Barack Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, has pointed out some similarities between the America President Trump has created and Prime Minister Orbán’s Hungary.
Rhodes is questioning the future of the United States, were Trump to be reelected, in an article he wrote for The Atlantic. He believes a second term would transform the society and culture of the United States to be even more like Hungary, which the author finds worrisome.
Viktor Orbán has been the Prime Minister of Hungary since 2010, and along with Fidesz, has transformed Hungary’s former democracy into more of an autocracy in the past 10 years, according to Rhodes. Orbán defended his political plans to build “an illiberal state, a non-liberal state,” after his reelection by saying that best-prepared countries for the future may not even be democracies. Orbán believes that the Hungarian identity and his politics need to be the same, rooted in nationalism, and his party and he shall have the autocratic hand to guide the nation.
Similarities between Trump’s America and Orbán’s Hungary
PM Orbán worked hard to reshape the Hungarian democracy and its institutions by redrawing the parliamentary districts to better benefit his party, Fidesz. Much like how the Republican Party and its officeholders have taken advantage of redistricting in order to protect themselves.
Orbán also gave ethnic Hungarians living abroad the right to vote. The Hungarian government built a propaganda machine, by placing right-wing judges in courts and enriched the elite of business, who then funded Orbán in return, independent media were bought out. Meanwhile, in the US, the elite and the rich were able to obtain even bigger fortunes thanks to Republican policies, and the Republican Party secured their donations of billions of dollars to the party as well.
Fox News is one the American government’s tools in furthering their propaganda, as the network includes not only television but websites and radio, as well as social media accounts, which seemed to have played an important role in the 2016 election.
PM Orbán has weaved a narrative which focuses more on the shortcomings of liberal democracy and makes his nationalist vision of Christianity, sovereignty, his anti-immigration views, and his distaste in politically correct liberals look more appealing.
President Trump’s campaign and presidency has been similarly built on criticising former President Obama’s ways, the Democratic Party, and any liberal activist that dares point out Trump’s discriminative policies, as well as villainising immigrants and POC. And like in Hungary, allies and those loyal to Trump get pardoned, enriched and promoted, while he continually points the finger at someone else.
Sándor Lederer, a Hungarian anti-corruption activist, pointed out, that both Orbán and Trump’s administrations use the tactic of creating bigger scandals, as a way to distract people’s attention from the actual issues a hand.
Rhodes’ prediction for the future
If Trump is reelected for a second term, Rhodes believes that the United States will head into a more autocratic direction than before. Assuming the Republican majority remains in the Senate, Trump will obtain even more power, as courts and other institutions will be further turned to his own image, to serve him and those loyal to him, without any repercussions or legal consequences.
George Floyd’s murder sparked global outrage last month, with protestations in all 50 states, as well several other countries, including Hungary. Trump’s policies and ideals are deeply rooted in discrimination, such as racism, sexism or homophobia, and Rhodes fears, another term under his presidency would further his agenda and prejudice against minorities.
Rhodes also points out the importance of voting, but also that fact that concerns for democracy do not really mobilise people of voting age. Many also think that their vote would not make a difference anyway, so they do not even bother going to the polls. There needs to be something that hits too close to home to actually get people to practice their right to vote. Many Americans are hopeful that current events will have people voting in November, and changing the system.
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