The view of Budapest | Opinion

I am writing to you from Budapest, the beautiful Hungarian capital that spans the Danube. Hungary, although a remote and modest country both in terms of size and population, has played a disproportionate role at the American curator consciousness For the past half decade or. After only a few days, it’s not hard to see why. Hungary, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling party, Fidesz, is a real experience of government within a framework of “national conservatismThe lessons for American conservatives are clear and legion.

Western media typically cover Orbán hysterically, accusing him of autocracy, crypto-fascism, or outright brutality. It’s hard to believe any of these leftist keyboard warriors have ever met Orbán, let alone spent time with him. I spent a few hours standing straight next to him earlier this week when he met with a small group of visiting media, think tanks and other types of public figures. This meeting was enlightening.

From first-hand experience, I can attest that the Prime Minister has nothing to do with the caricature portrayed in the media. He’s personally quite funny, gregarious and engaging, and he handled even critical questions with aplomb. Perhaps most surprisingly to the blue-checked Twitterati types who view him as a barbaric, power-hungry European dictator, he is also a genuinely conservative intellectual. Orbán has spent time in Oxford and he dedicates one day a week to reading and immersing himself in substantive political reading. To borrow a popular online phrase, he “did the reading.”

When we met, Balazs Orban (no relation), the Prime Minister’s political director, expressly referred to the Hungarian government’s philosophical thread as national conservatism, even checking the name of one of the main intellectual architects of national conservatism, Yoram Hazony (full disclosure: my colleague at the Edmund Burke Foundation). In the past, Prime Minister Orbán has also embraced the mantle of “illiberal democracy”. This may sound rhetorically shocking to overly sensitized Western ears, but it amounts to the same critique of the liberal order that is being aired by Americans. national curators and “postliberals.”

Hungary under Orbán rejects the illusion of liberal neutrality, recognizing, as this column has already put it, “that a values-neutral liberal order amounts to a one-way cultural ratchet” toward leftism and progressivism. As Eurosceptic Hungary and other like-minded Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland have learned all too well, it is powerless to make a defensive case for “live and let live” style tolerance on the part of imperious liberal lords of the European Union in Berlin and Brussels. On the contrary, the only way for traditionalist nations like Hungary and Poland to push back against the EU’s progressive and globalist vision of the good, the true and the beautiful is to offer an affirmative counter-argument in the form of its own conservative and nationalist view of the good. , the true and the beautiful.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives a joint press conference with the Brazilian President on February 17, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary
ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

Hungary’s border control is notoriously strict, as Fox News host Tucker Carlson himself witnessed in a highly publicized helicopter flight with Orbán when he was here last year. Hungary, which, like Poland and other countries in this part of Europe, was invaded in the past by various totalitarian empires, now prioritizes strict cultural assimilation and national preservation at the expense of the neoliberal absolutism and delusions of open borders à la George Soros. The Hungarian government under Fidesz is not “neutral”, moreover, on the fundamental questions of sexual morality and the Judeo-Christian tradition: gender ideology is kept out of schools, marriage is vigorously defended as the exclusive union of one man and one woman, and Christianity is woven into the very fabric of society and politics.

Fidesz has no appetite for police chambers – and Budapest has its annual “Pride” parade – but the state is resolutely putting its thumbs up in favor of traditional Christian ethics. There’s no “hours of drag queen story” outrage innocent children here. On the contrary, the government’s public defense of European Christianity and the “illiberal” nature in which its policies favor traditional religious ethics over alternative lifestyles represent a kind of “ecumenical integralism”—summed up by the fact that Orbán himself is a Calvinist, while his wife is a Catholic. Popular, elaborate and much-discussed Hungary family policy measures also succeeded in increasing the national birth rate.

The combination here of nationalism, public Christianity and the bashing of Soros leads many Western media outlets to brand Orbán and Fidesz as anti-Semites. Nothing could be further from the truth. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the oldest leader in the history of the Jewish state, considered Orbán his best european ally. Hungary regularly supports Israel at the United Nations and in its invariable border disputes with Hamas and Hezbollah. Moreover, Jewish life itself in Budapest is thriving (at least based on the grim baseline of European Jewry after World War II). I spent half a day visiting many beautiful synagogues, walking around the historic Jewish ghetto, and having dinner at a very good kosher meat restaurant. (The goulash was delicious.) And unlike countries in Western and Northern Europe, which have taken a diametrically opposed stance on the issue of Islamic migration, the Jews of Hungary are safe. Armed guards outside synagogues are far from ubiquitous here, unlike in, say, Paris or Brussels.

The view of Budapest is therefore good. That’s not to say that everything here is perfect; like much of the rest of post-Soviet Central and Eastern Europe, corruption remains a real problem. But American statesmen and legislators can still find much to admire and perhaps emulate here, at least in principle; the nitty-gritty political details, especially in the context of the US constitutional structure, will be fleshed out not in the realm of principle but of caution. But Hungary under Fidesz, to use another expression popular among the online right, “knows what time it is”. The era is one of a declining neutral liberal order and a greater imperative to wield state power to promote good and crush evil.

The April elections here will reveal whether the Hungarian electorate agrees.

Josh Hammer is Newsweek opinion writer, host of “The Josh Hammer Show“, syndicated columnist and researcher at the Edmund Burke Foundation. Twitter: @josh_hammer.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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