Fascism Dictated By The Right Wing Heritage Foundation May Be Coming To America

Heather Cox Richardson

Monday, July 1, was a busy day. That morning the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Donald J. Trump v. United States that gives the president absolute immunity for committing crimes while engaging in official acts. On the same day, Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon began a four-month sentence for contempt of Congress at a low-security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Before he began serving his sentence, he swore he would “be more powerful in prison than I am now.” 

“On July 2, Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, went onto Bannon’s webcast War Room to hearten Bannon’s right-wing followers after Bannon’s incarceration. Former representative Dave Brat (R-VA) was sitting in for Bannon and conducted the interview.  

“[W]e are going to win,” Roberts told them. “We’re in the process of taking this country back…. We ought to be really encouraged by what happened yesterday. And in spite of all of the injustice, which, of course, friends and audience of this show, of our friend Steve know, we are going to prevail.”

“That Supreme Court ruling yesterday on immunity is vital, and it’s vital for a lot of reasons,” Roberts said, adding that the nation needs a strong leader because “the radical left…has taken over our institutions.” “[W]e are in the process of the second American Revolution,” he said, “which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

Roberts took over the presidency of the Heritage Foundation in 2021, and he shifted it from a conservative think tank to an organization devoted to “institutionalizing Trumpism.” Central to that project for Roberts has been working to bring the policies of Hungary’s president Viktor Orbán, a close ally of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, to the United States. 

In 2023, Roberts brought the Heritage Foundation into a formal partnership with Hungary’s Danube Institute, a think tank overseen by a foundation that is directly funded by the Hungarian government; as journalist Casey Michel reported, it is, “for all intents and purposes, a state-funded front for pushing pro-Orbán rhetoric.” The Danube Institute has given grants to far-right figures in the U.S., and, Michel noted in March, “we have no idea how much funding may be flowing directly from Orbán’s regime to the Heritage Foundation.” Roberts has called modern Hungary “not just a model for conservative statecraft but the model.”

Orbán has been open about his determination to overthrow the concept of western democracy and replace it with what he has, on different occasions, called “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy.” He wants to replace the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy with Christian culture, stop the immigration that he believes undermines Hungarian culture, and reject “adaptable family models” in favor of “the Christian family model.” He is moving Hungary away from the stabilizing international systems supported by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

No matter what he calls it, Orbán’s model is not democracy at all. As soon as he retook office in 2010, he began to establish control over the media, cracking down on those critical of his far-right political party, Fidesz, and rewarding those who toed the party line. In 2012 his supporters rewrote the country’s constitution to strengthen his hand, and extreme gerrymandering gave his party more power while changes to election rules benefited his campaigns. Increasingly, he used the power of the state to concentrate wealth among his cronies, and he reworked the country’s judicial system and civil service system to stack it with his loyalists, who attacked immigrants, women, and the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. While Hungary still holds elections, state control of the media and the apparatus of voting means that it is impossible for the people of Hungary to remove him from power.

Trump supporters have long admired Orbán’s nationalism and centering of Christianity, while the fact that Hungary continues to have elections enables them to pretend that the country remains a democracy.

The tight cooperation between Heritage and Orbán illuminates Project 2025, the blueprint for a new kind of government dictated by Trump or a Trump-like figure. In January 2024, Roberts told Lulu Garcia-Navarro of the New York Times that Project 2025 was designed to jump-start a right-wing takeover of the government. “[T]he Trump administration, with the best of intentions, simply got a slow start,” Roberts said. “And Heritage and our allies in Project 2025 believe that must never be repeated.”

Project 2025 stands on four principles that it says the country must embrace: the U.S. must “[r]estore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children”; “[d]ismantle the administrative state and return self-governance to the American people”; “[d]efend our nation’s sovereignty, borders, and bounty against global threats”; and “[s]ecure our God-given individual rights to live freely—what our Constitution calls ‘the Blessings of Liberty.’”

In almost 1,000 pages, the document explains what these policies mean for ordinary Americans. Restoring the family and protecting children means using “government power…to restore the American family.” That, the document says, means eliminating any words associated with sexual orientation or gender identity, gender, abortion, reproductive health, or reproductive rights from any government rule, regulation, or law. Any reference to transgenderism is “pornography” and must be banned. 

The overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the right to abortion must be gratefully celebrated, the document says, but the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision accomplishing that end “is just the beginning.” 

Dismantling the administrative state starts from the premise that “people are policy.” Frustrated because nonpartisan civil employees thwarted much of Trump’s agenda in his first term, the authors of Project 2025 call for firing much of the current government workforce—about 2 million people work for the U.S. government—and replacing it with loyalists who will carry out a right-wing president’s demands. 

The plan asserts “the existential need” for an authoritarian leader to dismantle the current government that regulates business, provides a social safety net, and protects civil rights. Instead of the government Americans have built since 1933, the plan says the national government must “decentralize and privatize as much as possible” and leave “the great majority of domestic activities to state, local, and private governance.”

It attacks “America’s largest corporations, its public institutions, and its popular culture,” for their embrace of international organizations like the United Nations and the European Union and for their willingness to work with other countries. It calls for abandoning all of those partnerships and alliances. 

Also on July 1, Orbán took over the rotating presidency of the European Union. He will be operating for six months in that position under a slogan taken from Trump and adapted to Europe: “Make Europe Great Again.” The day before taking that office, Orbán announced that his political party was forming a new alliance with far-right parties in Austria and the Czech Republic in order to launch a “new era of European politics.”

Tomorrow, Orbán will travel to Moscow to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin. On July 2, Orbán met with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, where he urged Zelensky to accept a “ceasefire.” In the U.S., Trump’s team has suggested that, if reelected, Trump will call for an immediate ceasefire and will negotiate with Putin over how much of Ukraine Putin can keep while also rejecting Ukraine for NATO membership and scaling back U.S. commitment to NATO. 

“I would expect a very quick end to the conflict,” Kevin Roberts said. Putin says he supports Trump’s plan. 

Roberts’s “second American revolution,” which would destroy American democracy in an echo of a small-time dictator like Orbán and align our country with authoritarian leaders, seems a lot less patriotic than the first American Revolution. 

For my part, I will stand with the words written 248 years ago today, saying that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

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