Dictator Book Club: Orban

Dictator Book Club: Orban from Astral Codex Ten describes the rise to power of Viktor Orban, dictator of Hungary.

Viktor started out as a leftist liberal, rebelling against the Soviet Union. After a brief stint as an MP (and with no experience or political skill), he lost his election.

He switched from a liberal democrat to a far-right nationalist. (Having power can easily override idealists, see Robert Moses and The Power Broker). Remade himself as a religious man with traditional family values—completely counter to his previous political identity.

He fostered nationalist appeal, drawing on a proud history of steppe nomads, how they were humiliated throughout history, and how they would rise. Orban briefly became Prime Minister and led the Socialist party until he lost control.

Orban found an opening by targeting the socialist party leader. With a leaked speech, he started rumors that socialists were liars. When they bit and denied it, he showed the leaked speech. He organized a massive protest during a Hungarian parade that injured hundreds and destroyed property. He and his party won a 2/3rds majority in 2010.

That’s where they tightened the noose. They changed the constitution to remove road blocks to power. They passed laws to nationalize schools. He made favorable deals to his cronies, rewarded loyalists, and stamped out dissent (he could fire any civil servant, most media outlets were owned by loyalists, etc.).

When the party was threatened due to a far-right platform that wanted to disallow refugees from the Syrian War, Orban co-opted it—keeping his party firmly in control and eliminating a rival party in one fell swoop.

Thus he became an American far-right hero by pulling off what Trump could not. Orban erected a border wall, stopped migrants, and instituted all manner of political maneuvering needed to stay in power. Republicans cozying up to Orban include Steve Bannon, Mike Pence, and Rod Dreher, envious of a unambiguously far-right dictator.