Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban won big in his nation’s election Sunday, and progressives are furious.
Orban’s right-wing party, Fidesz, got right under 50 percent of the vote. Fidesz’s next closest competitor was another right-wing party, Jobbik, which earned 20 percent of the vote.
Liberals who were hoping that Hungarians would turn out for the center-left were dismayed that 70 percent of the population voted for the Right. Especially when the country had a record turnout, a sign that was previously thought to be a bad omen for Orban.
Since Hungary is a democracy and the people made their preference very clear, there’s little liberals can do about the results.
However, many progressives think the European Union should punish Hungarians for voting the wrong way.
Orban’s win in Hungary is a huge threat to the existence of the EU. They can not ignore a fascist with a popular mandate. The EU will have to act or die. Poland will be next if they fail.
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 9, 2018
News from Hungary is dire. Orban has done well enough to keep building his soft dictatorship.
* The elections were not fully free and hardly fair
* And yet, Orban only got ~50%
When will European leaders, especially Merkel, finally have the guts to call him out?!
— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 8, 2018
Hungary deals another blow to liberalism, with Fidesz and Jobbik winning 70% of vote. Long past time that leaders who still care about liberalism (Merkel, Macron, Tusk) let their voices be heard, take action and impose real costs
— Ivo Daalder (@IvoHDaalder) April 8, 2018
The Washington Post published an op-ed by journalist Frida Ghtis Monday making the case for EU sanctions against Hungary — all in the name of promoting “democratic principles.” Ghtis argues Orban violates EU principles in having his party control the judiciary and the media, while also “demonizing” immigrants and (heaven forbid!) George Soros.
For these crimes, Hungary needs to have its EU funding cut off “to send a warning to the other would-be autocrats who see Orban as someone to be emulated.” Ghtis holds out hope that Hungarians may bring back “real democracy,” which apparently means center-left liberals holding total power, open borders and respecting George Soros.
The bedrock principles of all liberal democracies.
It’s hard to say how an international body, led by unelected bureaucrats, punishing a member state for voting the wrong way will reinforce democratic principles. But the whole argument isn’t really about democracy — it’s about Hungary rejecting Eurocrat liberalism.
Many of the people presently criticizing Hungary want to spread democracy all over the globe, even if that requires western military action. But their preferred form of democracy doesn’t mean accepting the will of the people. It’s a type of government where power is invested in left-leaning elites and that promotes progressive orthodoxy.
You can still be a “real democracy” if you jail people for wrongthink Facebook posts and silence prominent dissidents with “hate speech” charges. All of Western Europe stifles free speech, yet you don’t see calls in The Washington Post for those countries to be punished.
That’s because the enemies of the elites are the ones who are punished, not the elites themselves. Orban is hated because he attacks the elites, which is why his victory must be delegitimized.
Advocates of the liberal consensus still have to maintain the illusion that their agenda is what the people really want — even when 70 percent of the people vote against it. Accusations of tainted elections, Russian meddling and voting irregularities always follow when an election doesn’t go their way.
We saw this with Brexit, Trump’s presidential victory and last month’s election in Italy. In all those cases, center-left politicians were humiliated, making them either question the merits of democracy or hunting for a scapegoat to rationalize their defeat. In the UK and US, liberals are still desperate to find ways to overturn the results of those events, showing their inability to cope with the people voting incorrectly.
Now Orban’s win must also be dismissed so the delusion that the people want left-wing technocracy can survive.
Contrary to what Orban’s critics say, the real threat to democracy is left-wing elites. Time and time again, they have shown themselves unwilling to accept the results of democracy and are open to undemocratic means to reverse those defeats. They control the EU, a body that appears committed to doing the opposite of what average Europeans want. They support “hate speech” laws for the purpose of crushing their political opponents.
The good thing to remember is that the harsh tactic of anti-democratic technocrats often backfire. Europeans are still weary of mass immigration in spite of the threat of jail time for publicly expressing that opinion. Eastern Europeans still vote for “autocrats” in the face of EU condemnation. Poles still overwhelmingly support the conservative government of the Law and Justice Party, despite their judicial reforms triggering an EU investigation.
Punishing the people for having the wrong views does not make them conform to the dictates of the elite. It appears it only stiffens their resistance.
If progressives were smart, they would act on the issue that caused Brexit and Orban’s massive victory: immigration. Simply by controlling their borders and limiting the number of migrants, center-left liberals could undermine the appeal of populist-nationalists.
Instead, they insist open borders is a cardinal virtue of true liberal democracy and want to imprison anyone who dares question it. Average Europeans hear that message loud and clear.
That’s why they vote for Orban.