Remember the old days, when Democrats and Republicans argued over trivialities, like the capital gains tax and Michael Dukakis’ tank helmet, not whether democracy was a good idea? Look where we are now. Democrats, as always, have been full-throated in defense of Western liberal democracy, whereas Republicans have been making Magi-like treks to Hungary to quaff from the cold, clear, invigorating wellspring of Viktor Orban-style authoritarianism.
To be fair, Republicans used to more or less back democracy, before they started looking to the future and saw a country that, in a few short decades, would no longer be majority white. Then the freakout started, reaching a fever pitch with the Jan. 6 white man’s tantrum in Washington, D.C. Thousands of marchers—angry that the guy who twice lost the popular vote had not been declared president simply because he said he’d won—decided that democracy meant attempting extralegal executions of top government officials.
But while Jan. 6 was a wake-up call for Western democracy, it was also a call to arms for the enemies of democracy, who are legion—both here and abroad. And now CPAC, which is about what you’d get if you spiked the Heritage Foundation’s Sanka with ketamine and bath salts, is full-on fêting authoritarian leaders in Europe.
Conservatives in Europe and the United States must fight together to “reconquer” institutions in Washington and Brussels from liberals who threaten Western civilisation ahead of votes in 2024, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.
Nationalist Orban said the next U.S. presidential election, when Donald Trump suggests he may seek a second term in the White House, and the vote for the European Parliament would make that a vital year.
He was addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the United States’ most prominent conservative gathering, in Budapest, the first such CPAC event in Europe.
Of course, being the wacky nationalist he is, Orban laid the blame for all the world’s troubles at the feet of “woke” progressives.
“Progressive liberals, neo-Marxists dazed by the woke dream, people financed by George Soros and promoters of open societies … want to annihilate the Western way of life that you and us love so much,” Orban told CPAC. “We must coordinate the movement of our troops as we face a big test, 2024 will be a decisive year.”
And why are today’s Republicans so enamored with Orban? He’s the canary in the coal mine for the undermining of democracy and the rule of law, and he hasn’t died yet, so Republicans across the country are springing erections so fast they’re passing out face-first in their Malt-O-Meal.
Check out this description of Viktor Orban’s Hungary and see if it doesn’t sound just a skosh familiar.
Over the past decade, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz Party have transformed a democracy into something close to an autocracy. Shortly after his first reelection in 2014, Orbán gave a speech outlining his political project. Citing globalization’s economic and social failures, Orbán defended the course he had set by noting that those nations best prepared for the future were “not liberal, not liberal democracies, maybe not even democracies.” Drawing on that message, he defined a form of regime change. “The Hungarian,” he said, “is not a simple sum of individuals, but a community that needs to be organized, strengthened, and developed, and in this sense, the new state that we are building is an illiberal state, a non-liberal state.”
Orbán had spent years softening up his nation for this turn. In his first term, he systematically worked to remold Hungary’s democratic institutions. Parliamentary districts were redrawn to benefit Fidesz. Ethnic Hungarians outside the country were given the right to vote. The courts were methodically packed with right-wing judges. Fidesz’s cronies were enriched and, in turn, members of the business elite funded Orbán’s politics. The government constructed a massive propaganda machine, as independent media were bullied and bought out and right-wing media were transformed into quasi state-media. Whereas Fidesz once had a foreign policy formed in opposition to Russian dominance, Orbán embraced Vladimir Putin and courted Russian investment and the corruption that went along with it.
That’s some scary shit, man. If you don’t think today’s pro-Putin, anti-democratic Republicans have studied this roadmap and begun to follow it, you’re not paying close attention.
This is not a drill, folks. There’s a reason Tucker Carlson visited Hungary, of all places, to produce a North Korea-style hagiography on the country’s current government. Or that Orban superfan Donald Trump endorsed the ultra-conservative for reelection. It’s remarkable enough that the GOP is so friendly with a clear opponent of Western liberal democracy, but it’s an off-the-charts outrage that they’re traveling across the Atlantic to genuflect to the guy.
“We must reconquer the institutions in Washington, D.C., and Brussels,” Orban said at the conference, referring to the unofficial capital of the European Union.
Ugh. If that happens, say goodbye to democracy and “Hello, Newman” to whatever comes next.
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.
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