Tucker Carlson is only the latest — and most famous — American conservative to find inspiration in the autocratic government of Hungary under Viktor Orban. The Fox News personality is hosting his show, one of the most popular on cable news, from the capital city of Budapest and on Saturday will deliver a speech, advertised as “The World According to Tucker Carlson,” to a conference of far-right activists.
To critics, Orban’s Hungary is corrupt, repressive and authoritarian, a place where democracy is little more than window dressing and the state exists to plunder the public on behalf of a tiny ruling elite. To Carlson, it’s a model for the United States, a showcase for anti-immigrant policies and reactionary cultural politics.
“If you care about Western civilization and democracy and families and the ferocious assault on all three of those things by the leaders of our global institutions,” he told his audience on Monday, “you should know what is happening here right now.”
Carlson is not alone. “Orban’s fans in the West include notable writers at major conservative and right-leaning publications like National Review, the American Conservative and the New York Post,” Zack Beauchamp wrote in a piece for Vox last year.
Orban’s American admirers include the political philosopher Patrick Deneen; J.D. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” who is now running for the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio; and Rod Dreher, a popular conservative blogger and author.
“Which is the only power capable of standing up to Woke Capitalists, as well as these illiberal leftists in academia, media, sports, cultural institutions, and other places? The state,” Dreher wrote on Wednesday. “This is why American conservatives ought to be beating a path to Hungary.”
That Dreher piece is…something. I am beginning to think that Glenn Greenwald’s claim that Tucker is just a journalist doing some fact-finding about the architecture in Budpest or something is not entirely credible!
Of course, there’s nothing new about this, and as is generally true it comes back to Kindly Old Bill Buckley:
In 1957, William F. Buckley Jr. published a “Letter from Spain” in the pages of his magazine, National Review. An admirer of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Buckley did not hesitate to praise him in the most effusive terms he could muster.
Yglesias has been engaging in some entertaining trolling of Orban stans this week, but the central point is serious: Tucker and the other Orban fans in the party quite literally believe that it would be worth ending liberal democracy and making America much less economically prosperous if you could openly hate LGBTQ+ people in public without any consequences again:
Again, lest you think I'm joking this is seriously what the most influential conservative thinker in America is saying — that he'd rather live in Hungry.
I say go for it and leave America to those of us who appreciate it. pic.twitter.com/fHsnXARtJI— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 6, 2021
They not be able to fully restore the cultural values of the Glory Years when a significant minority of the US consisted of apartheid police states, but they may very well end liberal democracy in the U.S. trying.