In the foreign press, the headline from Viktor Orbán’s CPAC speech was the Hungarian prime minister’s shout-out to Donald Trump: ‘Come back, Mr. President! Make America great again and bring us peace!’
It was almost a throwaway line in the address, but it was what both the American MAGAnauts in the audience and the liberal media wanted to hear, though for different reasons. The MAGA faithful remain deeply devoted to Trump, even as his legal woes mount, and some polls show him losing a 2024 rematch with the unpopular Joe Biden. The liberal media consider Trump to be a condensed symbol of all that is horrible on the Right; all that a journalist has to do is identify a phenomenon as Trumpy, and nothing more has to be said.
What most of the Western media are missing is the potent substance of Orbán’s critique, and what his worldview and example offers to the American right. The Orbán speech was a fine example of the promise the Hungarian model holds for conservative parties throughout the West. The prime minister said:
‘There is one thing that makes our country an important place: the fact that Hungary is an incubator, where experiments are being conducted for the conservative politics of the future. Hungary is the place where we not only talked about defeating progressive liberals and turning in a conservative Christian political direction, but the place where we have actually done it.’
This is the message I have been telegraphing to American conservatives for the last two years.
Viktor Orbán is a visionary who understands how political power actually works
in our globalized, postliberal order. The left uses the language and institutions of liberalism to pursue an illiberal progressive agenda, and impose it on unwilling subjects. Orbán grasped early on that with the globalist left occupying all the institutional high ground in Western societies, the only way to exercise meaningful resistance is through political power.
We American conservatives have been very, very slow to learn this. Most Republican Party leaders are living in the twilight of Reagan nostalgia, preferring to believe, against all evidence, that the old classical liberal settlement still works. In that world, Big Business was no advocate of radical left-wing social change. The US military was apolitical. Yes, the media and academia were on the left, but they still attempted to be fair.
None of that is true anymore. The emergence of Woke Capitalism over the past decade—which is to say, the politicization of the marketplace—was the Waterloo of social conservatives and signaled the end of the liberal era.
In America, Big Business has become the most powerful force, pushing borderless globalism,
the normalization of LGBT and the standardization of racial illiberalism under the Orwellian guise of ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.’ The sleepy GOP, which can’t imagine itself as anything other than the party of business, has refused to recognize the meaning of the cultural Marxist capture of corporations, and of every other institution.
The election of Donald Trump was supposed to have started a right-wing counterrevolution. It failed, because he failed. True, the Deep State sought to delegitimize Trump at every turn. But it mostly failed because Trump had no self-discipline, and no interest in governing. It turns out you can’t mount a counterrevolution without a plan, and without the organizational discipline to see it through.
This is something that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has learned well. For example, the governor’s current campaign to reform state-funded education in Florida, to flush out ideological extremism and return balance to the system, has its roots in Orbánism. In the US, and I suspect also in Hungary, the left considers universities to be their uncontested territories—even if the taxpayers fund them. Aside from DeSantis, US Republicans tacitly accept these terms. Not Viktor Orbán.
In his CPAC speech, Orbán explained how the liberal oligarch George Soros and his NGO mercenaries tried to overwhelm Europe with migrants. Hungary stopped them by exercising political will. But, as Orbán said, physical acts are not enough.
You also have to engage in ‘intellectual and ideological battles.’
You have to wage war at the level of ideas.
This is what the Orbán government has been doing. As an outsider to Hungary, I have been struck by how Orbán understands in ways that most American conservative leaders do not, what the most important challenges of the 21st century are: how to defend sovereignty, culture, and family from forces that seek to defeat and dissolve all three.
Orbán told the CPAC audience that Hungarians do not attack, only defend. When American conservatives visit Hungary, I tell them one thing they must understand about this country: the way the media and elite institutions treat us conservatives back at home is the same way they treat Hungary as a nation. Things become much clearer then. In America, anyone who resists the new things that the left wishes to impose stands accused of ‘waging culture war.’ That is, to defend yourself against the left’s attacks is, in the eyes of the left, going on the offensive. Every American conservative has experienced this; it ought to be a basis for more Americans to identify with Hungary.
The prime minister identified the enemy as ‘a nation-devouring virus that will atomize and pulverize our nations.’ He explained that gender theory, wokeness, and open borders are all symptoms of the same progressive sickness: an ideology that seeks to subsume the foundations of meaning and identity—nations, families, and even the human person—into an artificial construct within which there is an uninterrupted flow of commerce and desire, manipulated by oligarchs who control the technology.
This is a radical critique by any measure! Who among Western leaders dares to say these things?
By his example, Orbán shames American conservative leaders who still believe that Zombie Reaganism—that is to say, more classical liberalism, and harder—is the answer to our problems.
Orbán’s critique raises an obvious question: what do conservatives wish to conserve? And a less obvious, but equally important question: what have conservative actually conserved? We now live in a civilization in which the ultimate aim of classical liberalism—liberating the freely-choosing individual from the chains of custom and obligation—has been achieved to a previously unimaginable degree. We even now deploy law and technology to say that people can be free of their own biology.
Yet what has this done for us? We are all atomized, purposeless, globalist consumers who dull our gnawing sense of meaninglessness with consumption— especially, in the United States, of pot and pornography. And yet, the elites in charge of institutions continue to spread, with religious fervor, the myth that salvation is just around the corner, as soon as we abandon what few constraints we have left.
Yeah, it’s a mind virus. It’s mad cow disease. And the only difference between the mainstream left and right in the United States is how fast and how much tainted beef we are to eat.
When the prime minister told the CPAC audience that the right once thought that the left would rein in woke insanity, but was wrong, he effectively said that the era of liberalism had come to an end. Why? Because we can see clearly that the actual existing left has no interest in living by and defending classical liberalism. It only wants to use its language and concepts as a disguise to extend woke hegemony. Perhaps Orbán is too polite to say so, but one reason the left keeps racking up victories, at least in America, is that
the right is too paralyzed by nostalgia for a bygone era
that it doesn’t defend its supposed principles, and its own people.
Hungary doesn’t have that problem. The Hungarian right has understood clearly that beneath the liberal democratic mask lies the smiling face of soft totalitarianism. ‘Therefore we see,’ said Orbán, ‘perhaps more clearly than people in other parts of the world, that the woke movement and gender ideology are exactly what communism and Marxism used to be.’
This is a supremely important political truth for our time. And of all Western leaders, only Viktor Orbán is telling it with vigor and courage. In the two years since Tucker Carlson made his Hungarian journey, I have seen more and more American conservatives come to Hungary, and be shocked by what they’ve seen. This country is not at all what the US media told them it is. It’s not at all what the neocon establishment assured them it would be.
They see a stable, sensible, blessedly normal society—one not without its problems, but one led by people who are determined to spare it the traumas tearing apart our own unfortunate country. After CPAC, a prominent Washington think-tanker messaged me to say, ‘I can see why you moved to Hungary.’ The conservative media influencer Dave Rubin, visiting Hungary for the first time this week, expressed shock that the story of Hungary is hidden from the American right, which desperately needs to hear it.
That speaks to a perpetual challenge for Hungary: how to get the news out, past the media censors, and the establishment naysayers of official conservative Washington?
The Machine doesn’t want Americans to know about Hungary,
and the fact that there is a real, substantive political alternative to the vapid pieties of the conventional American right. (This, by the way, is one reason that Tucker Carlson was fired; now, there is not a single major media figure in America who opposes government policy on the Ukraine war.)
The best thing Hungarian conservatives can do is to keep bringing as many American conservative thought leaders as you can to Hungary. The country speaks for itself. Believe me, it changed my mind, and it changes the mind of many American conservatives who, despairing of the impotence of the American right, find inspiration and direction in what Fidesz has achieved here.
It would be too much to say that Viktor Orbán has seen the future. But he has indeed seen the dark future that awaits all of us if the globalists, the gender ideologues, and the other servants of the woke Machine triumph. On the American scene at the moment, only Ron DeSantis shares both Orbán’s vision, and Orbán’s focus and policy skills to transform that vision into reality.
That said, the road to the future of the American right passes through Budapest. The Western media will never understand why, and will never stop howling about Magyar fascism, and other absurd slanders. Let them. As the Arab saying goes, ‘The dog barks, but the caravan moves on.’