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Republicans’ Embrace of One of the World’s Worst

S.E. Cupp, Tribune Content Agency on

This week, he has a high-visibility time slot on the opening day of CPAC Texas, the once annual conservative conference that’s become such a successful grift for Republicans, it’s now held multiple times a year.

While he’ll be warmly welcomed in the Trinity Ballroom of the Hilton Anatole, the list of his anti-democratic intrusions is long, and alarming:

Attempts at obstructing free and fair elections. Undermining democratic institutions, including the media. Expanding executive powers. A far-right politicization of the highest courts. Exerting political influence over education. Bans on speech pertaining to gender and sexuality. Marginalizing minority groups. Promoting ethnonationalism and white pride. Corruption and graft at the highest levels of government. Use of propaganda to mislead the public. Embracing world dictators and autocratic regimes.

It may sound all too familiar, and this list could easily describe former President Donald Trump’s remaking of the American right.

But it also describes Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s remaking of Hungary’s political system over many years — and four terms — as the country’s populist head of state.

So it’s probably no coincidence that Orban was invited to speak at CPAC this year. Pro-Trump Republicans and right-wing nationalists have embraced Orban and his hold over Hungary — what Zack Beauchamp calls his “soft fascism.” Or, in H. David Baer’s assessment, the ways in which “Orban controls the pursuit of happiness.”

 

The things that have made him a fixture in rightwing circles here at home, a rising star in the MAGA universe, are the same things that prompted Freedom House, the oldest American organization devoted to the defense of democracy around the world, to downgrade Hungary to a partial democracy in 2020 — a “transitional or hybrid regime” existing somewhere in the “gray zone” between democracies and autocracies. The nation maintains that ominous distinction today.

Nonetheless, Trump has praised Orban repeatedly. In a statement backing his re-election, he wrote glowingly, “He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming Election. He is a strong leader and respected by all.”

Orban also endorsed Trump, saying, “What the president represents is good for Central Europe, which is why we are rooting — at least me personally — for him to win the election.

Sounding very much like Orban and Trump, Carlson has lauded the leader for not allowing “this nation of 10 million people to be changed forever by people we didn’t invite in and who are coming here illegally.” He says Orban’s government offers “a lot of lessons for the rest of us.” Presumably, he means positive ones.

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