Five points for Francis Fukuyama on PM Orbán’s success

Speaking at the Budapest Forum this week, the author of the memorable work, The End of History, talked about the Hungarian prime minister’s success. And he had not one, not two, but five! points explaining how the PM has brought “far-right” concepts into the “mainstream”.

Francis Fukuyama, according to an article in Telex, ‘splained his captive audience at the Budapest Forum all about the reasons for Orbán’s international fame.

But what is the Budapest Forum, you ask?

According to its website, the Forum is building “democratic resilience” and is worried about the challenges to democracy, which as you may have guessed are many. “Some tensions are purposefully fanned by – wait for it! – populists[!]. And all these problems call for “a concerted effort and broad cooperation to tackle.”

So, taking the stage to begin tackling the problem comes the author of The End of History with insightful revelations about PM Orbán’s popularity

First, he said, according to the Telex headline, “with a democratic mandate, the prime minister is destroying liberal democracy.”

If you had to stop and re-read that because you didn’t understand, don’t worry, you weren’t the only one. But maybe I get it now:  Prime Minister Orbán is using robust voter turnouts, landslide electoral victories and democratically elected parliamentary majorities to undermine the institutions of democracy. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Secondly, Orbán claims Christian culture is the basis of Western civilization and uses that as his basis for ideology, taking things backward. But Fukuyama, according to Telex, knows better: the “essence” of Europe, is the enlightenment, which means “transcending Christianity.” Seems he doesn’t understand that the two are not mutually exclusive, and he sounds like someone who has never lived on the frontier of Western civilization.

The foundation of Hungarian identity, according to Fukuyama’s take on PM Orbán, is ethnicity. Then there’s race. And all that leads in dangerous directions. If you’re like me, you were waiting on the edge of your seat for him to mention WWII and Hungarian Jews. Well, we didn’t have to wait long because he played the Jewish card here. Apparently, he’s never read the new Hungarian constitution.

Point number four was something about how the economic nationalism of this right-wing government, you know, the protectionism and all that has in some ways been more successful than neo-liberalism. Maybe it has something to do with low unemployment, bringing people back into the workforce, increasing home ownership, record levels of foreign direct investment, rising marriage and birth rates. Or maybe it’s simply our Ministry of Silly Walks.

Finally, there’s that sympathy with Putin. Leaders like Orbán don’t simply maintain pragmatic relations with Russia, they admire Putin because he’s a leader whose power is unrestrained by a judiciary and a system of checks and balances. If it’s Socialist-led Germany building gas pipelines with Russia and later putting the brakes on energy sanctions, then it’s pragmatism. If it’s conservative Hungary trying to stay out of a war and ensure energy supply for its population, then it’s right-wing autocrats getting too chummy.

Last but certainly not least, I should mention that the Budapest Forum conference on “building sustainable democracies,” an event co-organized by the city of Budapest (liberal Mayor Gergely Karácsony’s personal invite is on the event’s homepage) and two Soros-affiliated groups, OSF-funded Political Capital and CEU Democracy Institute. The Forum also featured speakers from the advisory council of Action for Democracy, a US NGO that, according to András Schiffer writing in Index.hu this week, provided hundreds of millions of HUF in support to the failed campaign of prime ministerial candidate Péter Márki-Zay.

I share their concern for the resilience of liberal democracy.

Photo credit: MTI / Mandiner