Orbán tells globalists (that’s us), “Go to hell.” His CPAC audience stands and cheers…
Viktor Orbán’s reception at this week’s CPAC conference suggests he could run for office and win in Dallas. His “talk” was deemed “inspirational” by his cowboy-hatted and snakeskin-booted hosts as he called for Republicans to join forces with him to “take back the institutions in Washington and in Brussels.” Two weeks earlier, he lectured the world with his racist views, declaring, “we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race.” Then, after he preached to the CPAC crowd on Christian values and the dangers of George Soros’ “army”, the Republican crowd leaped to their feet and cheered both the messenger and his message. Missing, but understood, was an outstretched arm and a hardy “Heil!’”
During his little talk, the autocrat from Budapest tossed out bon mots like:
“Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman…”
“The mother is a woman, the father is a man, and leave our kids alone. Full stop. End of discussion…”
“I can already see tomorrow’s headlines. Far-right European racist and anti-Semite strongman, Trojan horse of Putin, holds speech at conservative conference. But I don’t want to give them any ideas, they know best how to write fake news.”
That last one sounded surprisingly like truth, proving the Oxford-educated (Pembroke College on a Soros Foundation scholarship) Orbán has a fine-tuned sense of gallows humor.
The current political landscape is strangely reminiscent of pre-World War II America. Both eras have in common an America in flux after significant disruptions in the day-to-day lives of Americans. In the aftermath of the Great Depression and in the wake of the Great Pandemic we see very similar trends among factions of the political right. While the cause of the Great Depression has been focused on the stock market crash that began on October 24, 1929, the decade-long extent and global impact were a reaction to failed political policies and the miscalculation and timidity of the Hoover Administration at its outset. It could be argued that the government’s response to the crash and the crescendoing collapse of the economy contributed to the depths of the fiscal disaster:
The stock market crashed on Thursday, October 24, 1929, less than eight months into Herbert Hoover’s presidency. Most experts, including Hoover, thought the crash was part of a passing recession. By July 1931, when the President wrote this letter to a friend, Governor Louis Emmerson of Illinois, it had become clear that excessive speculation and a worldwide economic slowdown had plunged America into the midst of a Great Depression. While Hoover wrote to Emmerson that “considerable continuance of destitution over the winter” and perhaps longer was unavoidable, he was trying to “get machinery of the country into . . . action.”
— The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
The Republican Congress’s response was to pass an import tariff bill. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 was a protectionist attempt at saving U.S. markets. It backfired as retaliatory tariffs further devastated the economy and reduced American imports and exports by 67% during the depression, worsening its effect and deepening the crisis.
After three consecutive terms of Republican administrations, voters turned to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 just as they turned to Biden in 2020. FDR decided on strong, experimental federal interventions to stem the broadening depression. In its wake, Republicans and the American Right tried to undermine FDR’s New Deal supporting isolationist and autocratic agendas, at times led on by their former guy.
… Hoover expressed his fears about the flurry of New Deal legislation. Hoover saw the country already “going sour on the New Deal.” He believed revolution inevitable “unless there is a halt” to the fundamental changes in government and the deficit spending. Roosevelt’s reforms had led Americans to “cast off all moorings,” and Hoover predicted that the United States would veer dangerously “to the ‘left,’” followed by a reaction leading to “some American interpretation of Hitler or Mussolini.” In 1934, after two years out of the public eye, Hoover made these same thoughts public in an article titled “The Challenge to Liberty.”
— The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Donald Trump’s woeful response to the COVID pandemic helped cause the loss of more than one million American lives. His lack of leadership and denial of the severity of the crisis was motivated by his fear of losing the approaching election. The Administration’s anti-science stance (recall the bleach and disinfecting light gaffe) was an inexcusable attempt to rationalize a vile incompetence. All of the above, however, are examples of his inability to lead in a crisis. Considering other Republican presidents’ failures (see Hoover, Nixon, Bush II), Trump’s actions seem to be a condition affecting the party that believes that government is the problem and not a solution. In times of crisis, “less government” means more pain.
The current landscape is littered with anti-democratic characters who have taken over the Republican Party. As Mehmet Oz runs for the Senate in Pennsylvania from his home in New Jersey, and as Hungary’s strongman receives a standing ovation at CPAC, we could be forgiven the urge to paraphrase Dorothy’s lament after the tornado tore her from their farmhouse in Kansas and deposited her with Toto on the yellow brick road, “… we’re not in America anymore.” Dorothy’s realization suggests she had landed in a strange place populated by strange creatures. Extending the metaphor, it is clear that Donald Trump, the titular leader of an American Oz, embodies all the cowardly, heartless, and brainless qualities of Frank Baum’s far more lovable characters. Even Dick Cheney’s who appears in an ad in support of his daughter’s seemingly doomed candidacy clearly recognizes the kink in Trump’s tin suit. Cheney rightly calls out the former guy’s lack of courage-calling him a bully who hides behind a curtain of privilege.
Recent primary elections have shown that the American Right is intent on undermining democratic principles to achieve power. Like Hoover and the original “American Firsters” who coddled European despots when their agendas intersected, today’s Republican party laments its own loss of popular appeal and inability to win at the polls. Their own recent past was marked by a pandemic they didn’t cause but could only make worse and an insurrection they did cause and can’t make better. Trump’s policies during COVID were inexplicably disastrous, much like Hoover’s gross miscalculations during the early stage of the depression that tested his and his party’s governing mettle. Trump wrestled with truth and competence and was beaten each time by his own peevish narcissism — -and a yawing ignorance. Now he leads as the “Wizard of MAGA,” a movement that supports the end of democracy as we know it.
The Republican party is bereft of ideas and lacking in principle. Instead of leaders, they follow witless grifters who take their wisdom from a European despot whose policies descend from a form of white Christian nationalism not seen in Europe since the rise of Hitler. Viktor Orbán, the Tucker Carlson heartthrob, and Trump BFF, in a speech for an audience of American misfits, ordered globalists to “…go to hell,” proclaiming “I have come to Texas.” For them, rules are for suckers, and playing by them is strictly for losers:
“In order to win, it is not enough to know what you’re fighting for… You should also know how you should fight: My answer is play by your own rules.”
When America finally comes to its collected senses and returns from its own disorienting journey through Oz, we might invite Mr. Orbán and his MAGA friends to take a hike back to the caves they crawled out of — -but with one added caveat:
…don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
Originally published at https://rizzo.substack.com on August 5, 2022.