The most beloved figure in America’s toxic conservative movement is Hungarian dictator Viktor Orban. This detestable Putin-loving autocrat has crushed independent media in his country, weakened democracy and regularly riles his base by trotting out homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic tropes.
If you want to know the endgame for Republicans, look to Hungary. American conservatives are so enthralled by Hungarian hate and its system of autocracy, that CPAC is hosting its conference in Budapest this week, the second time it has done so in two years.
At CPAC, Orban called liberalism a “virus” and attacked “woke” culture and LGBTQ rights. A sign that read, “No Country for Woke Men”, hung at the entrance to the conference. The dictator predicted that what he refers to as his nation’s “illiberal democracy” will be exported to the rest of the West, particularly the United States.
“Hungary is actually an incubator where experiments are done on the future of conservative policies. Hungary is the place where we didn’t just talk about defeating the progressives and liberals and causing a conservative Christian political turn, but we actually did it,” Orban said to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
The idea of an illiberal democracy is incoherent and contradictory. The notion that a country can be free, yet push a particular faith is anathema to religious freedom. Progressivism can’t be “defeated” because it represents ideas held by many Hungarian citizens.
What Orban is really saying is that he has rigged the system—particularly crushing the media–to ensure that his rigid, backward ideas have hegemony over competing viewpoints. That’s not real democracy, nor is it genuine victory. It is simply orchestrating state-sponsored force to suppress dissent.
The type of “Christianity” touted by Orban has little in common with the teachings of Jesus. New York Times columnist David French perfectly captured the imminent danger caused by such aggressive forms of faith:
If you infuse an issue or set of issues with religious intensity but drain a movement of religious virtue, then profound religious conflict — including violent conflict — is the inevitable result.
The more the Christian right latches on to cruel men, the more difficult it becomes to argue that the cruelty is a bug, not a feature.
Unfortunately, if Republicans regain control of the White House and the Senate, Orban’s words may be prescient. Orban is the inspiration for America’s leading conservatives and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law was modeled on similar anti-LGBTQ legislation in Hungary.
CPAC is led by Matt Schlapp, who shares Orban’s approach to banning legitimate media. Most real news outlets were prohibited from covering the CPAC conference. Why is the conservative movement so afraid to answer questions?
In an interesting aside, Schlapp was credibly accused by a male former staffer from Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign of groping him during a campaign stop. While Schlapp is dealing with the fallout of a gay scandal, Orban delivered anti-LGBTQ bromide from stage.
“The woke movement and gender ideology are exactly what Communism and Marxism used to be,” he said. “They artificially cut the nation into minorities in order to spark strife among the groups.”
It’s difficult to comprehend the level of Schlapp’s self-loathing, or Orban’s soulless opportunism. Schlapp is working to replace America’s system of government with Hungary’s – which ensures that LGBTQ people are second-class citizens. Orban, for his part, is fine speaking at a conference hosted by an alleged gay groper. This entire stinking scenario highlights the sickness of Schlapp and the insincerity of conservative politics, which is consumed with manipulation to amass raw power.
To describe the Republican descent into madness as a rabbit hole is no longer sufficient. A rabbit crater is what’s necessary to contain the eruption of conspiracies, lies and demagoguery that define modern conservatism.
The fact that CPAC looks to Hungary as a model for the Republican Party shows the GOP’s post-January 6 commitment to destroying democracy and eliminating civil liberties.
When the conservative movement is bowing down to a totalitarian tyrant like Viktor Orban–it’s time to admit that the Republican Party is a menace to America and our largest national security challenge.