In 1956, courageous Hungarians revolted against the Soviet Union’s occupation. The Kremlin brutally crushed the uprising, leaving thousands dead and the Hungarian prime minister executed. But the free world celebrated Hungary’s resolve to throw off the chains of Soviet authoritarianism.
It’s shocking to me, then, that Hungary has embraced authoritarianism by electing President Viktor Orbán to a fourth term. Orbán has clamped down on independent media, dissent, and his political opposition in a style modeled after every previous fascist dictator.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. This isn’t Hungary’s first fascist fandango. It allied itself with the Axis powers during World War II only to see the beautiful city of Budapest bombed into rubble. You’d think that lesson would still be fresh in the minds of Hungarians, yet here’s the new fascist replacing the old fascists.
So, guess which U.S. political organization held its annual meeting in Budapest last week with dictator Orbán as its keynote speaker? CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee.
There was a time these radical right zealots at least paid lip service to America’s constitutional democracy. But by making Orbán its paragon of superior leadership, CPAC has unabashedly revealed its own fascist aspirations.
The dictionary definition of fascism: A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
Orbán checks all those boxes. Here’s a taste of the red meat he tossed to his adoring CPAC audience:
“Progressive liberal, neo-Marxists dazed by the woke dream, people financed by George Soros and promoters of open societies… want to annihilate the Western way of life you and us (sic) love so much,” proclaimed Orban.
Soros was born in Hungary and as a child escaped extermination at the hands of the Nazis and the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross. He is a frequent radical right target because he supports progressive causes. That the billionaire is also Jewish plays into the right’s anti-Semitic “puppet master” trope. One of the featured speakers last week, incidentally, was a Hungarian talk show host who calls Jews “stinking excrement.”
“We must coordinate the movement of our troops as we face a big test, 2024 will be a decisive year,” Orbán said. “(We must also) reconquer the institutions in Washington D.C. and Brussels (home of NATO and the European Union).”
More fascist fantasizing about taking through force that which they can’t democratically win—as in the infamous 1/6 MAGA insurrection.
Viktor Orbán is a joke. He’s a puny man running a small country. Hungary has a population of about 10 million, roughly the same as Georgia. Its GDP of $180 billion ranks 58th in the world. Its people are mostly homogenous, descended from, yes, Huns.
For CPAC to pretend Orbán is anything but a tin pot tyrant is also a joke. Nothing he has to say is in any way applicable to our multicultural, multi-racial, multi-religious, democratic country of 330 million with a GDP of $21 trillion.
We’re a nation of immigrants and it is America’s diversity that helps make us the richest, most powerful country in the world.
The usual American radical right demagogues were in Budapest last week smoking their own exhaust and applauding Orbán. But the star of the Hungarian’s show was Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who put in a video appearance to praise Orbán. In return the fascist said Carlson and his ilk should spew their incendiary garbage “24/7.”
Monday is Memorial Day when we honor our fallen servicemen and women, including those who died in World War II defending democracy from a fascist onslaught in Europe and Asia. Hitler espoused the same albeit less sanitized rhetoric we’re hearing from today’s neo-fascists—racial and religious purity, demonizing minorities, Jews and immigrants, persecuting LGBTQ people, suppressing independent media, seizing power, and punishing political opponents.
As I remember my visit to the American Cemetery in Luxembourg where I saw row upon row of crosses and Stars of David, I wonder what our heroes who fought and died at the Battle of the Bulge would think of America’s radical right in 2022.
Kevin Foley is CEO of KEF Media in Atlanta.