By Jonathon Van Maren
If there is to be a backlash to the cultural revolution that has conquered the West, what might it look like, politically speaking? Many writers have been considering what it means for Christians to live in a post-Christian world, but outside of the United States, where every federal election has taken on a frenetic and frantic tone, there is little discussion about what political leaders seeking to turn the tide might actually do to accomplish that—if it is even possible.
One example of what it might look like is the Viktor Orbán agenda in Hungary. I’ve been fascinated with the ongoing government project to reduce abortion, boost the birthrate, and encourage marriage for some time, and have interviewed both Hungarian ambassador Eduard Habsburg (yes, from that Habsburg family) as well as Family Minister Katalin Novák for The American Conservative to discuss this agenda. We don’t yet know how the Hungarian agenda will play out in the long-term, but there have been some encouraging short-term results.
Rod Dreher of The American Conservative has been writing from Hungary for several months while he works at the Danube Institute, and it has been interesting to see him become a full-throated supporter of Orbán (while admitting that it is obviously not all roses.) Most conservative leaders tend to conserve whatever status quo they get handed when achieving power. Thus, progressives utilize their time in office to move the ball down the field; conservatives do nothing to turn back the clock, and we go from debating same-sex marriage to whether or not minors can get castrated in two decades without any meaningful opposition from conservatives. Especially in the Anglosphere countries (Canada being a particularly egregious example), so-called conservative politicians have shown little to no appetite for fighting back even when it comes to minors getting sex changes. Cultural surrendur is the standard.
Viktor Orbán, perhaps due to his past as an anti-Communist, understands how progressives won (and win) in the first place. Interestingly, when Orbán does precisely what progressives do—appointing like-minded people, funding conservative outfits, and launching a right-wing long march through the institutions—he gets called an authoritarian. The New York Times, for example, recently reported that Orbán’s government has granted a total of $1.7 billion to Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) “with the aim of training a new generation of conservative elite across Europe.” That is precisely what conservatives should have been doing for decades, instead of ceding one field after another to those who hate Western civilization. Progressives, of course, don’t care for being beaten at their own game.
Hungary has even modeled one potential method of pushback to the LGBT agenda. Over the last several years, an internecine fight broke out amongst American conservatives over the limits of the use of government power, with David French representing the libertarian wing and Sohrab Ahmari making the case that conservatism has conserved almost nothing over the past several decades. I think Ahmari was being hyperbolic, but then again, French did refer to Drag Queen Story Hour as one of the “blessings of liberty” in his insistence that there was nothing conservatives could do in response to these new cultural cancers. Over at his blog, Rod Dreher describes how Hungary has responded to the explosion of LGBT propaganda targeted at children:
Hungary is being punished severely by the European Union for having passed a law this summer that restricts the presentation of LGBT content to children and minors. Hungarians are not religious, but they are culturally conservative. The government, seeing how the constant stream of LGBT propaganda aimed at children is changing Western societies (e.g., a 4,000 percent increase over a decade in the number of UK minors referred for transgender treatment), chose to fight back in a modest way. Every society chooses what is appropriate for its youth to experience, and usually codifies that in law. Not every society agrees on these points, but every society sets these rules. There is a reason why our laws set the age of sexual consent at a certain point. Societies differ on what that age is, but all societies recognize that children must be protected from the sexual desire of adults. Societies also set restrictions on whether or not minors can receive certain kinds of sexualized information — porn, I mean. Unlike the countries of Western Europe, Hungary believes that children and minors should not receive information normalizing LGBT. They are trying to protect their youth from the cultural revolution that has consumed the West. They are trying to protect their kids from decadent propaganda.
Maybe the Hungarians are wrong. Maybe they went too far. But for many of us American conservatives, it is remarkable and even inspiring that Hungarian lawmakers dared to stand against the woke juggernaut. Our American conservative politicians rarely ever do. For that, Hungary is being severely punished by the EU, which is withholding Covid relief and rebuilding funds. Hungary is one of the poorer EU countries. The EU is holding it hostage in order to impose its own radical left views of proper child-raising. We who believe in what was standard and normal five minutes ago are not now tolerated, but rather hated by the regime. You don’t think this is cute? Damn you, normie bigot.
The rage directed at Hungary over this move has been remarkable to see. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was blunt, stating that: “My goal is to bring Hungary to its knees on this issue.” In short: If you don’t believe children should be exposed to LGBT propaganda, then you will be forcibly re-educated. The response of European leaders to Hungary’s law—which, it must be stated clearly, only delineates what cannot be shown to minors—is evidence of just how badly conservatives have lost, and just how fiercely progressives hate someone who fights back.
In response, Orbán announced that the Hungarian government will hold a referendum and put a series of questions to the people. The European Union is demanding, with all of the weapons at their disposal, that Hungary amend their Education and Child Protection Act. By letting the people decide, Orbán can prove that this move was the will of the people, not the whim of a prime minister. Orbán noted that this issue is about the future of the nation and the protection of Hungary’s children, and thus backing down is not an option. Roughly translated, the referendum questions will be as follows:
- Do you support having a sexual orientation session in a public education institution without parental consent?
- Do you support the promotion of gender reassignment treatments for minor children?
- Do you support the availability of gender reassignment treatments for minors?
- Do you support the unrestricted presentation of sexual media content to minors that affects their development?
- Do you support the display of gender-sensitive media content to minor children?
As Dreher noted, this is a brilliant move—although there was a measure of political cynicism in the mix, as well. Orbán’s opposition had not voted on the law, believing it to be manipulative. “There was broad agreement among all parliamentarians that Hungary’s anti-pedophilia laws needed strengthening,” Dreher notes. “Fidesz, Orban’s party, added to it the LGBT propaganda law banning the things implicit in those five questions. The liberal opposition believed — no doubt correctly — that this was a political move to strongarm them into voting for a bill (the anti-LGBT information bill) that they oppose, or stand accused of being soft on pedophilia. They’re right — it was a brash and manipulative political move. Nevertheless, the legislation itself, in my view, was correct and necessary.”
Of course, LGBT activists and EU elites oppose the referendum, as well—because this isn’t about the will of the people or democracy at all. In fact, many believe that it is overwhelmingly likely that the result of the referendum will be resoundingly in favor of the anti-propaganda law, thus delivering a stern rebuke to the EU and their allies. The EU is not interested in whether the Hungarian people support their government’s move—they are interested in forcing their view of family, sexuality, and education onto a country fighting to resist the tide of progressivism and the LGBT revolution. Shut up, they explained.
It is too early to tell whether Orbán’s agenda will ultimately be successful—but it is indisputably true that he is one of the only conservative leaders who is actually attempting to fight back in any significant way. He is funding conservative institutions, working to spread conservative ideas, fighting to keep LGBT propaganda away from children, seeking to reduce abortions and promote families, and refusing to back down in the face of elite opposition. Does he have significant flaws? Of course he does. He is a politician. But the critiques aimed at him by the likes of Anne Applebaum have nothing to do with those flaws and everything to do with the fact that he is, essentially, a counter-revolutionary. The elites do not like it when people fight back. Orbán is doing so, and we should all be watching very carefully.
After I’d written this article, Tucker Carlson’s visit to Budapest triggered a flame-war on Twitter, with the likes of David Frum and a herd of progressive commentators insisting that Orbán is fascist and that fascination with the Hungarian project is ominous. Rod Dreher has responded at length to this discussion here, and Michael Brendan Dougherty has an interesting essay on the subject over at National Review, as well.