A top of year reminder that he’s not super interested in the whole democracy thing.
It’s just three days into this new and hopefully better year of two thousand and twenty two, and already some of us are back on the very same bullshit that made the past few spins around the sun such an unmitigated bummer. For some, that means stuff like continuing to eat rot-gut garbage, or never seeing the inside of a gym. For others — and I’m talking about a certain ex-president of the United States of America here — it means going out of your way to remind everyone how much you just loooooove authoritarian dictators who’ve succeeded in doing what you tried and (at least to date) failed to accomplish: rolling back the tide of democracy in their home country.
With months to go before Hungary’s upcoming national elections, former President Donald Trump on Monday issued a striking endorsement of that country’s dictatorial leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Trump praised Orbán’s draconian anti-immigration policies and called him a “strong leader” who is “respected by all.”
“He has,” Trump declared in a conspicuously capitalized sentence, “my Complete support and Endorsement for re-election as Prime Minister!”
That Trump, an aspiring autocrat himself, would care so much about Hungary’s upcoming elections is plenty alarming — particularly given the proximity between his statement and the first anniversary of his own attempt to essentially replicate Orbán’s successful swing toward dictatorship. (In 2020, the Hungarian PM was granted expansive power to rule by decree without substantive parliamentary oversight.) But however alarming it is, it’s not hugely surprising: Like Trump, Orbán has done everything he can to keep his own party in power, manipulate his country’s sense of history to his benefit, and villainize the press in an effort to maintain his own authoritarian control. He is, in a sense, what Trump wishes he could be — and would likely become if granted a second term in office.
And while some saw Trump’s statement as an exceptional moment in his post-presidential purgatory, keep in mind that this is the same guy who yukked it up with perhaps the most repressive dictator on the planet and has spent years talking about how much he loves Eastern European fascists. Is it all that surprising, then, that Trump would make a point of singling out this longtime partner-in-despotism — who, it just so happens, has spent the past few months basking in the adulating glow of sycophantic Fox News coverage? The most shocking thing about the Trump/Orbán nexus is how pathetically predictable it all feels. Of course Trump would throw his weight behind someone determined to transform a democracy into an autocracy! That’s what he does!
And so, we start 2022 much as we started 2021: with Donald Trump making little secret of his heartfelt desire to emulate political strongmen. The question for this new year then becomes whether the U.S. will give him second chance to join their ignoble ranks, and if so, what will be left of the country once he’s done with it.