In the summer of 2018, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Urban declared war on a generation. He predicted a wave of right-wing, nationalist parties that would replace the liberal establishment of the European Union in next year’s European Parliament elections. “We are facing a big moment: we are not just saying goodbye to liberal democracy … but to the 1968 elite,” Urban said.
Calling the “1968 elite”, Urban was deploying a loaded shorthand for existing stability on the continent. To Urban, the political instability and student uprisings that took place in some parts of Europe half a century ago were the current ancestors. The socio-cultural orthodoxy – characterized by upward feminism, atheism and leftist cosmopolitanism – that she sought to overthrow. Since coming to power in 2010, he has spent time transforming his country of 10 million people into a kind of petri dish for liberal democracy. And now it was time to export the Hungarian model.
Speaking at a gathering of ethnic Hungarians in Romania, Urban said, “The 90’s generation is coming to replace the ’68’s generation.”
The following year, mainstream political parties lost elections when Europeans voted in their continental parliaments. But on the right – with which Urban has much in common – was not the only beneficiary, a growing vanguard of green parties, including those on the left. Urban and his right-wing nationalist allies have failed to achieve their stated goal of planting a new “Christian democracy” across the continent.
But Urban’s influence and vision are not limited to Europe. Hungary’s prime minister and his ruling Fidez party have become a major source of inspiration for American conservatives. Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, described Urban’s nationalist agenda and regime as “Trump before Trump.” A steady stream of conservative U.S. intellectuals has made their way to Budapest on sabbaticals and fellowships. This weekend, a major event of the Conservative Political Action Conference – the main convening body of American political rights – is set to take place in Budapest.
Urban and several of his lieutenants will address the meeting with Republican lawmakers, European far-right leaders and key figures in the US right-wing media ecosystem. This includes a virtual presence of Tucker Carlson, the far-right prime-time Fox News anchor who has given the throne to Urban over the years and traveled to Budapest in the past to interview the Hungarian premiere.
“Hungarian leaders are really concerned about ensuring the well-being of their own people,” Carlson said, referring to Urban’s hostility to immigration and multiculturalism in 2019, as well as efforts to encourage Hungarian families to have more children. “Instead of promising the country’s wealth to every illegal immigrant in the Third World, they are using tax dollars to improve their own people.”
Carlson was doing trial-ballooning a line of rhetoric that has become more mainstream in recent years – the racist “great replacement” theory, which believes that the arrival of immigrants is part of a political project to weaken or even wipe out indigenous peoples. Population It animates the misleading worldview of multiple mass shooters, including a white hegemonic teenager over the past decade, who authorities say killed 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store this weekend.
This theory was once prevalent on the fringes of Western politics, but now it has moved into the right-wing mainstream, thanks to the relentless intimidation of people like Carlson, as well as by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. A recent survey found that 3 out of 10 Americans believe that more immigration is forcing Native Americans to lose political and cultural influence.
No elected leader in the West stands more in fear of demographic danger than Urban. Despite the small Muslim and Arab population in Hungary, he saw the possibility of resettling more than a thousand Syrian refugees in 2015 as an existential threat – and arguably strengthened internal support to do so and raised his profile among Europeans on the right.
“If Europe is not populated by Europeans in the future and we accept it as a gift, we are talking about a population exchange to replace Europeans,” Urban said at the 2019 Population Conference in Budapest. . “There are political forces in Europe who want to replace the population for ideological or other reasons.”
Leading this supposed force was the Hungarian-American financier George Soros, who has a long history of expanding civil society in his homeland. For Urban and his associates, Soros acted as a kind of cachel enemy, a wealthy Jewish elite who bankrolled cosmic projects such as universities and educational and aid agencies. Ironically, earlier in the 1980s, a Soros-funded organization helped support a new liberal youth group led by Urban, which would become the Fidez political party.
But Urban turned right as he navigated the currents of post-Cold War democratic transition in Hungary, and since then he has begun to devalue and, in some cases, civic institutions that could hinder his rule. Bureaucrats were fired for taking control of the urban state apparatus. In Hungary, space has been squeezed for an independent press, urban-affiliated business executives have tactfully taken over large outlets, and the government is tracking investigative journalists with spyware. Soros-founded university was forced to relocate to Vienna.
To the right-wing in the United States, immersed in anti-liberal accusations, Hungarian culture provides a glimpse of war victory and a template for action.. Consider Republican nominee JD Vance for this year’s Ohio Senate election, who has spoken out in favor of confiscating the assets of the Ford Foundation, an organization that promotes social justice.
Vance, also known for cheering Urban’s brand of nationalism, suggested in an interview with Vanity Fair that Trump’s re-election in 2024 would initiate forcible occupation of U.S. institutions, including universities. “I think we should occupy leftist institutions,” he said. “And turn them to the left. We need a de-wake-fixation program, like a de-bathification program.
He added: “I think what Trump should do, if I give him a piece of advice: dismiss every single middle-level bureaucrat, every civilian in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”
This kind of rupture seems imaginary, but analysts see in Urban’s praise of Urban the intensity of a political project that carries all the venom of Urban’s war on the “1968 elite.”
“I’m concerned that Urban is a complete package,” Kim Lane Chapelle, a professor of sociology at Princeton University and an expert on Hungarian politics, told The New Yorker last year. “He uses rhetoric that appeals to the right, just as Trump’s rhetoric appeals to the right in American politics. But below that there is a dictator who is running everything himself. I’m concerned that the vision actually appeals to American rights. “