Reviews | Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s visit to CPAC shows how far conservatives have strayed from American values

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an autocrat straddling a country whose GDP is leaner than Kansas and whose population is smaller than Michigan’s, has become a role model for American right-wing populists who admire his plan for dismantling of democracy. Shunned in Western Europe, he naturally goes where he is appreciated – and next week will come to what will likely be a warm welcome at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, where he will deliver a keynote address.

American conservatives who adore Mr. Orban seem indifferent to his racist and retrograde rhetoric. After all, it’s part and parcel of his brand as what he calls an “illiberal” Democrat, though his adherence to democratic standards is slim at best. Now they shrug at his last jeremiadin which he attacked the United States for its sanctions against Russia, joked about the Nazi gas chambers and, borrowing a page from Nazi ideologywarns that Europeans must not “become mestizo peoples”.

The remarks of Mr. Orban, as part of an anti-immigration campaign diatribe, sparked outrage across Europe. One of his longtime confidants, Zsuzsa Hegedus, who is Jewish, resigned, saying the speech would appeal to “the vilest racists”.

And yet, CPAC organizers were hardly unhappy, who treated the outcry over the Hungarian leader’s bigotry as if it were a squabble over regulatory policy. “Let’s hear the man talk,” CPAC president Matt Schlapp told an interviewer. “And if people have a disagreement with something he says, they should raise it.”

In fact, most of the CPAC crowd, whose ranks are heavily populated by supporters of former President Donald Trump, are unlikely to object. On the contrary, many Mr. Trump supporters, like those of Mr. Orban, are enamored with “great replacement” theorists, who see immigration, pluralism and diversity as existential threats to Western – and white – civilization. – and a threat to what they consider the ethnic essence of the United States itself. Tucker Carlson, a Fox News pundit, is among those holding this view and a loyal supporter of Mr. Orban.

More broadly, the Hungarian Prime Minister’s stock in trade, and his apparent appeal to many members of the American far right, is his skillful dismantling of democratic institutions, a crusade he has undertaken to defend Christian civilization and attack the “woke” culture – which includes LGBTQ communities. He has abandoned the bizarre idea that elected officials should represent all their constituents, while locking down a series of laws and a new constitution, which marginalize his opponents in what amounts to rigged elections. These maneuvers left them with little chance of gaining traction in the countryside or even being heard in the effectively state-controlled national media.

Mr. Orban’s racism, embodied in his attack on the “mestizo” threat he sees in Europe, is the antithesis of American values. That should get him uninvited from CPAC. Instead, everything indicates that he will arrive in Dallas to cheers.

Laura T. Thrasher