Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Viktor Orban Or Joe Biden?

In the US, both the Left and tame Right can't understand why people vote for Orban. Here's why he's the leader of a West that hasn't forgotten itself
Screen Shot 2022-04-04 at 11.01.59 PM

Here’s a great short essay by the Romanian writer Titus Techera on Viktor Orban’s win in Hungary, and why so many Western liberals have this inexplicable, obsessive hatred for this small Central European country. In it, he quotes this Hillary Clinton tweet:

It’s always the same with these people: it’s only “democracy” when people vote the way they want them to. People did “go vote” — and they returned Orban and his Fidesz party to power by margins that even Fidesz did not expect (trust me on this — I was there last night at Fidesz HQ, talking to people as the numbers came in).

Here’s the response of Peter Marki-Zay, leader of the opposition, to Hillary’s tweet:

Titus points out that Marki-Zay didn’t seem to realize how unpopular American liberalism is in his home country. More:

Briefly put, this mayor of a small town has lost his own election & his grand coalition opposing FIDESZ has collapsed at the polls. Already, liberals are claiming the election was stolen… It’s not democracy, if the wrong people win, in short. Now, back to this small-time politician who’s popular online & in the capital, Budapest, but a complete bust in the rest of the country. He’s a Catholic, married, with seven children—also, he’s pro-LGBT & wants to introduce gay marriage into Hungary. A man of contradictions, to be sure, but also a good show of how our progressive liberalism corrupts souls & threatens the ruin of countries.

The problem with Hungarians, according to US and European elites, is that they are Europeans who want to be European, but who don’t want to be progressives. This is one form of diversity that liberals never, ever tolerate. In fact, same-sex couples in Hungary can have civil unions, but they can’t call it marriage. Moreover, Marki-Zay, whom the Western media loved to call a conservative Catholic with seven children, opposed the law forbidding the teaching of transgender ideology and the like to schoolchildren. Did you see any of that in the Western media’s reporting on Hungary and its election?

More Titus:

Stated in its fundamental terms, liberals see in Hungary the specter of right-wing politics, which they hoped they had banished generations back. So long as human beings have a sense of shame, there’s a basis for right-wing politics, however, so it must be dealt with in some drastic way.

Accordingly, liberals at various institutional levels, including through diplomacy, economics, &c., have behaved most shamelessly to Hungary, with a cruelty only fanaticism inspires &, in inspiring, not only excuses, but justifies. Poland is also treated in a similar manner, but somewhat less badly—it is the other Catholic, conservative gov’t in Europe. [Note: Hungary’s government is not Catholic; Orban is Reformed, as is the new president, Katalin Novak. But the government contains many Catholics. — RD]

I believe this is why conservatives, in Europe & America, have over the last decade gradually come around to embracing Hungary & PM Orban, treating him sometimes even as a champion. This is a sign of desperation, in a way, since, as I said, it’s a small country of no strategic importance. But that does inspire especially in Christians a certain hope—if this one PM can stand tall against so much hatred & abuse, if he can stay in office lo these twelve years in which so many careers have been made & unmade, so many strange, unpredicted political changes have taken place—the Trump election, Brexit, the Afghanistan catastrophe & retreat, & now war on the outskirts of the European continent—maybe there’s hope for Christians in politics.

Read it all. 

Titus is correct: Orban shows how a muscular right-wing populism can work, and how a conservative government can use state power to even the odds with the Left, which controls all cultural power. Not everything that the Hungarian government does can or should be done in America, but as I keep saying, there are lessons to be learned here. I’ve been told that the Florida law banning gender ideology and sexuality talk in public schools below the age of ten was inspired by the far broader and more restrictive Hungarian law.

Republican governors like Maryland’s Larry Hogan are apoplectic over the Florida law, but you know what? It’s popular nationwide — even with Biden voters!

Orban is working with a more culturally conservative electorate than we have in the US, but he shows that if you are a conviction politician, you can run on common-sense culture war issues, against the elites of the Cathedral, and win. In a post earlier today, I talked about a conversation I had this afternoon with a taxi driver who supports Orban, and said that he is sick and tired of being called a homophobe, transphobe, and racist because he believes in things that were “normal” just yesterday.

Viktor Orban is his champion. We cultural conservatives in America have very few champions like Orban. Maybe that will change soon. Gov. DeSantis gives me hope.

In a tweet last night, I said that Viktor Orban is the leader of the West — or rather, that section of the West that remembers what the West is. What did I mean by that? A short explanation:

  • Orban believes that the West is a coherent civilization composed of a multitude of different peoples, united by a common religion. He thinks that civilization and its culture is worth defending. He believes that the best way to do so is to prize the sovereignty of its nations. He also believes that mass migration is a mortal threat to the existence of that civilization.
  • Viktor Orban also believes that the religion of the Bible is true, and the basis of Western civilization. He believes that the traditional family is the bedrock of this and any civilization. Consequently, he believes that the state should be governed to help and defend the traditional family — not the interests of international capital, of liberal billionaires, of activist NGOs, or anybody else. He looks out across the West at what contemporary liberalism in power has done and is doing to civilization, and is determined to do everything he can to prevent his own country, Hungary, from falling into the same decadence.
  • He recognizes that liberalism, as it has evolved in the West, has become its own solvent. This is the Patrick Deneen thesis, in Why Liberalism Failed: it failed because it succeeded so well in “liberating” the choosing individual from every unchosen obligation, and freeing him up to follow his desires. Yet Orban, who grew up under Communism, and who fought it as a student leader, has an acute appreciation of the totalitarian temptation inside contemporary liberalism. It’s no coincidence that his arch-opponent in Hungarian politics, former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, is a former Communist youth leader who became one of Hungary’s richest men in the 1990s and early 2000s, and who is on great terms with liberal leaders in the European Union.
  • As an outsider who grew up in the country, he understands the power an unelected and unaccountable liberal elite controlling cultural institutions has over the direction of society — and is determined to use political power to keep liberal/progressive cultural power in check.
  • He is a capitalist who understands that globalist capitalism is a threat to the integrity of the nation-state. This is why, in his first term, he worked hard to repatriate Hungarian industries that had been sold off to foreigners in the immediate aftermath of Communism. Orban understood that as long as Hungary’s main industries were in the hands of foreigners, the Hungarian people had less power over their own destiny.

That’s basically it. The man is committed to defending his own country as an outpost of traditional Western Christian civilization (though his government has been very generous to Jewish groups and organizations here, and is close to Israel). He is committed to doing what he can within the limits of politics to engender the rebirth of Christianity in Hungary, a faith that was left on its back after forty years of Communism. And he is firmly, implacably dedicated to fighting wokeness and gender ideology as threats to the integrity of the traditional family. This entails opposing woke capitalism too, and even plain old capitalism if it’s not in the family’s interest. Unlike Anglo-American conservatives, but like standard continental conservatives, he does not hesitate to use the state to defend what he considers to be the common good.

And he doesn’t apologize for himself or his beliefs. He holds them confidently, even pugnaciously. And, unlike Donald Trump, he reads books and is a master strategist of power, and how to use it.

I hope that those American conservatives who are so certain that Orban is a Putinoid devil, that Hungary is proto-fascist and in need of a Color Revolution, can trouble themselves, in the wake of Orban’s fourth landslide election, to come to Hungary and see for themselves what it’s like. God knows it’s not paradise; no country is. But it is not the country that our liberal media have told you it is. I’ll be going home at the end of this month, and anyway, the election is over, so the Hungary posting will fall off sharply here. I just want to offer a counter to the lies and propaganda US academic, media, and political elites are telling themselves and the world about what happened yesterday in Hungary. They never understood the Trump phenomenon, and they don’t get Orban either. Maybe it’s because they don’t understand themselves, and how not everybody in the world wants to be a Western liberal, and to have the things that they love, and that give them meaning in life — their country, its culture, their religion, their families — taken away from them.

Last week, the US president’s administration posted policy guidelines stating its view on what “gender-affirming care” for young people, including hormones and surgeries, and saying explicitly that child welfare authorities need to be thinking “potentially to the extent of removing children from their families and homes” for hormones and surgeries. If you don’t believe me, read this. It’s all there. 

You tell me: would you rather live in a society governed by Viktor Orban, or Joe Biden, who once called Orban a “thug”? Because if we on the Right don’t get an American version of Orban soon, it’s going to be Bidens (including Republican Bidens like Larry Hogan) all the way down to the society’s dissolution.