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gets its own road map to MAGA Trumpism.
It is possible Trump and his advisors won’t pay a whit of attention to Project 2025 and its recommendations, and may discard most of the 20,000 resumes Heritage hopes to pass on during the transition period following the 2024 election. Still, if you are looking for clues as to what might follow in Trump 2.0, getting the policy wonk-level view from documents such as Project 2025 may be as good a place to start as any.