Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Orbán and the Appeal of Illiberalism

Not just in Hungary.
April 11, 2022
Orbán and the Appeal of Illiberalism
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Photo by Luka Dakskobler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

[On the April 8, 2022 episode of The Bulwark’s “Beg to Differ” podcast, panelist Linda Chavez discussed the re-election of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and its implications for liberal democracy in the West.]

Linda Chavez: I think one of the things that no one yet has mentioned, in terms of the Orbán victory, was his victory speech in which he singled out two men who he basically said he defeated. One was, of course, George Soros, Hungarian billionaire, Hungarian born (he’s an American now), who happens to be Jewish. And the other was Volodymyr Zelensky, who also happens to be Jewish. . . . There is a strain of anti-Semitism that runs through this.

And I think one of the things that attracts the American right to Hungary is this very aggressive, pro-Christian ideology that Orbán deals in. And . . . the victory does say something about the appeal of this illiberalism to certain segments of the population. And of course, we see it here in the United States as well.

You know, the idea of an “illiberal democracy” to some of us may sound like an oxymoron. . . . It seems sort of strange: How can you have an illiberal democracy? Isn’t democracy built on certain liberal principles? Well, it traditionally has been. But what he is showing is that democracy, in the sense of holding elections, having certain democratic institutions . . . does not necessarily mean that you uphold all of the elements that I think are fundamental to democracy, including the protection of the rights of minorities, . . .  freedom of the press, a judiciary that’s independent, etc.

And, so I think this is worrisome. And it is worrisome in terms of the United States, and the whole way in which this kind of Christian fundamentalism has taken hold within the Republican party, trying to basically say that Christianity is the only acceptable religion in our society.

And there are certainly segments on the right that believe that, so I think it’s very worrisome.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum and served in the Reagan White House as director of public liaison. Her views are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of any organization.