The Republican Party belongs to Viktor Orbán: conservative columnist
Last Thursday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas. His speech glittered with antisemitic, homophobic, and white supremacist rhetoric including “replacement theory." Orbán even railed against a “mixed-race world," and his address was met with a standing ovation by the audience.
CPAC itself was a weekend jam-packed with right-wing lawmakers and celebrities including former President Donald Trump, who overwhelmingly won its 2024 presidential straw poll.
But according to conservative columnist Max Boot, Orbán's keynote appearance at CPAC's opening night personified the Republican Party's abdication of liberal democracy.
READ MORE: Donald Trump dominates 2024 CPAC straw poll
"Something profound has changed in recent years," Boot wrote in an editorial in Monday's Washington Post. "Ten years ago this month, Republicans nominated a national ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan, a centrist former governor and a budget policy wonk. Now we have the coup-coup caucus cheering Viktor Orbán. This is the Trump effect: The former president has made the marginal into the mainstream of the Republican Party, and vice versa."
The evidence of the GOP's descent into fascism, Boot explained, is unmistakable.
"Republicans are nominating far-right fanatics who claim that the 2020 presidential election — and any election that they lose, for that matter — was 'rigged.' By refusing to accept electoral defeat, they embrace authoritarianism," Boot said, noting that candidates for secretaries of state in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania "deny the legitimacy" of President Joe Biden's landslide victory over Trump.
"Two of those candidates, Arizona secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem and Pennsylvania governor nominee Doug Mastriano, were outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. If elected, they are no more likely to certify a Democratic victory in 2024 than they are to embrace critical race theory," Boot noted. "Meanwhile, most House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection are being driven out of Congress. Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer was the latest to lose a primary last week to a proponent of the 'big lie.'"
Trump-backed hopefuls for governorships and United States Senate are also attempting to out-MAGA each other.
"Guns have become a de rigueur accessory in GOP campaign commercials. Arizona U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters wants to lock up Anthony S. Fauci for trying to slow the spread of COVID-19. And Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake wants to lock up her opponent for certifying Biden’s election victory," Boot continued. "Masters and Ohio U.S. Senate nominee J.D. Vance are both bankrolled by tech tycoon Peter Thiel, who has concluded that freedom and democracy aren’t 'compatible.' Thiel’s 'house political philosopher' is far-right blogger Curtis Yarvin, who is also close to Masters and Vance. Yarvin has mused that we may need an 'American Caesar' to take control of the federal government. Trump is auditioning for the role; his henchmen are plotting to fire tens of thousands of civil servants and replace them with ultra-MAGA loyalists in 2025."
Boot then lamented that "the libertarian-leaning Republican Party I grew up with in the 1980s is long gone and not coming back." The party, Boot added, has weaponized the concept of freedom to further its extremist agenda.
He pointed out that GOP voters at large "want Americans to be free to carry weapons of war or spread deadly diseases but not to terminate a pregnancy or discuss gender or sexuality in school," and that "Republicans, once suspicious of government power, are now eager to use it to impose their agenda."
Boot alluded to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – widely believed to be eyeing a presidential run in 2024 – as an example of how far the GOP has strayed from the mainstream and its "small government" credo.
DeSantis, Boot said, "is establishing his culture-war credentials by, most recently, suspending an elected prosecutor who vowed not to 'criminalize personal medical decisions,' such as abortion or 'gender-affirming healthcare.' DeSantis even threatened to investigate parents who take their kids to drag shows."
Boot concluded his piece by recommending a new label for what the Republican Party has become.
"The most apt phrase for this American authoritarianism is the New Fascism, and it is fast becoming the dominant trend on the right," Boot wrote. He also warned that "if the GOP gains power in Washington, all of America will be in danger of being Orbánized."