Originally posted on May 21, 2019.
Roger Kimball, writing at American Greatness, praises Christopher Caldwell’s portrayal of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Kimball notes that Orban “in a speech in 2015, ‘Hungary must protect its ethnic and cultural composition. I am convinced that Hungary has the right—and every nation has the right—to say that it does not want its country to change.'” He writes (abridged):
In a long and brilliant essay in The Claremont Review of Books, Christopher Caldwell presents a picture of Viktor Orbán that is sharply at odds with the hostile portrait painted by critics like (Anne) Applebaum, (Max) Boot, and (Gabriel) Schoenfeld. Caldwell by no means papers over Orbán’s faults—the fact, for example, that he seems to have enriched himself and his friends while in office (a habit, by the way that he shares with many if not most politicians). But he also understands Orbán’s virtues. Writes Caldwell: “Orbán is blessed with almost every political gift—brave, shrewd with his enemies and trustworthy with his friends, detail-oriented, hilarious.”
One fruit of Orbán’s curiosity is his understanding of the existential peril that Hungary faces.
As Orbán noted in a speech in 2015, “Hungary must protect its ethnic and cultural composition. I am convinced that Hungary has the right—and every nation has the right—to say that it does not want its country to change.” Caldwell describes this speech as “probably the most important by a Western statesman this century.” Why? Because it bluntly poses two opposing futures for Europe: Europe as a mosaic of distinct sovereign nations versus Europe as a herd of more-or-less progressive colonies defined by the spongy secular complacency of Brussels.
As Caldwell notes, Orbán has changed his mind about many things—“unregulated free markets above all.” The vaunted “level playing field” that free markets were said to provide were not in fact level, nor were the supposedly “neutral” institutions upon which they depended. For one thing they ignored, where they did not actively disparage, the local and particular filiations out of which real communities are wrought. (This is what Max Boot, among others, disparages as “blood and soil” rhetoric.) Then, too, the supposed neutrality is always a sham because, Caldwell points out, “someone must administer this project, and administration, though advertised as neutral, rarely is. Some must administer over others.” Not everyone gets to be Jean-Claude Juncker. Allowed to proceed unchecked, the bureaucratic liberal consensus would destroy Hungary qua Hungary, just as it would eventually destroy all nations qua nations. Viktor Orbán understands that.
So does Donald Trump. Max Boot warns that Trump is “attempting to apply Orbanism to the United States.” What do you suppose that means? Here is a list of a few recent initiatives undertaken by the president:
- On Tuesday, he gave a speech in Louisiana marking first export shipment of liquified natural gas from a new $10 billion facility.
- On Wednesday, he spoke in honor of police officers killed in the line of duty, demonstrating his commitment to law enforcement.
- On Thursday, he delivered a major speech on immigration reform, outlining his ideas for stopping illegal immigration and inaugurating a system of legal immigration based on merit. America welcomes with open arms those immigrants who come with something to contribute to America, including the desire to assimilate and become Americans in spirit as well as mailing address.
- On Friday, in a speech to national realtors—the country’s largest trade association—he spoke about how America’s economic boom was making it possible for more and more Americans to pursue the “American dream” of home ownership.
If any of these speeches is an instance of Trump’s following Orbán’s “sinister” example (as Boot charged), I for one applaud his course of action.
Donald Trump is a sort of dynamo. Has any president done more to keep his campaign promises? How much richer, most secure, freer are we today than we were under the watchful eye of Barack Obama? And note that the swamp-like areas of life that remain unfree are those areas still under the jurisdiction of such “progressive” phenomena as Title IX hysteria on college campuses and the spirit of censorship that has disrupted the culture of social media and other “woke” initiatives.
The real battle that has been joined—and it is a battle that is forging a great political realignment.
The real battle is between two views of liberty. One is a parochial view that affirms tradition, local affection, and the subordination of politics to the ordinary business of life. The other is more ambitious but more abstract. It seeks nothing less than to boost us all up to that plane of enlightenment from which all self-interested actions look petty, if not criminal.
We are still in the opening sallies of the Great Realignment.
Read more here.
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