Want to see the future of America? Look to Hungary.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is not content to be the fascist leader of Hungary. He also envisions himself as the leader of a worldwide movement of far-right politicians, activists and academics seeking to export the Hungarian experiment to other countries.
Orban was first named Prime Minister in 1998. He left office in 2002 when his Fidesz party lost the national elections. Orban was returned to the Prime Ministership by voters in 2010 and has not lost an election since.
After returning to office in 2010, Orban and his party used the levers of democracy to engineer a system that greatly magnified the power of their voters, strengthened the office of Prime Minister, weakened courts and even wrote the parliament out of much of the decision making. And all of it perfectly legal and constitutional. Of course, they had to write a whole new constitution to make it constitutional, but as a nascent authoritarian regime you do what you have to do.
What’s not to like about that? The Republicans certainly feel this is something they should be emulating and have made no secret that what Orban has done in Hungary is something they would love to see come to America. In fact, they have already begun putting Hungarian style policies into place right here in the United States of America.
And just in case you think I am overexaggerating read this from Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker:
Last year, Hungary passed a law banning sex education involving L.G.B.T.Q. topics in schools. Nine months later, in Florida, DeSantis signed a similar law, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Wait, but that’s probably just a coincidence, right?
DeSantis’s press secretary, talking about the inspiration for the law, reportedly said, “We were watching the Hungarians.”
By the way, you should go read that Marantz piece. It’s fantastic. He is doing a lot of good reporting on what’s going on in Hungary and how our own conservatives are trying to copy it.
Ok, sure, one thing. But what else are Republicans doing that imitate Orban?
One big reason Orban is able to remain in power is due to extreme gerrymandering. In April of this year Orban’s party won 54% of the popular vote. That 54% vote share was enough to win 83% of the districts.
Again, from the Marantz piece:
In April, Fidesz got fifty-four per cent of the vote but won eighty-three percent of the districts. “At that level of malapportionment, you’d be hard pressed to find a good-faith political scientist who would call that country a true democracy,” [Johns Hopkins political scientist Leo] Drutman told me.
Nearly this level of gerrymandering can be seen in states like Wisconsin. Statewide races for Senator, Governor and President are routinely decided by less than a percentage point but the Republicans nearly have a veto-proof majority in the State Assembly. Even if Democrats were to win statewide by 8 or 9 points this year the Republicans are slated to win 63 out of the 99 State Assembly seats.
Orban and Fidesz has also changed how courts work. From Human Rights Watch in 2018:
This week, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling party Fidesz rammed a law through parliament that poses a new threat to the independence of the country’s judiciary.
The law creates a separate administrative court system that will handle cases directly affecting basic human rights, such as elections, right to asylum, right to assembly, and complaints of police violence.
I guess if you don’t like what the regular judges are ruling you just set up an entirely new court system with friendly judges and give them the only authority to judge cases in areas that are important to you.
Republicans have also screwed around with our courts. During Obama’s last year in office, Senate Republicans wouldn’t even consider his Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Didn’t even give him a hearing. Mitch McConnell came up with a rule saying no Supreme Court nominations during an election year and for nearly a year the Supreme Court operated with only eight Justices. McConnell single-handedly changed the size of the Supreme Court. But don’t let the Democrats talk about expanding the Court because that would be bad.
Then in 2020 with less than a month to go before the presidential election Republicans rammed Trump’s third Supreme Court pick through the Senate and onto the Court. Women, particularly, are feeling the impact right now of the Republican embrace of Orbanism.
The fire of authoritarianism has burned in the heart of Republicans for decades. Trump didn’t bring that fire. He was an accelerant poured onto what was already smoldering in their chests.
I want to leave you with one last excerpt from Marantz’s piece:
Trump may run in 2024, and he may win, fairly or unfairly. What worried me most, sitting in the belly of the Whale, was not the person of Donald Trump but a Republican Party that resembled Orban’s party, Fidesz, more by the month – increasingly comfortable with naked power grabs, with treating all political opposition as fundamentally illegitimate, with assuming that any checks on its dominance were mere inconveniences to be bypassed by any quasi-legalistic means.
As Trump begins mesmerizing the media with will he/won’t he/when will he run stories keep your eye on Hungary.
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