Sunday, August 7, 2022

The American Right Is Buying What Viktor Orban Is Selling

Orban had done two big things: He had consolidated his own power by marginalizing the judiciary, installing loyalists in key positions, amending the Constitution, and taming the free press. And he had done battle with “the elites,” as he and every other populist put it, from Budapest to Brussels. Hungarians loved it. 

Every summer for the past dozen years of his premiership, Orban has given an address to the Hungarian diaspora in neighboring Romania where he typically floats outré ideas that outrage Western elites. It was there, in Transylvania, eight years ago, where Orban articulated his concept of “illiberal democracy.”

The speech was remarkable because it framed Hungary’s ongoing tribulations in big, historical terms. Orban explained that there had been the great paradigm shift following World War I, and then World War II, and then the end of Communism in Hungary in 1990—and then the “great Western financial collapse” of 2008, which revealed the bankruptcy of the elites and their betrayal of the middle and working classes in America and Western Europe. It was time, he said, to leave behind the old, Western model and embrace a new, post-liberal future closer to that of Russia, China and Singapore.

This was the message that lit the fuse. It caught like wildfire in the transnational, right-wing ecosystem. It eclipsed Reagan-era conservatism and, two years later, came to life in the form of Donald Trump. 


"The great Western financial collapse of 2008" was indeed a betrayal, or the reveal of a betrayal long in progress, of the Western middle classes. But the source of the collapse was basically the central planning by the Fed and other central banks. Along with lots of greed of course, but that's a given. Some or all of it was well intentioned on the part of the Fed and its boffins. How much you think it was depends on whether you view incompetence or malice as your explanatory narrative. I tend toward the former but suspect the latter. Personally, I don't see why Hungary can't be illiberal if a majority of its people want to, given the alternatives. But putting anything like Orban-esque conservatism, or trying to in the USA, would be a major mistake.

It will probably take some time for this to be clear however. I predict this neo-con at home business will turn out about as well as our nation-building efforts did in Iraq. A bonanza for various grifters and scammers ending in tears for most, but lovely second or third homes for the few.

The alternatives sadly also suck. Just think the California model imposed on the whole country, except for hard core holdouts like, one can hope, Utah and Idaho for example.

I see DeSantis as the possible way out. He seems highly intelligent, moderate about some things but cunning and courageous when he needs to be. But the GOP may well split its vote and throw the election to the unspeakable oligarch Pretty Boy Newsome or some other point person. But hope springs eternal.

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Put not your trust in princes.

Which leaves machine-gunners I suppose.

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 7, 2022 12:13:02 PM