Op-Ed for Haaretz - "Tucker Carlson's Cynical Love Affair With Orban's Hungary"

Last week Tucker Carlson was in Hungary singing Viktor Orbán praises, thrusting the aspiring authoritarian into the headlines again, so I wrote a piece for Haaretz exploring the American Right's embrace of Hungary, which is often coupled with a condemnation of the United States. Basically, American conservatives, and especially religious conservatives, want the U.S. to be more like Hungary. This is bizarre for run-of-the-mill economic reasons:

...considering the matter only from a detached and coldly analytic perspective, it is a bit odd for the richest and most powerful country in the world (at least for now) to look with envy on a far less prosperous country that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain only a few decades ago.

In many fields and industries, American institutions and companies lead the world in prestige and innovation, and many of the technologies that are key to humanity’s future, from electric cars to mRNA vaccines, are largely developed in the United States. The dynamism and productivity of the United States vastly exceeds Hungary’s, leading to the high standard of living in which many Americans, not least conservatives, have historically taken pride.

 America is the land of prosperity and abundance; our cup runneth over.


And it is also odd because the U.S. cannot (for legal reasons) and should not (for cultural reasons) emulate Hungary:

It cannot become more homogenous because at the foundation of the country is the guarantee of religious liberty. It is in the very first clause of the First Amendment. The United States cannot be a "Christian democracy," and nor can it "recognize the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood," as the Hungarian Constitution does. 
The United States should not want to do this either because the nation’s strength lies in its pluralism, diversity, and openness. The American project centers on a diverse set of peoples, with conflicting beliefs and values, reasoning together to make decisions that bear on all. These decisions must be justified in terms that are intelligible to all citizens, and do not merely express the whims of a dominate ethnicity or a privileged religion.

As scholars of religion like Jeffrey Stout have argued, the American tradition, which pulls from both secular and religious voices, is animated by a unique moral energy that has driven our greatest accomplishments, such as the establishment of civil rights. The diverse cultures and backgrounds of the American population has also given rise to a culture of profound creativity, generating a stunning array of artistic and scientific achievements.

And frankly I doubt the American Right's enthusiasm for Hungary is even about Hungary. They align themselves with Orbán because doing so advances their cultural, racial, and religious agenda. It is, as the headline puts, a "cynical love affair."


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