‘Far-right European racist antisemite strongman’ speaks to CPAC (Headline by Viktor Orban)

By Robin Abcarian* – Los Angeles Times

Hate the headline?

Blame Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

He practically dictated it to me from the stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on Thursday after slamming the “leftist media.”

“I can already see tomorrow’s headlines,” Orban said after the right-wing crowd welcomed him with an ovation. ” ’Far-right European racist, and antisemite strongman — the Trojan horse of Putin — holds speech at conservative conference.’”

Well, Mr. Orban, I really could not have put it better myself.

Except you left out a few important nouns: homophobe, populist, white Christian nationalist, xenophobe and, of course, darling of authoritarian-loving Tucker Carlson and Fox News.

It’s a measure of how badly our political discourse has deteriorated that a man responsible for taking his country from democracy to autocracy over the course of his long political career is being celebrated as a hero by American conservatives who clearly yearn for a Viktor Orban of their own. (And very nearly had one in Donald Trump. It’s terrifying to contemplate what this country would look like had the former president prevailed in 2020.)

The Republicans’ embrace of Orban is yet another piece of evidence that the GOP has lost its moral compass, if not its damn mind.

On July 23, Orban caused an uproar when he argued that Europeans should not “become peoples of mixed race.” One of his advisors, who is Jewish, submitted her resignation, describing his words as “a pure Nazi text worthy of Goebbels.” The United States said the remarks clearly evoked “Nazi racial ideology” and denounced them as “inexcusable.”

Although Orban has been spouting this kind of racist garbage for years, his relatively recent embrace by American right-wingers — including Steve Bannon, who worked for him in 2019, and Carlson, who visited Hungary last year — has boosted his international profile. Their lavish praise and attention has helped bolster what the New York Times described as “Orban’s mission to establish Budapest as an ideological center for what he sees as an international conservative movement.”

“We should unite our forces!” Orban told the CPAC crowd.

In a recent New Yorker piece, staff writer Andrew Marantz interviewed the conservative writer Andrew Sullivan about the strange phenomenon that is American conservatives’ infatuation with Orban.

“If these people think the extreme left is hijacking American society in dangerous ways, then, yes, I agree,” Sullivan told Marantz. “But to go from that to ‘Let’s embrace this authoritarian leader in this backwater European country, and maybe try out a version of that model with our own charismatic leader back home’ — I mean, that leap is just weird, and frankly stupid.”

Last week in Texas, Orban buttered up the crowd, praising the Lone Star State for its “independence, freedom and sovereignty,” adding, “Hungary is the Lone Star State of Europe.”

He trotted out many shopworn cliches of the right: Ronald Reagan beat communism; progressive liberals and communists are birds of a feather; “egg heads” of the European Union are out to get him; Western civilization must be saved from people like his fellow Hungarian George Soros, the Jewish pro-democracy philanthropist whose very mention among conservatives evokes the kind of shudders reserved for characters like Voldemort.

In Hungary, Orban said, “we introduced a zero-tolerance policy on racism and antisemitism, so accusing us is fake news and those who make these claims are simply idiots.”

In case you think a man who described waves of refugees as “Muslim invaders” during Europe’s recent migration crisis is some sort of religious bigot, let Orban soothe your fears.

“Don’t worry,” he said last week, “a Christian politician cannot be a racist. Christian values protect us from going too far.”

When Orban spoke about families, he sounded creepily like a character out of the “Handmaid’s Tale,” valorizing childbearing, and laying out a chilling system of demographic engineering to increase the population of white Hungarians, which has been slowly falling for decades.

In Hungary, he said, the state takes over student loans after your third child is born. Women, he said, are exempt from paying personal income tax for life after the birth of their fourth child. In the last decade, he said, the number of marriages has doubled and the number of abortions has dropped by half.

“So if you are not married yet, you should immediately find a Hungarian wife,” he quipped. (Because, of course, he’s only speaking to men.)

And if you think he has any tolerance for tolerance, you would be wrong.

Children must be protected from “the gender ideology that targets them,” he said. “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. To sum up, the mother is a woman. The father is a man. And leave our kids alone. Full stop, end of discussion.”

The crowd in the half-full hall could not contain itself, breaking into whoops and hollers.

“My government is devoted to law and order without compromise,” he added. “We don’t need more genders, we need more rangers. Less drag queens and more Chuck Norris. There is no freedom without order!”

Normally, I would ask, is this really where the Republican Party wants to go?

Except it’s already there. Aug.7, 2022

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*Robin Abcarian is an opinion columnist at the Los Angeles Times. She writes about news, politics and culture. Her columns appear on Wednesday and Sunday