Sometimes, I think America’s constitutional democracy is the frog in that over-used parable–the one that gets boiled because the pot of water it’s in is being heated just slowly enough that the frog doesn’t notice until it’s too late.
Every single day brings new evidence of our dysfunction–the capture of one of our political parties by people who range from evil to detached from reality to objectively crazy; the episodes of increasingly militant and unashamed racism and anti-Semitism; the growth of belief in QAnon and other bizarre conspiracy theories; and the public embrace of what most of us previously considered a European form of rightwing nationalism.
The water has become hotter this week, with news that Fox News’ most bankable and pompous right-wing cheerleader, Tucker Carlson–he of the smarmy sneers and bow ties–had met with Hungarian autocrat and strongman Viktor Orban. As Talking Points Memo reported,
Fox News host Tucker Carlson is billed as a speaker at a far-right conference in Hungary on Saturday, according to a flier for the event. The appearance will come days after the Fox host met with the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Carlson will purportedly offer his insights at MCC Feszt, an event hosted by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium, which the New York Times described in June as a government-funded plan to “train a conservative future elite.
A program for MCC Feszt touts Carlson as speaking on Saturday, delivering a talk called “The World According to Tucker Carlson.”
It’s part of a larger, four-day long program that also advertises a talk from a representative of one of America’s esteemed conservative institutions of higher education: Dennis Prager of PragerU, which makes up for what it lacks in physical space, accreditation, and discernible curriculum in Facebook virality. Prager will deliver a talk on “media and free speech.
MCC, the sponsor of the “Feszt,” reportedly benefits from both $1.7 billion in grants from the Hungarian government and the open support of Orbán, who has characterized his approach to governance as “illiberal democracy.” Orbán’s government has used anti-Semitic imagery to demonize George Soros, a native of the country and a favorite target of the Right, and has pressured universities associated with Soros and his Open Society to close. Talking Points Memo also notes that Orban has “gone out of his way” to clamp down on LGBTQ rights during his tenure.
Josh Marshall–the editor of TPM–commented on the meeting and what it reflects about the direction of the GOP:
One thing that a number of us have been saying for some time is that increasingly over the last decade-plus, the GOP has continued to present itself as a center-right party of government while increasingly operating as a rightist revanchist party on the European model. This intentionally conspicuous hobnobbing with Orbán is part of that story. Obviously, Carlson isn’t formally representing the GOP. But in practice he does. He’s far more influential in conservative politics than any elected official currently in office.
This lurch from genuine conservatism to what Marshall quite accurately labels “rightest revanchism” is one more reflection of the party’s current identity, which is as a White Nationalist cult. When you cut through all the BS, by far the most dominant conviction held by members of today’s Republican Party is a deep-seated, racist belief that the only “real” Americans are White Male fundamentalist Christians.
That belief is the reason Republicans in Congress have stopped legislating in favor of performative insanity. The party is no longer about policy or actual politics of any kind–liberal, conservative or even (as it sometimes seems) fascist. The GOP is interested only in maintaining power, but not in order to govern– it needs that power in order to protect White Male Christian privilege, and to ensure the continued dominance of “real” Americans over all of us “others.”
The members of today’s GOP now realize that White Christian Male cultural domination will inevitably erode in the absence of a governing autocracy committed to its preservation, and they are willing to trade both the American Idea and the rule of law for a despotism that will protect that domination. With his visit to Viktor Orban, Tucker Carlson has made that willingness impossible to ignore.
The water in the pot is getting very, very hot.