Liberal NYT columnist Michelle Goldberg writes:
“DeSantis seems to be putting into practice some of the political lessons Orban has to teach the American Right,” Rod Dreher, an American conservative living in Budapest, recently wrote with admiration. If you want to see where this leads, Hungary has a lot to teach us.
It sure does. Liberals and neocons seem to think that just by shouting “Orban! Ick!” they can discredit DeSantis, or any other politician whose views and actions seem in tune with the Hungarian PMs. What they’re doing, in fact, is highlighting what I’ve seen for two years now: that a vivid and viable US conservative future is being made in Budapest.
Goldberg is angry at DeSantis’s education plans. Citing in part Orban’s banning of state funding for gender studies in higher education, Goldberg writes, of DeSantis’s latest:
That campaign has included ever-greater ideological control over education, most intensely in grade school, but also in colleges and universities. Following a landslide 2018 re-election victory that Orban saw as a “mandate to build a new era,” his government banned public funding for gender studies courses. “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women,” said his chief of staff. In 2021, Orban extended political command over Hungarian universities by putting some schools under the authority of “public trusts” full of regime allies.
Many on the American right admire the way Orban uses the power of the state against cultural liberalism, but few are imitating him as faithfully as the Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Last week, one of DeSantis’s legislative allies filed House Bill 999, which would, as The Tampa Bay Times reported, turn many of DeSantis’s “wide-ranging ideas on higher education into law.” Even by DeSantis’s standards, it is a shocking piece of legislation that takes a sledgehammer to academic freedom. Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, described it as “almost an apocalyptic bill for higher education,” one that is “orders of magnitude worse than anything we’ve seen, either in the recent or the distant past.”
Echoing Orban, House Bill 999 bars Florida’s public colleges and universities from offering gender studies majors or minors, as well as majors or minors in critical race theory or “intersectionality,” or in any subject that “engenders beliefs” in those concepts. The bill prohibits the promotion or support of any campus activities that “espouse diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory rhetoric.” This goes far beyond simply ending D.E.I. programming, and could make many campus speakers, as well as student organizations like Black student unions, verboten.
What she doesn’t say is that the proposed law would only apply to public universities — you know, the ones that receive public funds, and that ought to be responsible to taxpayers. Of course Goldberg would still oppose this, but it’s an important distinction. Ultimately, public universities are responsible to the public. One sees over and over and over this sense of privilege that the Left has: this idea that it should be able to do whatever it wants with the public’s money, and the public should sit down and shut up. This old SPY magazine cartoon sums up the Left’s attitude to taxpayers:
In Ron DeSantis’s judgment, I’m guessing, gender ideology and CRT courses and programs amount to drawing a picture of most people in Florida, writing “F*CKING ASSHO” on it, and demanding more money to complete the task. I’d say he’s right about that.
I don’t know enough about the pushing out of CEU from Hungary to have a settled opinion on it, but I think Orban’s government did the right thing taking away funding for gender theory programs. Look at what those programs have done to the United States. They have caused to be mainstreamed an incredibly destructive lie. Orban and the elected politicians of his party do not want that to come to Hungary, and if it does, they don’t want it to be through state universities. Some people call that responsible governance. Why should the pockets of Hungarian taxpayers be picked so their children can go to university to learn that men can be women and women can be men, and spread that evil ideology throughout society? Hungarians look at what we have allowed to happen in America, and say, “Not here, not if we can help it.” Thank God for Orban.
Keep in mind that Viktor Orban pushed parts of a private university out of Hungary (parts still operate here). DeSantis is proposing simply putting some limits on the way public universities are run. Can’t Michelle Goldberg grasp the difference?
About CEU, again, I don’t know the details around it, and in principle I would be against driving a private university out of anywhere. That said, I do not take the standard liberal narrative about persecuted CEU at face value. The university was founded by George Soros. Soros uses his vast fortune, via grants and NGOs, to spread his political and social vision throughout Europe, including the former Communist countries of Europe. Soros’s ideals are directly opposed to many of the things that Hungarian conservatives believe in. Should the Hungarians have allowed this super-rich liberal oligarch to establish a beachhead in their capital, and use it to train elites here and elsewhere in Central Europe in the kind of values that would overturn the traditional conservative beliefs that somehow managed to make it through Communism?
This is something that Western people never think about. For instance, I’m in favor of freedom of religion, and did not like, and generally do not like, the restrictions the Russian government put on US Evangelicals’ freedom to evangelize in post-Soviet Russia. But I had never thought about the point of view of the Russian Orthodox Church until I became Orthodox and talked to a Russian believer about it. Their view is this: our Church had been in existence since the year 988. The Bolsheviks tried to destroy it, murdering over 100,000 priests and monks, and blowing up countless church buildings. We managed to hang on, barely. But now, as we come out of the rubble poor and broke, rich American Evangelicals show up with their wealth and power to lead people away from their ancestral faith. It’s not fair. We can’t compete.
I’m not saying that was Orban’s thinking with CEU — I have no idea what he was thinking — but I would not be surprised if Orban, a master of Realpolitik, didn’t understand that Soros was establishing a powerful beachhead for left-liberalism in Budapest, and that if the values Soros believes in — open borders, LGBT affirmation, legalized prostitution, social liberalism, etc. — were to take hold in Hungary, the nation would cease to be. In other words, he understood that what Soros was doing by establishing CEU was fundamentally a political act designed to undermine traditional Hungarian values, and replace them with secular globalist liberalism. Hungary is a very small country, with a population smaller than New York City’s. It wouldn’t take much to fundamentally alter this place. You can fault Orban if you like, but he had an accurate read on Soros — and he has an accurate read on how the Left exercises political power outside the borders of politics.
What I’ve been saying for a couple of years now is that Orban can teach the American Right how to use what power it has to combat the Left on fields it believes should be uncontested — like higher education, for example. Liberal columnists can shriek about DeSantis’s proposal, but they had better confront the question of why elected officials should exercise no oversight of how taxpayer dollars are spent at public universities. I’m in favor of as little state involvement in the governance of universities as possible, but only a fool would sit back while our universities — at least the publicly funded ones — are turned into illiberal left-wing institutions, while taxpayers are on the hook for the privilege of paying for the radicalization of these institutions.
What we have seen in the past two or three decades is the solidification of illiberal leftism within the American ruling class — including, most significantly, Big Business. The only means of resistance to this ideological hegemony is through politics. The biggest problem American conservatives have is a Republican Party leadership that lacks the vision and/or the courage to use the power it has to push back. Hungarian conservatives don’t have that problem. Neither do Florida conservatives. And, if we’re lucky, neither will the entire American Right, including those old-fashioned liberals on the center-left who are sick and tired of the ideological bullying from the entitled progressive ruling class. Read John D. Sailer’s shocking take on what wokeness has done to one of the country’s top medical schools. And look at this from Do No Harm, a coalition of medical professionals fighting the woke takeover of medical education:
Mighty convenient for Goldberg to have ignored what Christopher Rufo uncovered about the systematic racial bigotries in Florida higher education (e.g., at Florida State). If Ron DeSantis is turning into Viktor Orban in his state, Florida taxpayers who are sick and tired of the universities they support being turned into woke madrassas should raise shot glasses of pálinka high and toast to the governor’s good health.
As I’ve said time and time again, Hungary is not the United States. What works here, in an ethnically and culturally homogeneous country with a very different history, won’t work, or may not be suitable, for the US. But we need a conservative political party that is smart enough to understand how politics really work in a society where illiberal leftists have captured all the institutional high ground, and courageous enough to use that power to defend the little guy. The liberals and the neocon establishmentarians can sneer all they want to, but American conservatives who want to actually change things, or at least defend the things the Left is busy attacking, now know that they should come to Budapest to see how it’s done.
(By the way, a new independent poll released this week showed the ruling Fidesz Party, in coalition with the smaller Christian Democrats, is vastly ahead of any challenger, retaining the support of 52 percent of voters; the main leftist party, the Democratic Coalition, polls at only 12 percent, just three points ahead of the far-right My Homeland party, which ran against Fidesz in last spring’s election. Hungarians like they way they are governed.)
The problem with American liberals is that they are so unrelievedly moralistic that they can’t grasp when they’ve overreached. Look at this ad. It’s the kind of thing that could lead to a huge Republican victory in 2024, if the Republican ticket isn’t led by one of those loser normie Republicans who whine about DeSantis as betraying small-government conservatism, while wokeness rolls through every institution and over the American people.
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