Leer en Español
Since it came to power in 2010, Hungary’s conservative and pro-family government has been under consistent attack. Progressive political groups and their partners in the mainstream media have striven to portray the Hungarian government as xenophobic, or even fascist, and its leader, Viktor Orbán, as a danger to the West and an authoritarian thug. Hungary’s support of traditional family values, the post-liberal right, the protection of children from LGBTQ propaganda, firm stance against uncontrolled immigration, and emphasis on the West’s Christian roots are more than enough for Europe’s political salons to shout anathema.
This narrative, portraying Orbán’s government as a totalitarian and anti-Western regime, is heavily supported by the editorial rooms of the mainstream media that have turned themselves into woke campaign machines. Such as this latest NYT piece “trying to understand” why U.S. conservatives have paid special attention to what is being done and said in Budapest.
Like the Coronavirus, the mainstream media is now ‘concerned’ that the “Hungary virus” doesn’t respect borders and has made its way to the other side of the Atlantic. El American also reached out to several conservative intellectuals in the U.S. who claim that some new ideas coming from Central Europe are not “an awkward fit with American traditions” but can serve as a source of inspiration for U.S. conservatives to rediscover America’s non-liberal roots.
Tucker Carlson in Hungary
One of the latest and most well-known, superspreader events that triggered many was Tucker Carlson’s summer trip to Budapest. Tucker Carlson Tonight was broadcast for an entire week from the Hungarian capital and included a long interview with Viktor Orbán (with over 4.5 million views on YouTube). This interview, along with the rest of Carlson’s trip, inevitably brought some of the messages of the new Central European conservatism to an American audience.
One of the encouragers of Carlson was journalist and author Rod Dreher, who spent several months at the Budapest-based Danube Institute as a fellow and had visited the region several times before, partly while writing his latest book, Live Not By Lies. The book describes the West’s new leftist totalitarian tendencies supported by the testimonies of Eastern European dissidents who find it disturbing to meet the same ideological oppression and censorship for which they once had left the Soviet Union.
“A couple of years ago, I was in Budapest at a conference and heard Prime Minister Orbán say that he wanted conservatives to think of Budapest as their intellectual home. His hopes are finally being realized. Budapest is becoming a destination for conservative intellectuals,” Dreher told El American. It was among the reasons why he suggested for Carlson to come to Budapest to see for himself, because “Hungarians define the cutting edge of the next version of Western conservatism, in the postliberal era”.
Hungary and the post-liberal right in America
Current elites understandably treat postliberal thought with disdain as it opens the possibility to hold to account what liberalism has wrought on the West. However, postliberal thought is getting harder to ignore as it becomes increasingly popular with political and intellectual groups who think outside the liberal box organizing themselves—for example, their latest move was to launch a Substack blog and newsletter. Within the postliberal outlook, Hungary and Poland are seen as great examples and where the foundations of a healthy society, such as Judeo-Christian culture, family, or the nation are not only protected but openly cherished.
“After decades of cultural progressivism in the United States, American conservatives are recognizing that a more assertive governmental stance is needed to promote the family and defend national culture,” says Gladden Pappin, associate professor at the University of Dallas and current visiting fellow at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest. He has written several articles on the country’s effective family policies encouraging American conservatives to examine this model which provides financial benefits and corresponding pro-family education at a national level.
Pappin is affiliated with a group that The New York Times piece describes as “an increasingly muscular Catholic wing of postliberal conservatives“. According to the NYT author, top-notch scholars like Adrian Vermeule, Patrick Deneen, and Chad Pecknold as well as the journalist Sohrab Ahmari would comprise the dangerous squad, whose sole aim is to attack the liberal order.
Another area of overlap between Hungary’s and America’s post-liberal right is religion. It’s no secret that the post-liberal right doesn’t want religion to be a private matter and their view coincides with the Hungarian government’s view of the role of religion. In Pappin’s opinion, American conservatives, along with the rest of their country, have taken the separation of religion and public life too far. As such, Pappin finds it encouraging to see “Orbán’s willingness to acknowledge Christianity as an essential part of Hungarian identity, and to build up the Christian way of life through support for, and inclusion of Christian churches in national life.”
Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America also stressed to El American the importance of drawing the public’s attention to the fact that America’s roots don’t lie in liberalism but in Christianity. Hungary, therefore, can inspire U.S. conservatives in fighting a new “pseudo-religious order” which “must be fought just as the Cold War was fought.” He sees the growing attention of liberal outlets and the debates around postliberal ideas as a form of recognition marking the end of an ignorant era of the progressive elites.
Budapest, however, is not the only place U.S. conservatives can meet the Hungarian movement. A Hungarian delegation participated at the annual gathering of national conservatives in Orlando. Among the panelists that appeared was an Orbán, not the prime minister, but his political director Balázs Orbán (unrelated to the PM) who just a few days before had a book launch event in Washington organized by The American Conservative magazine.
Balázs Orbán also chairs the Mathias Corvinus Collegium’s Board of Trustees, an influential educational institute that serves as an intellectual refuge to Western conservative intellectuals. When asked about his experiences in Orlando, he told El American that, despite being a small Central European country, Hungary is now widely known and recognized in conservative circles because they dared to preserve the country’s Christian roots, a feat made no less remarkable by the fact that Hungary suffered for over fifty years under communism.
Balázs Orbán described the transition from Communism and the succeeding period of liberalism as “[reinstating] Christian democracy a decade ago yielding considerable success.” He suggested to U.S. conservatives the need to abandon the popularity contest made by the liberal media and encouraged them to be bold to stand up for what they believe in. “They should believe that we, conservatives stand on the right side of history.”
Even a hegemony as powerful as that of liberals cannot overcome those who stand for what is right. The liberal order—which expected its positions to be much more secure and on both sides of the Atlantic—has finally realized that it couldn’t ignore those who openly challenge them and seek to expose their failure. This is why Hungary, a small central European country, causes headlines almost on a weekly basis. It openly rejects the tenets of liberalism and dares to originate its political and cultural positions from Christianity, the nation, and the family: values that have preceded and will outlive the current status quo.
Péter is a Hungarian journalist and podcaster based in Budapest. He writes a weekly column for El American on European politics, culture, and many other things. He’s also the strategic director of the digital outlet Axióma. He loves cachapa con queso 'e mano. // Péter es un periodista y podcaster húngaro con base en Budapest. Escribe una columna semanal para El American sobre temas políticos y culturales de Europa. Es también director estrategico del medio digital Axióma. Le encanta la cachapa con queso 'e mano.