Friday, May 10, 2019

Trump Cards, Con't

If you want to know where a second Trump term is going in the future, look at the path where Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orbán has been. The Atlantic's Franklin Foer:

Orbán’s first stint as prime minister ended after four years, with his defeat in the 2002 elections. The loss caught him by surprise, and it was followed by another, four years later. Orbán vowed that he would never suffer defeat again. In a closed-door speech in 2009, leaked to Hungary’s formerly robust media, he said that he wanted to create “a central political force field” that would allow conservatives to rule for “the coming 15 to 20 years.” As he put it in another speech, “We have only to win once, but then properly.

When scandal and recession crashed his socialist opponents in 2010, Orbán returned to power, reinventing himself as the field marshal of a civilizational Kulturkampf. His old resentments became the basis for his political platform. He alone would defend the integrity of the family, the nation, and Christendom against “the holy alliance of Brussels bureaucrats, the liberal world media, and insatiable international capital.” He stoked mass hysteria about a wave of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa that arrived in the autumn of 2015, passing through Budapest on their way north.

His masterstroke was to describe the migration crisis as the handiwork of an odious cabal, orchestrated by a Jewish puppet master. In one typical attack, he bellowed, “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward, but crafty; not honest, but base; not national, but international; does not believe in working, but speculates with money.” All of the time-honored tropes of anti-Semitism were unmistakably heaped on George Soros. Soon billboards appeared across the country with an image of Soros cackling and the caption don’t let him have the last laugh.

This counteroffensive was wholly cynical. Soros had long ago ceased to be much of a player in the country. By 2016, his annual spending on nongovernmental organizations in Hungary had dwindled to $3.6 million. “When they started the anti-Soros campaign, nobody thought it would be this successful,” Péter Kréko, a political analyst at the think tank Political Capital Institute, told me. “The polling data showed Soros was an unknown figure. Nobody hated him. In one and a half years, Orbán turned him into a diabolical figure.”

In the face of his demagoguery, the country had already suffered a brain drain. “Hundreds of thousands of people are leaving,” Kréko said. “They will transfer money home, but they don’t vote here. They don’t go to protests. The government likes having a smaller population that is more loyal.” But if one generation of critics exits, the universities can always generate another, so the government set out to shred the academy, too. When Orbán moved against CEU, it wasn’t just political posturing or spleen. Destroying Hungary’s finest institution of higher education was a crucial step in his quest for eternal political life.

Trump absolutely wants this.  The Know-Nothing approach to attacking higher education as a "Soros plot" is there for a reason, and it worked beautifully in Hungary.

When I asked [US Ambassador To Hungary David] Cornstein about Orbán’s description of his own government as an “illiberal democracy,” the ambassador shifted forward and rested his elbows on a table. “It’s a question of a personal view, or what the American people, or the president of the United States, think of illiberal democracy, and what its definition is.” As he danced around the question, never quite arriving at an opinion, he added, “I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orbán has, but he doesn’t.”

He doesn't yet.

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