The Cause
How are you feeling about democracy?
"Taking Project 2025 personally" with Andra Watkins

"Taking Project 2025 personally" with Andra Watkins

The GOP's plan to defend your right to practice their religion is hidden in plain sight.

Project 2025 is a religious document. It was written by a bunch of fanatics who will do anything to make sure you have the right to practice their religion and only their religion.

This 1,000-page plan for a full rollout of fascism developed by the elite of the Republican establishment isn’t just corporate authoritarianism laundered as “small-government conservatism.” It’s a messianic mission statement. And you can’t understand just how overwhelming and ominous that mission is unless you’ve been reading Andra Watkins. 

Andra’s Substack, “How Project 2025 Will Ruin YOUR Life,” delves into this document's Biblicaly-coded dictates to show how it intends to dominate our lives. 

Even more importantly, she shows how it’s already happening. 

We spoke to Andra to get her personal perspective on the Christian Nationalist mindset behind Project 2025 and how she escaped it herself.

You can also help expose Project 2025. This new tool, “Project 2025: Not on Our Watch,” developed by Stop the Coup 2025, Democracy Labs, and Andra, allows you to help document specific examples of Project 2025 in the wild.

Dig deeper into Project 2025 and help spread the word about this existential threat to democracy at

Catch up on all the episodes of “How are you feeling about democracy?” here.

If you want to back this podcast, please join the earlyworm society – free or paid, your support matters. You can also show your support with a one-time gift or by sharing this with anyone who cares about democracy.


Jason Sattler: What do you think the average person needs to know about Project 2025?

Andra Watkins: It's an almost thousand-page Christo-fascist Republican manifesto to transform our democracy into a Christian nationalist theocracy. And they are already using it as a blueprint in red states to transform states like Texas and Florida into Christo-fascist governments. 

Jason Sattler: There are a number of things from your work that I think are super important, but I don't see very many other places. I'll start off with "Christo-fascist." I think you're going to use the word a lot. Do you think it’s really important to use this term? I think it's new to most people. Why do you think it's so important, and why do you use it?

Andra Watkins: I use it because I grew up in Christian Nationalism, in the very nascent form of it. I went to a Christian nationalist church and school in South Carolina in the 1970s and 80s. So, my church was one of the founding members of Jerry Falwell Sr.'s Moral Majority. I spent 20 years of my life, formative years of my life, being indoctrinated in Christian Nationalist history, Christian Nationalist Bible, and that kind of thinking.

And even then, even when I was a child, there was this attitude in my church that it was up to Christians to take over the government and force everyone to live by our interpretation of the Bible, that society would be so much better if Christian nationalists took over the government and made everyone live by Biblical laws. And so that's why I use the term Christo-fascism so much to describe this movement within the Republican Party. It's really, to me, what the Republican Party has become.

This attitude that our Bible and our interpretation of the Bible is the truth, it is the correct one, it is the only one we should be listening to, and our laws should be drawn from that, and we're going to force you, whatever you believe, to live by those laws is the very essence of fascism.

Jason Sattler: We're going to protect your right to practice our religion is the mentality here. 

Andra Watkins: Yes, I mean, I said to someone that they went from my evangelical upbringing, which was lived by the great commission, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature..." But today's Christo-fascist Republican Party lives by the tenet "Go ye into all the world and force the gospel on every creature and force them to live by it whether they believe it or not."

Jason Sattler: I struggle with this a tiny bit because I grew up, I think we grew up at the same time, and I grew up in a conservative Jewish temple in Southern California. So, I had a very different experience. 

I've experienced like the kind of glowing branding of Christianity in America where it's the best thing you could be used to be a Christian. You get to all the presents and, being Jewish, inherently puts you on the naughty list. And there are all these kinds of things that are great about being Christian in America. It's aspirational, and I worry about ceding them the Christo thing. I think it's good that you say that there's a contortion to the word, that it's not just Christian.

Do you think there's any kind of danger in ceding them the position of being the ones who are the followers of Jesus?

Andra Watkins: I don't think they're following Jesus. I think they're using Jesus for their own money and power, and it's up to Christians... plenty of Christians aren't in this camp, and a lot of them are starting to speak out against this movement. This is just a subset of Christianity in the United States. Both Protestant and Catholic sectors of Christianity have this movement, but it's a small portion of the totality of Christianity. Not small anymore. It's probably close to half of it now identifies being Christian nationalists in terms of who identifies as a Christian in America. So people who aren't in that camp have started speaking up about how that's not what Jesus taught, and I do that sometimes as well. It's really important to differentiate this group of people who profess to be Christians as a very different kind of Christian from what a lot of other Christians profess to be.

Jason Sattler: Yeah, it's extraordinarily powerful the Christian nationalist movement, and I, you see this over and over when they talk about Zionism, and that's a hot debate. And it's not Jews who are making this a hot debate because there are not enough Jews in the world to make this a hot debate.

It's the backing of Zionism from Christian nationalists, who I actually think of are Christian Zionists in the sense that they see America as the homeland of Christianity and something that doesn't get talked about as much. What they're trying to do is, "Hey, we want Jews to go to Israel and want America for ourselves." 

Andra Watkins: I was taught as a child that America was founded as a Christian nation in part so that it would enable Israel to regather as a nation. That America exists to protect Israel because God used America to help Israel regather and be refounded as a nation. And part of their belief system revolves around this apocalyptic end of the world scenario where Israel is a nation and is invaded. It's very central to someone like Mike Johnson's belief system about what's happening right now. So it's more than just America is a Christian nation. It they're revolving around Israel involves more than that. 

Jason Sattler: Yeah, absolutely. And a big part of that is they want me and my family to go to hell so that they can go to heaven, which is, I can see why most American Jews don't buy into it.

So when did you first come across Project 2025? 

Andra Watkins: I read about it in 2022. And I didn't pick it up right away. I was working on a different book. And that book, you're a writer. So you understand, sometimes books happen, and agents say things, but they don't go anywhere. And so that's what happened last September.

I got the news that Project wasn't going to go anywhere. And so I was at loose ends, and it was a memoir about growing up in Christian Nationalism with a narcissistic mother. I thought it would have a lot to say about the moment we're in. 

Jason Sattler: Yes. 

Andra Watkins: I was not excited about writing that, but I thought it would be helpful to other people.

So when that book didn't go anywhere, I picked up Project 2025 and started reading it. And within the first few pages I was seeing Bible verses buried in the text that I learned as a kid. And nobody in the media was calling out these Bible verses and these concepts that my pastor taught from the pulpit when I was eight and those kinds of things that were very blatantly in this document, but you had to know the lingo to be able to pick it out of this document.

And so I persevered and read all of it. And was appalled by just how much of that language this document contains. And the media still wasn't talking about it. They were presenting it as this boring policy document. And they weren't really explaining how this type of government would impact your life as an American.

And so I thought this gives me the opportunity to revisit the book that didn't go anywhere and use the knowledge that I gained from that upbringing to educate other Americans about what this could mean for them if they're successful. And I don't have to relive all my trauma, and I don't have to talk about that a lot.

And so it really, for me, was a win; I was excited that I could use my own indoctrination and my own journey to educate you and people like you about what's at stake with this document. I decided to start the Substack as the way to try to reach people with that message. 

Jason Sattler: Yeah. And I think another thing you do that makes this real is, as you mentioned earlier, this is already happening.

I don't think people get that. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Andra Watkins: One of the series I do on my Substack is taking specific red states, and Texas has probably been the most popular one I've done so far because it's a big state, and they've done a lot. And so I take language and policy positions from Project 2025. Then I show readers, this is a law that they've passed that mirrors that policy recommendation, and this is another law, and this is another law, and this is another law. So this is how far they've already gone toward implementing Project 2025 in the state of Texas. So they're a lot farther along to being a Christo-fascist government in Texas than they are, say, in Michigan, where you are.

And I'm hopeful that making those correlations will be more persuasive to so many Americans who sit in blue states and say, I don't see any of this happening. I don't think they can really do this. This won't ever happen nationwide. 

This can be done because they're already doing it.

Jason Sattler: Yeah, that would be the big objection I think that people have. They think, “Oh, they can't do this on a national level where blue states are safe.” Then there's also the kind of secondary thing of the plausible deniability that's built into Donald Trump, which is why he's the kind of the perfect Trojan Horse for Christian Nationalism.

Many people just believe he doesn't buy any of it. He's paid for several abortions; he's bragged about assaulting women; he's not the kind of guy who cares about Christianity in any way whatsoever, So why would he care about implementing Christian Nationalism? 

 When you make the case that this is already happening, and these are the same people Trump is trying to bring into his campaign, I think that's the most vivid example of why people need to be concerned about this.

Do you have any thoughts about Donald Trump's role in this?

Andra Watkins: I don't waste a lot of time talking about 45. I don't even say his name. I think the people behind him are the people we should be afraid of.

He is an excellent tool for them because the only thing he cares about is himself. And they have used his narcissism and his various personality defects to, manipulate themselves into positions of power to implement their agenda. He doesn't care about their agenda, except as it impacts him, and as long as he can be a dictator and do what he wants and enrich himself, he really doesn't care what they do. Talking about him and putting so much focus on him, in my view, is a waste of time.

We should be talking a lot more about the people behind him, who are very organized and very intelligent. They have already captured part of our court system and the Supreme Court and are systematically chipping away at our rights and freedoms and removing rights and freedoms in red states left and right. That's what we should be talking about every day, in my view. 

Jason Sattler: Are those people... 

Andra Watkins: We should be talking about them, not 45. 

Jason Sattler: Are those people we should know by name?

Andra Watkins: ProPublica has done a lot of really good articles exposing Leonard Leo's role in this, who, founded the Federalist Society and really has been the architect, not just of the takeover of the Supreme Court, but of the judiciary, and he worked on that for decades. And we will be living with the consequences of that for decades more. So it's certainly important to talk about those people. Jonathan Mitchell is another one, the architect of the abortion bounty hunter law in Texas, who's a far-right attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Certainly, we can talk about these people, but I think it's even more important to talk about what they've accomplished. And how they've systematically gone about accomplishing that and how they have become so slick at using language that means one thing to a Democrat or an unengaged political observer or a middle-of-the-road voter and nowhere America than it does to someone like me who grew up in Christian Nationalism and knows when they say certain words that they mean something very different than what much of the rest of society might think those words mean.

It's crucial that more Americans understand those aspects of this than it is to be able to know specific people's names right now.

Jason Sattler: And the thing that I love about the title of your Substack and the bent of it is how personalized it is. This is about how it will ruin your life.

Can you describe some of the ways Project 2025 will directly impact our lives? 


Andra Watkins: Potentially. And that's just one example. I've talked a lot about pornography. And how there's this throwaway paragraph on one of the first few pages of Project 2025 about how they want to stamp out all pornography and incarcerate everyone who produces or consumes it.

Jason Sattler: And you've made a point about this that I haven't seen anywhere else that this is this is really important because what the Christian right sees as pornography is very different. I think bad enough if you told the average American male that they want to ban pornography, they would tilt their head, maybe do a full rotation.

I think it's really important that you get into the definition of how the Christian right sees porn. 

Andra Watkins: Because everything is pornography. When I was growing up, all art was pornography because it had nude images in it. I couldn't learn about art as a kid because it was all just naked people and perversion and horrible stuff that made you lust and think terrible thoughts and question your Bible.

So all art was bad. Homosexuality was pornography. Transgenderism was pornography. The smutty romance novels that I love to read as a 55-year-old woman would all be pornography. And you think about how that would impact the film industry and the television industry and the music industry in America when talking about sex, when two people touching physically who are not married is pornography, because that shouldn't be done until you're married.

You shouldn't kiss someone else until you're married. That's what someone like Mike Johnson believes, anything that has an...

Jason Sattler: Just a reminder: Mike Johnson has an app on his phone. He and his son monitor each other's pornography use and get alerts.

Andra Watkins: And a picture of a woman in a swimsuit could be flagged as pornography on that app. A reporter for The Guardian actually downloaded that app and used it, and he was blown away by these benign things; a picture of a woman in a miniskirt was flagged as pornography. 

Jason Sattler: Jerry Falwell once accused the Teletubbies of trying to turn people gay. 

Andra Watkins: Anything that makes Mike Johnson think about sex is pornography, anything. So, their definition of pornography is sweeping and scary in terms of what it could mean for our freedom of expression and our freedom of speech in the United States. 

It would impact every single person in America, and they would use laws like that to harass and intimidate people. One of the great ways that they could arrest their enemies and charge them with crimes would be to charge them with being pornographers.

Jason Sattler: And there's something you're pointing to, and this would be subtle. No enforcement can be complete. There's no law that gets completely enforced. This kind of stuff just seems designed to be selectively enforced. 45, it doesn't apply to him. It may apply to Mike Pence, but it's not going to apply to Matt Gaetz. 

The enforcement here really depends on who they decide to target. And how do you think they will use that given the powers that they want to give themselves? 

Andra Watkins: They will obviously target anyone who's an enemy or they consider to be an enemy.

One of the most unsettling things in Project 2025 is their call to have federal access to voter rolls, which are now private. But to secure election integrity, they would recommend that they have complete access to those kinds of roles. 

So, if you're a registered Democrat, you would potentially be a target. Even if you don't vote or haven't voted in a while, you would be a potential target. Those kinds of privacy violations are really unsettling, and what they may do with that information should scare every American. Especially when 45 is running around talking about retribution and vengeance and punishing his enemies.

Jason Sattler: The big joke is that they talk about how important small government is to them. In this thousand-page dictate on how the law will look like under the next Republican administration. They say it could be any Republican administration that this is a plan that they have been working on, as you mentioned for decades and will never stop working on.

Andra Watkins: It’s a lie that they believe in small government. That is a lie. They are gaslighting Americans with that notion. They don't like this federal government because they don't control it, and they don't like democracy. Because that gives you the right to practice Judaism and me the right to say I'm just not really going to do anything anymore and a Muslim the right to say I'm going to do that and an atheist to say I don't want to believe in God at all.

And they don't want that kind of society. They want to remake the government in their image, and it will be a massive government, a massive intrusion in every American's life.

Jason Sattler: And then you had a great post; I think maybe even the most popular post on the blog is about "How to tell your friends about Project 2025." This is something that I deal with, that people have come to me and said, Hey, this is just going to bum people out. This is not Joe Biden's vision of America. We've got to get people things to vote for. But I fully agree with you that the two visions need to be fully articulated. 

So, what do you think you should be telling your friends about Project 2025?

Andra Watkins: I certainly encourage people to read my Substack and to follow other democracy-minded reporters in the media like Margaret Sullivan, who writes really great articles about the state of democracy; Anne Applebaum writes really great articles for the Atlantic about the state of democracy worldwide, because she lives part-time in Poland and writes a lot about that part of the world.

It's certainly important to pay attention to what's happening on the ground everywhere right now with democracy. It's under attack worldwide, and I encourage people to educate themselves about that. It's not a time to be complacent and to say, I don't have time to care about politics or I don't believe this can happen.

This is going to be the most monumental election of our lifetimes, both you and my lifetime. And it's going to have consequences that could be catastrophic for everyone on this planet. And so it is imperative that we talk to our friends and at least try to explain to them what Project 2025 says and how much of it they've already done.

And so that post particularly gave some good talking points about how to do that and how to talk to your friends about it, how to take them to different states and walk them through what has been implemented already, and how to explain it to them when. Far-right Christian nationalist politician. Politicians say things; here's what they really mean by that: how to uncover whether a particular political candidate is a Christian nationalist, how to question them, and how to figure out what they believe. Several of those newsletters are very useful, and people come back to them a lot. They are the most popular ones on my Substack.

Jason Sattler: The one thing that I think that we haven't talked about yet that really gets to how deep this goes is the whole idea of no-fault divorce, which is something that we thought was settled. There were a lot of things that we thought marriage was settled. We thought marriage equality was settled; interracial marriage was settled. None of these things are settled. They don't even want to allow no-fault divorce. Why is that important to the people behind Project 2025?

Andra Watkins: They define a family as one man married to one unrelated woman with children. That is the only definition of a family that they will accept. But that is central to American life and prosperity and success. And they believe that woke liberal policies are destroying the family, have been destroying the family for decades. Same-sex marriage is destroying the family. Transgenderism is destroying the family.

Jason Sattler: Everything fun. 

Andra Watkins: Policies that you and I would see as progress for marginalized groups in our society and a push toward multi-plural democracy they see as the antithesis of everything that is holy and just and right. We talked a little bit about no-fault divorce. People are very concerned about that. A couple of Christo-fascist Republican politicians have introduced legislation that didn't go anywhere to try to limit no-fault divorce in their states. But that's not their endgame.

Their Bibles say, in their view, that Marriage is a covenant, a holy covenant between one man, one unrelated woman, and God. And you cannot just decide to break a holy covenant because you think you made a mistake. You can't decide to break a holy covenant with God because he's abusive. You can't decide to break a holy covenant with God because you just don't like each other anymore. You can't decide to break a holy covenant with God because one of you gets sick, and it becomes too hard.

They will outlaw all divorce if they win. It won't just be no-fault divorce. That's where they'll start and you see how they do everything else They do they start with the lowest hanging fruit that they think they can make happen But that won't that's not their end game. Their end game is to force people to stay married, heterosexual people will only be able to get married, and to force women to stay home with children and raise those children while the men work outside the home and support the family.

That is their vision of a utopian society. That is how God intended for society to function, according to them. And so that is what they will force on all of America.

Jason Sattler: And so just to finish on a hopeful note, you personally broke free of this mentality. How did you get out and how did the other people that you've seen get out, break through this kind of I don't want to say delusion, but indoctrination to have a clearer view about what democracy means and how important it is?

Andra Watkins: I was totally indoctrinated. I worked for the Republican Party and volunteered and was one of the best Republicans you would have ever known when I was 27. So, I believe firmly in all the things they stood for. I met Elizabeth Dole and cried. I was so overcome to meet someone like that. So I was fully indoctrinated, and I don't want to say brainwashed. I don't want to talk about people that way. 

Jason Sattler: Yeah. 

Andra Watkins: These groups use very specific tactics to keep people within them that I would say are called like tactics. Your whole world revolves around this church and this community. You don't really have any friends outside of it. So when I. I entered my early thirties and started questioning some things that I learned in my upbringing. And I had a couple of upheavals in my life that caused me to start questioning some of that. 

You lose everything when you walk away from that life. You lose all your friends; you lose your support structure. It takes a lot of courage and strength to decide to walk away from that. And that's not to toot my own horn. But it's why a lot of people don't, they start trying to, and it becomes too hard and all of the things that have been put in place to keep them captive start activating and it just becomes too hard to fight it.

And so there are a lot of people in these communities that probably aren't radicalized, but they don't want to lose everything to walk away from it. Those are the people, the 20 percent of Christian nationalists who aren't fully indoctrinated, fully whole hog. 

So it took me probably a good 15 years of reading, reading history books by actual historians and not Bob Jones University, which wrote all the textbooks for my Christian school, reading multiple viewpoints about the founders from different historians, reading multiple texts about the founding of our country, about the separation of church and state and what the founders intended, about slavery in America, because I grew up in the South and, the slaves were happy on the plantation, the masters only punish them when they were bad. That's the history I learned as a Southern girl, and people are still learning in the South. That's what Ron DeSantis is fighting for people to learn in Florida.

Jason Sattler: They learn valuable skills... 

Andra Watkins: It took 15 years or more of reading and studying and working on myself and therapy to get away from that.

And change that about myself. I wanted to do that. The more I learned. About how I was brought up, the more horrified I became by it, but that's not typical. 

Jason Sattler: Thankfully, you did it, and you have this background, so you can make it clear I really haven't heard it from anywhere else how steeped in fundamentalism this document is. Everybody else really does characterize it as a wonky kind of document. It just takes someone who has been through and seen the indoctrination themselves to understand how steeped in this world that really is. I'm really glad you're the one who did that. 

Andra Watkins: If that's why I had to live through all this to be you know to put my indoctrination to use for the good then I think it's worth it. I don't know that I'm the most eloquent person or the most believable person to be doing this work, but I'm grateful that I'm able to do it. And I'm grateful that it's reaching people.

Jason Sattler: And I'm grateful that you were able to give us some time to talk about it because it has illuminated this document in a way that I have not seen anywhere else. Thank you.

Andra Watkins: Thanks for having me, Jason.

The Cause
How are you feeling about democracy?
Each week we'll ask one expert how they are feeling about democracy and dig into what we need to know to help save it. Hosted by earlyworm's Jason Sattler AKA @LOLGOP.