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Toward the end of last month, a major right-wing summit in Hungary had a conspicuous guest. Mike Pence, former vice president joined Viktor Orban (Hungarian Prime Minister) and other unliberal nationalist leaders in Budapest for a conference on demographics and family values. The forum, which began in 2015, is one of the spaces where Orban champions his brand of Christian nationalism — raging against Western liberalism, non-European migration and LGBTQ culture.
“Hungary must defend itself because the Western left wing is attacking,” Orban said. It is trying to reduce the concept of family. Its tools for doing so are gender ideology and the LGBTQ lobby, which are attacking our children.” He went on to sign a declaration along with the right-wing leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia that insisted “increasing the number of European children is essential to preserving Europe’s Christian culture and other religious traditions for future generations” and warned European Union officials that “migration should not be seen as the main tool to tackle demographic challenges.”
Pence was happy to play his part. His part was to support the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority, which may ultimately overturn the federal abortion rights protections.
The former vice president is hardly alone in seeing Hungary as a source of encouragement in a broader ideological battle gripping the West. Prominent conservative American commentators, chiefly Fox News host Tucker Carlson, have had audiences in Budapest with Orban, who ranks as one of the E.U. The longest-ruling leader. Next year, Budapest will host an iteration of the Conservative Political Action Conference, the main annual gathering of the American right.
“Orban shows how the switch to illiberalism can be done,” wrote Edward Luce of the Financial Times, detailing how the Hungarian leader went from being a small-l liberal to a would-be autocrat, subverting his country’s democracy to stay in power while waging a relentless culture war. Luce said that the libertarian philosophy was being replaced by politics of resentment. The European identity gave way to talk about defending Hungary’s Christian culture. Independent media, courts, and universities were all dominated by the new Orban. He also became Europe’s chief scapegoater of immigrants.”
But this deepening engagement extends well beyond Hungary. The transatlantic development of the last half-decade, marked by Trump’s rise and fall as well as potential reemergence, has seen a growing collaboration between right-wing activists and politicians in America and their counterparts in Europe.
Some of these efforts border on the comical, such as former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s quixotic mission to build a united far-right front in Europe along Trumpist lines. A greater synergy is emerging, as more well-known figures see themselves as part in a common struggle.
“Trumpism has had a very important influence, not just in America, but also in Europe and Spain,” Manuela Carmena, a retired judge and former leftist mayor of Madrid, told the New York Times. In France, Spain and various other countries in Europe, politicians of various stripes have located themselves within American-style culture war battles over identity politics and how to think about one’s own national history.
In a separate interview with the Times, Eric Zemmour, a rumored far-right candidate for the French presidency who has surged in opinion polls, welcomed the links to Trump. He said that there were commonalities. “In other words, someone who is completely from outside the party system, who never had a political career and who, furthermore, understood that the major concerns of the working class are immigration and trade.”
These are bonds that don’t have many similar parallels on the left; a visiting Western European social democrat in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, quipped last month to Today’s WorldView that the Democratic establishment in the United States would find greater kinship with her center-right rivals than with her own center-left party.
The Republican Party of the United States is, in global terms, a far-right party. The V-Dem Institute, a think tank based at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, maintains an index charting hundreds of political parties from 169 countries on a shared political spectrum that has mapped the party’s trajectory. In this view, the Republicans’ ultranationalist turn over the past two decades, crystallized by the rise of Trumpism, has shifted them closer to authoritarian-leaning factions in power in countries like Hungary and Turkey and made them even more illiberal than far-right parties in Western Europe, like France’s National Rally or Spain’s Vox.
Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) beamed in virtually to a rally in Madrid held by Vox and spoke glowingly of the “shared values” between him and Vox leader Santiago Abascal, whose party espouses a virulent anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-feminist agenda, has attacked Pope Francis over the pontiff’s rhetoric about the sins of Spanish colonialism in the Americas, and engages in borderline nostalgia for the era of the country’s fascist dictatorship.
Cruz told his audience that the collective goal should be to “promote and defend the principles that underpin our vision of a world where people who share our principles can thrive.” Left unspoken is what should happen to those who don’t share these “principles.”
When asked by Today’s WorldView for further clarity on Cruz’s remarks, connections to Vox and his views about its politics, a spokesperson from Cruz’s office said: “The Senator’s statement speaks for itself.”